Ask an Expert: Mitchell Comstock on Effectively Measuring Sales Confidence

sales confidence

One of Product Marketing’s chief responsibilities is to arm your sales staff with the content and knowledge they need to be successful. But with so many sales and deal metrics, how do you effectively measure PMM’s contribution to the sales team?

We recently sat down with Mitch Comstock from LeadIQ to learn about the power that measuring sales confidence can have, and why the confidence of your sales team should be a key metric in any PMM’s toolbag. We even included a template to create your own sales confidence survey for your team – check it out here:

Sales Confidence

Name: Mitchell Comstock

Position: Senior Product Marketing Manager at LeadIQ

What’s Your Background? I am currently a Sr. PMM at LeadIQ, which helps companies build more pipeline through better prospecting. I got my start in product marketing at a data center/cloud company, and then moved to a small facility management SaaS startup before joining LeadIQ about a year ago. 

How did you get to where you are today? I originally went to school to be a high-school teacher, but after graduation ended up getting a job in marketing. 

After some bouncing around, I found myself on a product marketing team and haven’t looked back!

Fun fact about yourself: I eat my mac and cheese with a spoon (which I only realized this year is really weird)

Ok, Let’s Start With An Easy One: Why Does Sales Confidence Matter?

In my experience, sales confidence is important because product marketing typically doesn’t have a lot of solid metrics to measure success by – there are many out there, but there’s a ton of fuzziness when trying to analytically measure the PMM team. I like sales confidence because although it’s another fuzzy metric, the product marketing team works so tightly with the sales team that it’s important to focus on

A lot of what we do as product marketers is for the sales team – everything from enablement to content creation to competitive analysis is meant to support them, so their overall confidence is a good way to measure PMM’s contribution to revenue. I see confidence as a way to measure our overall success as well as track changes over time to understand what we should prioritize between different initiatives in the short term.

It’s important to stress here that what we really want from this is their opinion. We aren’t asking “what’s the company pitch?” to see how accurate they are, but to understand how they feel and where they think they need help. Combine this with other data points like win/loss analysis, talking to leadership, and anecdotal feedback, and you wind up at your roadmap.

I see confidence as a way to measure our overall success as well as track changes over time to understand what we should prioritize between different initiatives in the short term.

Mitchell Comstock

We see a lot more people asking about Sales confidence - is it difficult to determine? And why has it become such a hot topic?

It has definitely picked up steam over the last year, and I’ve been seeing a lot more discussion about it. One of the reasons for its new popularity is that it’s fairly easy to measure. It’s low touch – It’s not difficult to put together a 5 to 10 question survey and send it to your sales team, but at the same time the results can be really beneficial. Product marketing teams can take this sales confidence information coming straight from the sales team, and decide where to focus going forward. 

Product marketers can get pulled in a lot of directions, so with this sales confidence survey to back them up, teams can be more proactive and start to say no to requests if they don’t align with these goals

I’ve even gone as far as to use this survey as a baseline in OKR’s, and made adjustments if I see that confidence against a competitor needs to be improved. I think it’s a great way to do this, both on the input and output side, from an OKR standpoint. It’s also a good way to measure progress, when you look at it at the beginning and the end.

Let’s Talk About The Survey - Can You Tell Us Why Each Question Is Important?

What is your role?

I prefer to do this by role, but you could easily  go by region or something else depending on the organization. This is just my cross-tab to say that each role might need or feel something different so this first question is just a simple way to look at that. Depending on your role, you might also have different audiences or different needs so we want to understand how this breaks out across the different roles.

How Confident Are You Pitching [Solution/Product] Value Prop? 

These are probably the most important questions to make sure you know who we are as a company, why we exist, and why we are valuable. Making sure reps feel confident in being able to talk about us as a company at large is the first step to getting them trained and ready. Then you can dig into the next question around how you feel about pitching a product or solution. Then we go into a little more of the minute details of what each of these pieces do for that larger story.

