When Hiring for Sales Enablement, What’s the Best Fit – Product Marketing or Sales?

hiring-sales-enablement-marketing-salesSales enablement is currently at a nascent stage, which means it can be difficult to find good quality people with enablement experience. Many often fall into sales enablement roles because someone suggests it to them or perhaps they’ve taken on some of the functions of the role as part of their position in sales or marketing. It’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot at Mindtickle as we help sales organizations scale rapidly, so when our co-founder and CRO, Mohit Garg, asked this question on LinkedIn, I found the broad range of responses quite interesting.
According to Lucas Gerler, The Sales Enablement Society polled its members and found that about 40% of current practitioners come from marketing, about 30% from sales, and the remaining 30% from other roles. There are benefits to be gained from hiring from both sales and marketing backgrounds.

Sales is in your DNA

As Renee Capovilla said “If you have “walked” in the shoes of the customers you are serving your deliverables reflect that DNA.” And when it comes to sales enablement your customer is the sales organization, so having experience in sales is a big advantage. It gives you credibility on the field, particularly if the role involves delivering sales training and liaising with the sales organization regularly. Having sales management experience also gives you credibility with the C-Suite according to Chuck Marcouiller, “I believe the key customer of sales enablement is the CRO and senior sales leaders. Having a sales leadership background gives the street credibility and insight into what sales leadership is facing.”
The benefit of having sales experience extends beyond just credibility. It means that you know how to empathize with your customers and the problems that sales reps experience daily. A view affirmed by Nancy Maluso who said: “insights into the seller persona is critical.” This includes an understanding of the buying process and the sales skills that are required to convert a prospect to an opportunity and close the deal faster. Salespeople don’t need to know the thought process behind the product, they need to know their customer and how the product helps them.
But having sales experience isn’t enough as sales enablement must collaborate with so many areas and brings together a diverse range of skills. That’s why salespeople who have held a range of roles in an organization tend to be a good fit. If someone has worked in sales ops, been involved in process improvement, knows how to build partnerships internally or understands how to leverage technology to improve how they do their job, then they bring a lot to the table.
“I’ve found that folks with a pre-sales background perform very well. They understand selling and the sales process and they have deep knowledge of your products and can translate their value in a way sales (and customers) can understand,” explains Daniel West.

Marketing skills enrich customer conversations

While sales understand the customer, product marketing understands the persona and how they relate to the product. This means they can synthesize information about the customer from research and other sources and understand the psychology behind how to communicate with a customer effectively. When coupled with execution skills like lead generation this can be a very powerful skill set that enriches the sales enablement team.
Marketing skills are also favorable at the execution level for some aspects of sales enablement. Content delivery and program management are two areas where marketing can really create knowledge. It may also be beneficial to look beyond product marketing and consider people in regional marketing functions. This is because those roles often incorporate many types of enablement and field sales activities.

Blending sales and marketing may be the right mix

Perhaps the real answer lies in not choosing one over the other, but rather bringing together a blend of skills in your sales enablement team. While people with a sales background know how to approach customers, those in marketing understand how to craft a compelling message to a persona. When both come together they can create the right blend that can enable your sales team and continuously hone and improve their skills.
It’s not easy to find people who have straddled both sales and marketing over the course of their career but you can occasionally find a salesperson who has a knack for product marketing or vice versa. But if you have a sales enablement team then it is perhaps best to create an environment where you can leverage a cross-functional skill base and place people in roles that work to their strengths. This approach can give you the best of both worlds.

Sales enablement is multi-faceted

While the primary discussion is around whether sales or marketing skills are best for sales enablement roles, the reality is that enablement is a multi-faceted role. It’s not enough to understand the customer, craft a message and train the sales team. It also involves making sure they’re more effective at their role and have everything they need to be ready for every sales conversation. This requires analytical skills, an understanding of technology and the ability to improve and re-engineer processes. Sales enablement needs the skills to develop and execute content and training programs, which requires a combination of these skills.
In many respects, sales enablement requires a multidisciplinary approach, which is why some practitioners come from consulting, engineering or even training. The key for any sales enablement leader is to align the desired business outcomes to projects and milestones. They must work with learning specialists to design the right outcome-oriented program.

Each sales organization is different and must find its right blend

When it comes down to it, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question – it really depends. It depends on the stage your business is, the verticals you’re targeting, your product and your growth trajectory.
The needs of a sales organization also change over time and so do the skills they require in their enablement team. That’s why identifying what your organization requires now and then building a strategy and a team that can deliver those specific needs is so important.
By its very nature, sales enablement needs to be forward-looking and able to pre-empt what sales require before it becomes a real problem. This strategic outlook should translate into your hiring strategy. A sales enablement team needs to enable the acceleration of sales, and you need a team that can support your strategy to achieve this. 

