Mind The Gap, with Kristina Libby

Andrew Gray, Part 2

What’s the right amount of feedback on marketing assets from the sales team? In part 2 of our content miniseries, Nick sits down with Andrew Gray, Director of Sales Enablement at SambaNova Systems, to discuss how to effectively capture sales feedback.


Marketing can create collateral for sales, but without effective feedback it’s never going to do the job.

In part two of our 4-part content miniseries, Nick and Andrew cover:

  • Why no one creates a ‘perfect’ piece of marketing content on the first release
  • Why a modular approach to content creation helps facilitate feedback between sales and marketing
  • Why part of sales enablement’s job might be getting negative feedback, and taking it in stride

This episode is perfect for anyone wanting to facilitate successful feedback from their sales team without opening up too much to needless criticism.


Why Modular Marketing Assets Facilitate Feedback

“Blameless Feedback” and What that Entails


Nick: Hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of Mind the Gap, Enablix’s only podcast talking sales and marketing alignment. In part two of our miniseries, we’re going to cover the sales feedback workflow and I have on the pod Andrew Gray, our first 2-time guest. Andrew, how’s it going?

Andrew: It’s good, Nick. It’s good. It is a wonderful day. It’s August 1st. We’re ramping up our Q3 and I’m excited to come back and have another chat with you. And today’s also a great day just because our company gave all of our employees a wellness day to kick off our Q3 right, which is wonderful. So, really excited to be here and chat with you today.

Nick: That’s what the number of cold emails I’ve received today referencing the start of Q3 is breaking my inbox. So, it’s topical. No, but Happy Wellness Day to you and thanks for agreeing to be on the pod. I thought that you’d be a good guess for this one because I think it sits really intersectionally where sales enablement is which is understanding why sales feedback for marketing content is necessary. So, I want to kick this off by saying first of all we had said you’re in sales enablement. For people that missed the first episode, really quickly, what do you do? What’s your day job?

Andrew: My day job is listening to sales people and making sure they have the assets they need. You know what’s funny? I read this article recently and I hope it’s okay for me to say this, but it said, it takes you more than three words to describe what you do, what you do is bull shit.

Nick: Okay.

Andrew: And I laugh and I kind of I had to like internalize that and come back to put simply my job is to empower customer facing teams.

Nick: I like and honestly whenever you see truisms like that I think they’re always directionally, right. But like okay so if you have four words does that mean you’re full of BS, right. I saw something that said, you need to be able to describe your marketing strategy in one sentence or you don’t have a strategy. And I thought about it and I said that’s just not true. I can have a two sentence strategy.

Andrew: Well domination.

Nick: Yeah exactly, right. I make money. No, I get money. That’s Lil Wayne in Carter 3. That being said, we’re here to talk about feedback and you enable customer-facing teams. The reason we’re here is because I think we all know, right. Content, marketing content is like really very rarely finished once it leaves the marketing team, right. Like have you ever seen a piece of, have you ever seen a perfect piece of marketing content?

Andrew: You asked me out earlier as well and I told you I actually have. I have seen some quote unquote perfect marketing pieces but they were only perfect because of a feedback cycle prior.

Nick: Okay. So, it wasn’t the first time that yeah, okay so it wasn’t the first time that it left.

Andrew: It was the first time that specific asset may have been launched, but at the same time that was because of iterations of similar types of assets. Like for example, I’ve worked with product marketing teams that we’ve gone through a process of how do we become intentional with assets that we produce for either an offering, a service, a campaign, whatever we’re doing. We came to like this content, almost like a content blueprint. Whenever we have the messaging, we have this content that’s meant to do X, Y, and Z for the content whether it’s educate, differentiate, or activate on specific customers. And we’d say, this is for this persona type and it’s to engage them, pull them down rabbit hole and this is paired with the best content I’ve ever seen. This is paired with this sales stage and here’s a sales execution to it with a call script or a quick reference guide.

So, yes, I’ve seen perfect marketing content, but at the same time that marketing content was after iterations over the course of months and years working collaboratively with a product marketing team.

Nick: Well, and I kind of want to talk about that because I think that many marketers including myself almost want to feel offended when we’re told you can’t create perfect collateral, right. Like, it’s almost like no how hard you try, you’re going to be bad at your job, but I don’t think that’s what we’re saying, right. Because marketing will come with their own perspective, right. And there are a lot of things we can get into that. What are the kinds of things that and I think you reference some that sales and sales enablement and even in product marketing like what during that iteration, what is sales adding?

Andrew: It’s a good question because I think sales people by nature, first and foremost, you have to take into consideration the psychological type of a sales person, right. They’re hungry, they’re driven, they want to go make money. They’re extrinsically motivated. They want your marketing collateral to be awesome. The problem is, often times, they may feel like it misses the mark, because the marketing collateral doesn’t do what the core thing they needed to do. From marketeer’s perspective, collateral is all about educating a customer on who we are, getting brand awareness, people understand your brand and maybe getting excited for your brand.

From a sales person’s perspective, if it doesn’t pull them down a rabbit hole of saying like, here’s why you need to come talk to me, it’s not about the awareness, it’s about I am a consultant. I’m an adviser. I’m a professional in this field. I’m a practitioner who can assist you. And when there’s content that does that, know me, know my business, and content helps them do that. That’s when you get really close to a content piece that can be near perfect. So if when a salesperson perspective, they’ll often add tweaks or kind of changes to it to where it’s like, it’s targeted to a specific type of individual and that way it pulls them down the rabbit hole. So, that’s typically the types of changes I’ll see. It’s something like that where it just becomes a lot more personal because let’s be honest, it’s a realistic ask from a sales perspective to say like, I want to do this but on the reverse side, I also have to take into consideration a marketeer’s perspective.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: Because that does not scale. For a marketer, that does not scale. If they created content that is that explicitly accurate and prescriptive to different persona types or individuals, that will not scale. So, we used to have this principle where it was the, we called it the 80/20 rule. 80% for everybody, 20% localized, regionalized, and personalized to that audience type.

