Episode 104: Renee Tily on How Sales Enablement Can Collaborate with Marketing

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today I’m excited to have Renee Tily join us from TechTarget.

Renee, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Renee Tily: Sure. So, I work for a company called TechTarget and we provide purchase intent data solutions for B2B tech marketing and sales teams. We publish 150 or so tech websites for IT and line of business professionals to help them make tech buying decisions for their organization. So, we observe their behavior on our sites, and we aggregate that information into purchase intent data that our clients can leverage. In addition, we also supply more traditional media offerings like content syndication or brand advertising for our clients to engage and influence this audience.

And currently, I head up the sales enablement department, which for us encompasses developing collateral and pitch materials that are specific to certain markets or customers, developing rep training and assessment programs, managing communication to sales across other departments, and also working with our business intelligence team to create data tools specifically for our sales team to leverage in the selling process and bring data and insights to our customer.

SS: Well, Renee, I’m very excited to have you here with us today. And you and I both share a marketing background and given your extensive background in marketing I’d love to hear from you what the intersection looks like between sales enablement and marketing from your perspective and how they complement each other.

RT: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think there are really two main areas where sales enablement and marketing really come together. The first is content. So, the creation of content and also content management and distribution to the sales team. Any team that creates content for the sales org really needs to be in alignment with any other team that’s creating content for sales. It’s just to ensure that there’s consistent messaging and make sure that there aren’t any gaps in terms of what the sales team needs.

We re-orged maybe two and a half years ago, and that’s when our sales enablement team was developed and one of the first things we did was get representatives from corporate marketing, product marketing, sales enablement together to discuss how we needed to streamline access to content produced across our teams. We discussed ownership of which teams would be responsible for some of the pieces that could have fallen maybe to either team. And then we also worked out how we were going to communicate changes or updates to sales. So right from the beginning, we had guidelines in place that we all agreed upon. In addition, all three of these teams have a goal to make finding and leveraging content as easy as possible for the reps. So, it’s up to us to create, organize, distribute content in a way that fits their workflow. It’s not necessarily what’s easiest for us as individual departments, but it’s really important to put the rep workflow first.

And then the second area, I would say where the two intersect is regarding rep feedback. I think sales enablement is more on the front lines with the sales team and can kind of hear about that information and it’s our responsibility to be bringing that feedback back to marketing on behalf of sales.

SS: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. I agree with those two points, given my marketing background as well. How has that background in marketing maybe impacted your approach to sales enablement?

RT: Yeah, so most of my time at TechTarget has been spent in roles that were sort of an extension of the product marketing and management teams. Prior to sales enablement, I spent the previous six years in our international division working with our product team to regionalize our offerings and localize the product materials for the region. Initially, this role was like central out of our U.S. headquarters, but then I spent several years in our London office focused on growth. And the role really gave me, I think, two areas of knowledge that I apply now to my sales enablement efforts.

The first is just an in-depth knowledge of our product offerings. So, with that, I’m able to create rep training programs about our portfolio and train others in the sales enablement team on how to help reps create customized proposals for clients that are really built to help them with their specific needs and KPIs. And the second is, because that role worked so closely with sales, I was able to get a much deeper understanding of the sales process. You know, what makes for compelling content in the field and also that closer to the needs of our clients. So, without having been in a sales role directly myself, I think it was an extremely valuable experience now because I can try to address the challenges I see reps facing and work with others in the organization on minimizing those challenges.

SS: Oh, absolutely. Now, obviously it’s important for sales enablement, as you mentioned, to collaborate across multiple departments within the organization. How do you make it so that sales and marketing worked very collaboratively there at TechTarget?

RT: So, I touched on it earlier, but I think one thing is about the content. So just establishing, who’s going to be doing what, kind of what I touched on before. But I think in addition to content there are a few other important areas to agree on. One of which is just like communication to sales. So, I think this happens with a lot of organizations, but, you know, at one point we had every department, and different individuals sending materials to sales via email. So, we were communicating a lot, but it was really impossible for reps to try to remember who sent what to them and try to go back and reference it later. It was very hard to find things.

So, we developed an email alias where all three teams can leverage it and we call it “sales alerts”. So, it’s just one line that we can send to reps where they can have all the important communication aggregated. And there are the weekly things that they get from this alias monthly, quarterly, and then there are ad hoc announcements as needed too. And all of these communications were approved by sales management, as the things their sellers needed information on, and the rep proceeds them with consistency so that they know what to expect and how to use the information.

And then another area, and maybe I bring this up because we’re sort of working on this right now, but just collaborating around the big releases. So, for the one we have coming up and I really give credit to our product marketing and product management team here, but they’ve done an amazing job of keeping the other departments informed and soliciting feedback. There’s been weekly meetings with a group of sales stakeholders, including sales management and sales enablement to discuss the updated offering and settle on a go-to-market strategy and having been part of those meetings, now I’m fully prepared to help build some e-learning training for sales that’ll help reinforce the bigger team trainings that we’re doing. And, you know, we expect that this will help reps speak to the changes more knowledgeably in the field sooner than maybe we’ve seen in previous roll-ups.