Sales Disrupted: Preparing your Sales Organization to IPO

sales preparing to ipoPreparing to IPO is a massive task. It’s not enough to have the legal paperwork and financial reporting ready, your business also has to be able to demonstrate that it’s up to the task. As Joe Sexton, who helped prepare our customer AppDynamics for its IPO journey, has said: “you have to act like a public company before you actually become one.”
When it comes to your sales organization that means ensuring you have all the necessary rigors in place from your sales process to culture. This process should start about 24 months before you’re planning to IPO. There are six areas that we suggest focusing on when considering how to enable and prepare your sales organization to be ready to IPO.
sales preparing to ipo 2

Ensure your messaging is consistent

While consistent messaging is crucial for any sales organization, when your business is preparing to IPO its importance becomes elevated. It also becomes more important to look at consistent messaging from a data-driven perspective. From CEO to SDR, everyone needs to sing from the same songbook so your customers and the public see a cohesive sales machine. The entire company should be aligned on your message and articulate it because this will become a core part of your overall IPO strategy
Core to messaging is your company’s story.
MuleSoft, who recently made its public debut, refined its messaging with a core team of leaders. It then created a certification program to ensure each member of its frontline team was on message before they had customer conversations.
“We had the core team record themselves in the Mindtickle platform to provide examples and best practices. Then we formed a group of best performing reps and managers who we call black belts. This group of black belts then certified the full team. We had over 500 people go through this program,” explains Stephen Hallowell, VP of Sales Enablement at MuleSoft.
Leadership support was key to the success of their messaging as well as setting benchmarks and ensuring each rep received personalized coaching. AppDynamics also underwent an extensive company-wide process to certify their reps on consistent messaging. Each rep had three chances to achieve certification of their message or they were out.

Build capacity for growth

Investors will want to see a company that is growing and poised for further growth. This is not the time to take your foot of the pedal, a business that is preparing to IPO should be continuing to scale sustainably. In fact, public tech investors like revenue growth rates above 30% in the two forecasted years after the IPO. Others suggest that a business should already be achieving $100 million in revenue by the time they IPO, and still be growing.
Building the capacity for growth isn’t just about adding more reps though. In fact, the key to building sales capacity is ensuring you’re not over-investing.  In order to grow a business needs more reps who are selling more effectively and meeting quota. You need to do more, smarter, better with the resources you have as well.
This goes beyond just looking at quotas and considering how to ensure more of your reps are able to achieve or even smash their quota. If you’re hiring new reps, how long does it take them to ramp up and what can you do get them fully ramped up quicker. How effective are your current reps? Can you identify what is causing them to lose deals?
This can be achieved in several ways, enablement initiatives like onboarding and effective sales coaching can make a significant step change in the way your reps perform. For example, Mulesoft executed a structured coaching program to drive behavioral change. They identified execution gaps and built competency maps to help them pinpoint where to target their coaching efforts to make a real difference in the performance of their sales reps.
AppDynamics looked at the yield of each rep, being what the rep should be able to produce. This yield helped them define their sales capacity and identify what capacity they needed to hit their targets.

Button down your processes

Before IPO, all your sales processes need to be rock-solid. That means having in place everything from demand generation tools to pipeline management. Processes should be streamlined, understood and scalable. Investors will expect execution excellence. This means more than just having a consistent sales process and methodology that is used by all reps. Coaching processes should also be in place to ensure any gaps are identified and able to be rectified quickly.
It’s also important to look across your entire customer facing team. While much effort is focused on field sales reps, inside reps and even customer success teams play an important role. By qualifying leads and ensuring they are nurtured or moved onto field sales when the time is right inside sales helps improve efficiency and reduce your sales cycle. While customer success can play an important role in customer retention and renewals.
AppDynamics developed a culture of excellence in pipeline generation. Every Monday field sales reps focused on prospecting, according to our VP of Sales, Cameron Essalat, this was called PG (pipeline generation) Mondays. , in addition to marketing, partners and inbound sales. These efforts supercharged their sales pipeline and helped the business continue to scale rapidly.

Continue to invest in capability

Creating a strong pipeline is important, but the investment will be sunk if your reps are not able to convert those leads. This is where focusing in on sales effectiveness to build capability is key.
Your reps’ skills need to continue to be developed so they can constantly improve and stay on top what they need to. Building capability can include enablement initiatives that ensure regular communication, develop structured coaching and provide reps with tools that keep them constantly up to date and primed to sell at their best.
The more you invest in your sales team the more important retention becomes. This is why it’s also important to consider the type of sales culture you want for your business and put in place processes and initiatives to help you achieve this.