What Happens When You Rank High On One Or Another?

This shows a combination of next steps:

  • If we score high on value prop but low on product, then I go talk to some of the sales team members, to see what is confusing here, and why we are not as confident with that. That, in turn, leads back to your training, and deciding how that can be improved as well. 

  • It can also indicate if you have a value prop that isn’t very impactful, because you might see that score a little bit lower. This tells us we might need to tweak something or go back to the drawing board to figure out how we talk about ourselves as a company. 

Competitor Questions

These questions can tell us some interesting things. Something I’ve found is that with your biggest competitor you tend to get the same kinds of questions so the sales team is going to be confident talking about them. So at leadIQ, for example, we go up against Zoominfo in almost all of our deals, so our reps are very confident talking about what makes us different from them, because they see it so often and it’s so repetitive that they really have that talk track down. 

It’s the other competitors who they don’t see quite as often that they can get tripped up on. They’re not always quite as sure what to do, and it’s a good thing to track because a lot of times in product marketing we’ll have a tendency to get stuck on the biggest competitor because they’re in 70% of our deals. But in reality, we don’t have to spend much time on them if we have a good win rate and sales feels confident talking about them. It’s these smaller guys and the competitors that aren’t there yet, but we’re starting to hear about, that we should be focusing on in training or making battlecards for.

How would you rate the competitive assets available to you now? 

From this question we want to understand with what we have right now, “how do you feel?”, and “Is it helpful?”. 

I think if you see a really high score then that can feel great, but actually a lower score is almost better in this case, especially early on so that you have something to work towards. Remember that this whole survey leads into next steps too – so, maybe you need to have interviews with your sellers, or sit in on more sales calls, or listen to more Gong calls to try to understand the data and create a solution. 

For each product or solution, are there aspects of the value proposition that prospects don’t understand? Are there features or benefits that trip prospects up?

Here, I like to actually list out some of our product content, like one pagers and videos. If you wanted, you could even combine it with the question above battle cards and have sales rate each of these and tell us which ones they’re getting a lot of value out of and which ones they’re not. This helps us know what to audit, or where we might have gaps and just lets us understand what sales likes and dislikes in terms of content.

What is good or bad? Or what do you look for out of the survey?

I don’t know if there is a “good” or “bad” necessarily. Messaging and competitive position are always evolving, and so is sales confidence. 

Sure, it would be great if you get 5’s across the board, but I could argue that’s also not good because what do they need you there for as a product marketer if they’re that confident? I think it’s something that isn’t necessarily good or bad, we just want to look for the trends over time. So the real “good” outcome would be if we are able to get a lot of information from them. This is their space to give feedback and tell us what they need, so the more info we can get out of this, the better.

I like to do this exercise every six months (although you can adjust to whatever cadence works for you), so I can understand where things are changing and where we can provide more value as product marketers.

What do you do if your sales team isn’t very confident? Is “over confidence” such a thing?

This is a great question. I think that’s where you need to bring in some of those other metrics to understand why if we’re at a 4.8 across the board and everyone seems confident, that no one is hitting quota. This is where you need to start asking more questions like:

  • If we’re so confident, is there a problem with something else? 
  • Is there an issue with our product? 
  • Any issues with our pricing? 
  • An issue with the pitch itself? 

It could be that we’re really confident in a bad value prop pitch. So if the numbers don’t make sense, that’s when we know it’s time to do some digging.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The sales confidence survey is a super easy thing for product marketers to do. I think the biggest piece is to communicate with management and sales leadership about what you’re doing with this and how it can help. 

Also, communicating with your team that it can be good information for them too – this isn’t just a product marketing tool, this information can be useful for everyone. Getting everyone on board early can make the whole process easier. 

Overall it’s an easy tool to implement, and it’s fairly low touch for the sales team, but can be a really useful tool for setting PMM OKRs and tracking progress over time.

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