SS: I think those are really great areas for collaboration with marketing. Obviously, it’s not always sunshine. There are obviously challenges that occur when, you know, building or maintaining cross-functional alignment with partners within the organization like marketing. So how have you kind of overcome some of those challenges?

RT: I think the biggest challenge is just always going to be communication. Especially if the marketing and sales enablement teams don’t necessarily live under the same umbrella, you have to be sharing your department goals so that everybody understands your bigger picture and then keep other departments updated on your projects. I think at TechTarget, we try hard to keep each other informed, you know, but regardless, there are still things that will slip through the cracks where it would have been better to run something by another team before rolling it out to sales or, you know, worse. It turns out two teams were unknowingly working on the same or similar issue and kind of duplicating some efforts. It’s bound to happen every now and then, so when it does you just need to regroup and, you know, revisit the guidelines that were outlined, see if anything needs changing, and then see where the communication breakdown happened.

SS: Now you’ve mentioned content a few times in the relationship between marketing and sales enablement. How do you work with marketing to really ensure that content gets optimized as well as to ensure that it really lands well in the field with your sales reps?

RT: Yeah, I think this is so important and to some extent, we can see at least at TechTarget, what sales is looking at by using our content management platform to see access stats. And then we have like detailed reporting on rep usage of the data tools I mentioned that we create for them. So in a way, we have a good idea of sales rep adoption and usage of data and materials in the field, but we don’t yet have a sales enablement platform that would allow us to gather specific data about content in terms of what our customers are reacting to. So, for that, we still rely on sales rep for sales management feedback. And also because sales enablement does work so closely with sales on their proposals and questions, we’re able to help identify gaps because if we’re starting to see the same question over and over again, or an ask for a certain type of material that we don’t have we can make note of that. We can either create it ourselves or bring that feedback to other departments who would own that work and have them create it.

So, it’s really relying on reps in the field and talking to them. And, you know, in addition, I would say we also try to solicit feedback from sales management or maybe a few reps before we roll out new materials so that when we do roll things out, that it gets adopted and hopefully hits the mark. But in general, knowing what the customer is actually engaging with and having information around that is an area we want to look into. And then also, you know, I would say another area that can be difficult is just improving on when we retire content so that if it isn’t being used, we can cut down on the content sprawl.

SS: Absolutely. Content governance is one of those things that, again, marketing and sales enablement often have to partner very closely on. Renee, this has been fantastic. I have one closing question, I’m just kind of dovetailing off of that last response around getting feedback. I would love to hear from you, what are some of your best practices for sourcing feedback from sales reps and frontline managers on what’s working and what’s not.

RT: Yeah so, I mean, we rely so heavily on sales rep feedback. So, I do think this is something we pay a lot of attention to. One of the most important things I think is just to develop relationships with your reps. If your sales enablement team works closely with sales, this will happen probably organically. Or, you might have to devise a strategy to create that relationship like a panel of reps you get feedback from every few months. If there’s a trusted relationship many reps will proactively bring you feedback because they know that you’re going to listen to them. Or if you’re looking for feedback on specific initiatives, if you build those relationships, you have a repository of reps who will happily give you their thoughts and take the time to really give you constructive feedback.

But if you’re going to ask for their time, you need to make sure that you either implement some of those changes or follow up with them, so they know how their feedback helped. There are other things we do like we field an annual survey after our sales kickoff, you know, asking not only about the meeting, but what else they need in terms of content or training in the year ahead. And we’ve done a survey actually in conjunction with our product marketing team to dig a little bit deeper on the content needs. And both of those surveys prove extremely useful every year. And again, we let sales know, like, what were the results, what are some of the new things that we’ll focus on as a result of you taking the time to give us this feedback.

Finally, I guess one other thing that we do that helps with this is each sales team has a weekly sales meeting that representatives from sales enablement will attend not necessarily every week, but with some regularity so that they can just listen in and hear what the directives are from sales management to their team, you know, what challenges they might be having. And so mostly just being a silent participant in these meetings also helps us to get feedback. And I would say that just now, you know, with everybody working from home at the moment, we’ve also just had to reevaluate some of our communication strategies and be a little bit more deliberate about them. Instead of relying on catching up with people when you happen to run into them in the office, you know, we’ve had to talk about, well, where do we maybe need to have a short meeting to collect feedback. So, we’ve done that here and there with sales or sales management as needed, to just make sure that we’re still communicating with each other even remotely.

SS: Well, it sounds like you guys are doing a fantastic job staying aligned, despite our current remote environment. Renee, thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed our time.

RT: Yeah. Thank you, Shawnna. This was great.

SS: To our audience thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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