Measurement is imperative

You’re no longer a small startup that’s testing a new product. By the time you’re 24 months out from IPO, your business will be still scaling but revenue should be becoming more predictable. But just because your revenue is predictable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain a tight rein over your performance.
To control and identify issues before they become major problems it’s important to identify what areas have the power to transform or derail your sales. Then you can determine which leading indicators to monitor so you can stay ahead of the game and make any necessary adjustments to keep you on track. If you’ve only got an eye on lagging indicators like topline revenue, you aren’t giving yourself an opportunity to foresee issues and address them before it’s too late.

Build a sales stack that supports growth

Your sales stack should support your growth and help your reps sell, not give them yet another thing to learn. Precious time and resource can be saved by building a sales stack that is intuitive and leverages integrations wherever possible.
Many efficient businesses anchor their sales stack to their CRM so reporting and activity can be streamlined in one place. It makes sense, but of course, your sales stack must also support your other core initiatives to create consistent messaging, build capacity and capability and execute your processes. With these six measures in place, you can not only prepare your business to IPO when the time is right but also help it continue to scale and achieve its growth potential.

[Podcast] How Qubole Leverages Sales Readiness Technology to Deliver True Value to its Customers (Episode 21)

In this 20 minute podcast, Brazier outlines:

  • How Qubole uses sales enablement drive productivity per sales rep
  • Why technology is crucial to accelerate sales readiness and bring true value to your business
  • How to leverage sales kickoffs to ensure your reps’ positioning cutting edge
  • His best advice to anyone creating sales enablement initiatives

To download or subscribe to the Sales Excellence podcast login to Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes or find it here.
Jordy Brazier is Vice President of Sales Operations for Qubole and has been in Sales Operations for over 10 years. Qubole is the largest cloud and diagnostic big data service, providing businesses with a self-service data platform to help them make data driven decisions.
Selling to IT decision makers, they operate in a tough market, releasing new product updates regularly to stay ahead of the curve. This means their sales reps also need to make sure they have a cutting edge positioning.
“Every week we release a new course or an updated version of a course about what products we have? And, how to compete with specific products,” explains Brazier.  “To drive adoption and see who is going through those trainings is, Mindtickle lets us see who are the learners and who needs improvement. It’s great to have this ability. We want to make sure that we have the best prepared reps when we go into the field. So they can be true trusted advisors to our customers and are able to deliver true value. That’s super important and that’s why we take enablement very seriously and really invest in those programs, into technologies that make them the best and put fire power behind them.”
Qubole has also raised the effectiveness of their reps through its comprehensive onboarding program and certifications.
“It’s had a great impact for us as well. We use best practices to take control of the consumer process, bring true value and accelerating productivity,” Brazier continues.

In Conversation with Nancy Maluso

This post is based on a webinar with Nancy Maluso, Research Director for SiriusDecisions. You can listen to the entire webinar here.
SiriusDecisions empowers marketing, sales, and product professionals to make better decisions, execute with precision and accelerate growth. Nancy Maluso has built and managed successful teams in the technology industry and now brings her passion for improving sales productivity to her research at SiriusDecision.
“Coaching is something that I love. It’s something that actually moves the needle and helps people perform better,” exclaims Maluso. “According to Wikipedia, the know it all of all things Internet, coaching is a form of development in which a person called the coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training, advice, and guidance.”
Coaching has been proven to work and sales reps find it valuable. “When we asked high performers where they see value in coaching they said, for example, that on deal collaboration and navigating internal resources coaching was extremely important to their job performance,” says Maluso. “Yet, overall, 22% of reps don’t receive any coaching and only 36% of sales reps actually made quota. The average turnover of B2B sales professionals is about 32% annually, meaning 3 out of 10 territories are left uncovered. And when we surveyed top sales leaders we found that 7 out of the 10 inhibitors to growth have to do with sales skills.”
There is clearly a disconnect. If sales coaching is so valuable to reps’ performance, why aren’t more reps being coached? According to Maluso, for a coaching program to be successful, it must include four critical factors. “First, coaching is an individual game. It’s based on the needs of the individual. We have to have some way of knowing what someone needs in terms of coaching.
The second is a competency map. What skills, knowledge, process, expertise, and tools does an individual sales rep have to have to be good at their job? Thirdly, we need insight, both data, and observations, that allow us to know what the individual needs to be coached on. Effective coaching programs are prescriptive, proactive and persistent. We found that if we don’t provide sales managers and sales leaders with a process and a program combined with some tools to help augment the coaching effort, it typically doesn’t happen.
Finally, there need to be actions that the individual is going to take to make a difference.” When all of these factors are in place sales coaching will be most effective. But successful coaching requires more than just a process.
“From a cultural perspective, we want the program to be constructive, not punitive. Part of that is asking reps to identify and self-correct wherever possible. To have the coach support their sales effort persistently through every stage. It’s not just at the end of a win/loss review for example. It’s before they go to have a conversation with the client; it’s not punitive, it’s supportive,” explains Maluso.
Coaching is also a continuous process, it has no defined endpoint. “If a rep has mastered what they need to do with their job, coaching should continue to help develop them for the thing they want to achieve next. Whether it’s leadership roles or specialization, coaching should continue to support that rep,” suggests Maluso.
Persistence is another important quality in an effective sales coaching program according to Maluso.
“We’ve had clients say to us, “Well I do coaching every quarter. I do it at the quarterly business review.” That’s not coaching. it’s persistent and it’s proactive, and it’s always on,” she explains. To create a program that is persistent and proactive you have to have insights. That’s where the competency map comes in.
“It defines what reps need to be able to do. Then it’s looking at metrics that say, “Are they doing that?” Hopefully, your tools track activities that reps undertake so you can see if they are they making the right number of calls. Are they having the right number of customer engagements? Doing the right number of demos?” she suggests.
Useful information can be gleaned from lagging indicators like your sales funnel or win/loss ratios.
“For example, if the funnel is fat in the middle, but narrow at the top and narrow at the bottom, it might indicate a few things,” she says. “Metrics don’t tell you precisely what’s wrong, they give you indicators. Just like if you hit a golf shot and it goes to the right, a good golf coach will have a sense of why that might be. But until they inspect your actual swing, they’re not going to know specifically what’s wrong with your particular mechanics. The same is true with the sales rep. The dashboard gives indicators, things to probe on. If the funnel’s fat, we might look at, well, are they having trouble with solution design? Maybe they’re not engaging their sales engineer properly. Perhaps they don’t know how to use the CPQ tool. Only by observing them in their work will you know or sure.”
To really understand what’s going on insights have to meet with reality. Data provides one view, but it’s not until you observe what a rep is doing on a regular basis that you can identify how to effectively make a difference. “Managers aren’t observing reps to be Big Brother. It’s about understanding what the rep needs,” she explains.
Observing reps so that you can coach them and make a real difference to their performance requires cadence. That’s where the right tools are so crucial. “Processes and tools can help us make coaching a regular part of weekly one-on-one calls, a regular part of prep before customer calls. Coaching can also be done in groups, talking about individual needs so others can learn. It can be done in a lot of different ways, and processes and tools help us automate some of that process. Bring forward the insights and link them to potential tools that can help us support the rep,” suggests Maluso.
“In my example of the fat funnel, let’s say on observation the manager realizes that they don’t really do enough qualifying questions up front so they’re not able to design a solution effectively, and so things get stuck in the middle. Well by observing that the coaching tool can provide a discovery list of questions that can help in solution design, or a video of a rep who’s showing and demonstrating how to do this well or a role play that they can practice to help them get better. Those are the kinds of tools you can provide to managers so that they can coach more effectively,” she continues.
Good coaching programs are also prescriptive and link actions to outcomes.“They are very specific about what needs to be done. What the rep needs to do is understand what actions they need to take that are different. They need to practice those actions and establish a pattern where the action results in impact. Linking what they’re doing or practicing with the outcome you’re looking for is absolutely critical. You want to record in your tool or within your process exactly what coaching is going on and what we’ve asked of the reps or we’ve asked of ourselves as coaches to help them,” she explains.
One final tip from Maluso is to look at data holistically.“Look for patterns. We might see that all reps are having trouble with discovery; not just yours. We can then go back to product marketing and work with them to develop the right tools and maybe a training webinar on how to do effective discovery,” she suggests. By creating a coaching program that is prescriptive, proactive and persistent you can create a culture of support. This puts the development of your reps front and center, where it should be.

Sales Readiness for Each Stage of Your Startup

sales readiness for startupsYou can’t just set and forget sales enablement or readiness initiatives. As your startup grows and your operating environment changes, so do the challenges that your sales organization is dealing with. That’s why your sales reps will need different things to develop and improve their sales readiness at each stage of your business’ evolution.


1. Sales acceleration

Product stage:

Focus is on testing and validating your product

$100k to $500k
Funding stage:

Bootstrapping or seed funding
Size of sales team:

1 to 2 (often including the founder)
Sales structure:

Often unstructured with ad hoc process development
Sales challenges:

No dedicated sales enablement resources but the business needs some quick wins to help it validate its business model. The key challenge here is making sure they hire the right salesperson as one wrong move can lead to disaster.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

At sales acceleration, it’s all hands on deck. While resources are scarce, putting in place the bare bones of a sales readiness program will set your business up and help new reps hit the ground running. These initiatives include:

  • Basic sales onboarding to give new hires the knowledge they need to get up to speed quickly.
  • Basic collaterals to support sales conversations and drive simple marketing campaigns.
  • Preliminary buyer personas that start defining who your target audience is.
  • Simple processes that ensure you’re not recreating the wheel either every new hire or customer conversation. This includes bringing together information and tools and putting in place same basic messaging principles.

2. Revenue acceleration

Product stage:

Refining and testing as market knowledge increases

$2m to $10m
Funding stage:

Series A to Series C
Size of sales team:

5 to 30
Sales structure:

As you hire rapidly the sales team is scaling. To meet the needs of the growing team defined sales processes, guidelines and procedures are put in place.
Sales challenges:

New product features are being added every week which is continuously impacting your customer value proposition and pitch. Sales team turnover is increasing as you hire rapidly and need to show investors that you can achieve results quickly.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

It’s all systems go with both your product and sales team. To meet growth targets your sales team needs to keep up with a constantly evolving product and new team members. This small startup is now looking like a fully-fledged business.

  • As the product is refined, the customer messaging changes regularly. To keep up your sales reps’ messaging needs to be almost constantly re-calibrated.
  • Your competitors are just as active as you, which means your sales reps need to be updated regularly on your product, competition and industry changes to make sure they’re always one step ahead of their customers.
  • A structured onboarding program is now essential thanks to your fast-growing sales team.
  • While individuals have previously led process initiatives, it’s now important to develop sales processes that are driven by business requirements.
  • Getting the most from every sales reps is crucial. Driving sales efficiency, so you can achieve more with the same resources will help drive sales performance.
  • Other support departments in your business are also growing, like Marketing and Product. In order to stay on top of what they’re doing and co-ordinate efforts collaboration is vital.

3. Hyper-growth

Product stage:

This is now


$10m to $100m
Funding stage:

Series D to Series E
Size of sales team:

30 to 250
Sales structure:


sales force located in multiple markets. Your competitors are starting to take notice and more are entering your niche.
Sales challenges:

As you grow hiring and onboarding increasingly become even more challenging especially as you start hiring in new geographies and internationally. Sales management starts to feel the unique challenges of managing remote individuals and teams.

New products are introduced which also requires reboarding of your existing reps.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

You’re no longer part of a small business. With growth comes the challenge of managing more people and ensuring they’re all on strategy and singing in the same key.

  • Sales onboarding continues to evolve and is now a regular and predictable process.
  • With each new product launch there is a need to co-ordinate the approach, not just within your sales team, but also between your other business functions.
  • A sales kickoff is now an integral part of your sales calendar, designed to invigorate, inspire and keep your reps on track.
  • With so many reps across a wide range of locations, keeping them all on message can be a struggle. That’s where certifying their message can help bring consistency regardless of geography.
  • Coaching is now an essential part of your sales managers’ roles. They lead this initiative to drive sales effectiveness and skill development.

4. Profit and expansion

Product stage:


$100m and beyond
Funding stage:

Size of sales team:

Sales structure:

Proven sales processes and methodologies are in place and they support your mature sales organization. The goal now is to achieve a predictable sales method that produces predictable results.
Sales challenges:

Sales effectiveness and capacity building are key, but they must be achieved while still managing to keep costs under control.
Essential sales readiness initiatives:

Your sales engine is now scaling to achieve predictable revenue. All your sales initiatives are designed to keep the machine humming along while identifying new and innovative ways to enable your sales team and continuously improve how they operate.

  • It’s all about the data now, so you’re constantly looking for ways to refine and improve the metrics that are helping you drive your business.
  • New capabilities and capacity are being built to ensure that predictable revenue can be achieved.
  • Your internal culture needs some focus to ensure that it is geared to constantly enable your business. This mindset should permeate every aspect of your business including strategy, analytics, logistics and operations.

What your reps need to always be prepared and sales ready is constantly changing. Even once your business has matured post-IPO your sales readiness initiatives will need to be evaluated and reviewed on an ongoing basis. This is because, just as your business always strives to achieve more, so do your competitors and your customers. This drives the momentum for continuous improvement. Once you have the essentials in place, sales readiness is about taking your sales reps to the next level so they can always stay at the top of their game.