Nick: Yeah, because in part one, we talked about like an approval workflow like how do you take one piece of marketing material and turn it into seven created by sales, right. And how do you get the right kinds of approval around that and make sure everything’s on brand. This is kind of getting to the heart of that of saying, like but drawing a line of like when is it good to hyper personalize and have marketing step in and when are we saying it, it maybe it’s not worth it now because I think you’re right. Sales is going to contextualize that marketing material in many ways for a specific audience to do a specific task. Marketing can do that in broad strokes but the you have sales is to get to know the specific audience, right. Not personas, not ideas, not people, right. Alright, I’m reaching out to this person and this is what they will want to hear.

When we talk, when we consider the ways that we want to provide feedback. Our recommendation is to do to three things. Make the feedback cycle straight forward, unstructured, and organized. Those are kind of three big things there. So, I want to touch on each one. We talk about for it, right. It needs to be easy. Now, this is I think drives it the crux of why this is hard. If it’s too easy, sales is going to complain about everything marketing mix and in a lot of organizations, they do. If it’s too hard, you’re not going to get any of that feedback and a lot of your content is going to miss the mark. Can you help me understand, what’s a good way to kind of walk that tight rope and make it easy enough that you get positive outcomes?

Andrew: Hit me with a hardball one., really.

Nick: Yeah. And while you’re at it could you please give me world peace. That would be great.

Andrew: I can try. But a lot more intelligent people have been trying for a lot longer than I have and I don’t know how far will come. But it’s an interesting one because you have to where on the line do we say X, Y access easy versus perfect. If that’s how we want to look at this. I think it really comes down to if no salesperson will accept all collateral, and I think it becomes how do you have different components of collateral that can be used and interchange. And what I mean by that is maybe don’t try and make this one piece the all in everything about this it’s the Super Bowl ring it is the best piece of collateral ever. But then how could you basically have like let’s say five, let’s say a collateral types.

White paper, an eBook, a blog post, maybe a secondary eBook and a secondary white paper, right. And then, how can you make, how can you mix and match and basically by saying, technical personas get pulled down the rabbit hole with this and then they engage with this. So, what if you have a blog post that speaks to both a business and technical level persona that starts getting them into the rabbit hole. And then we say, okay, from that blog post, we’re going to say engage with one of our advisers, professionals can consultants have we tagged that as your call-to-action item. And then once it’s in, we say, okay, salesperson, if they’re technical, leverage this white paper. If they’re business oriented, leverage this white paper and continuously have that conversation.

So, I think it’s not necessarily, let’s go step one, make it easy. I’m making it easy by saying, hey, we have these different content, syndications or blueprints, whatever terminology your organization uses. And say, we have this matrix of content for you, that’s meant to do each piece, meant to do these things and it’s used to be interchangeable. So now we’ve got easy out of the way. Now let’s talk about things that are explicit for a specific person. Well, no one’s going to be the same thing, right. Like even if you have a buyer let’s say you’re a SASS organization. Either SASA or PASS (Platform as a Service). Maybe you’re even something deeper than that. Maybe our infrastructure is a service.

No matter what you sell on this planet. It does not matter. No two buyers are going to be same. So no one piece of content will speak to every, there’s not a piece of content under the sun that a buyer will look at and say this answered all of my questions because everyone’s different. So when you asked me earlier have I ever seen a perfect piece of content. I said yes. And the reason I said yes is because it’s not one piece that goes into that equation. It’s the numerous parts or that that blueprint that matrix so to say of what to use, when to use it, and who to use it on. Because different people have different. That was a very long-winded response to that big question but I was talking about how you think I did.

Nick: So, I agree with a lot of the parts especially you’re part of the blueprint. Something we at Enablix do is I think so many marketers get caught up around you whether you’re assigned, you would said white paper and eBook, right. These big chunks, these really awesome things which are going to be really important. But what you need to have first is usable pieces that can be used independently of that white paper, right. Do you have a really good infographic that goes on page four but reps can send out independently and give feedback on that infographic, right. And when that white paper’s done, what are ways that you can open up ways to say, hey, on page three, can we blank, right. And you could say yes, no to that, right. Hey, page three, I think we need to get a little bit more specific or something like that.

But it’s not delivering a huge 20-page chunk. It’s saying, here it is. Use it, right. I think that’s where these teams get out, we talk about alignment that’s misalignment right that’s one team’s basically saying FU to the other team’s input. And so, that’s why unstructured.

Andrew: So, that right there like to me that is the whole thing, right. Like that is the kit and caboodle. In our last podcast, I told you about how at SambaNova, we are a thesis and signals-driven company. And I have a pleasure. I’ve had a pretty good experience in my career of working with really strong product marketers that I’ve had really good experience with our product marketing teams.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: And currently, our product marketing team, I really love how they think about this because they’re looking for those, again, our company is thesis and signal oriented. And so they out and they say, okay, we want to build an eBook, a white paper, an infographic, whatever in insert asset name here, right. But it’s great because our product marketing team always comes to me and they say, Andrew, is there any sales person who’s working on this topic, this idea. This concept that we can go and chat with because I talk to our sales people on a regular basis and I think, you know, the whole thing around feedback is you got to have a pulse on your business. No ivory tower enablement, no ivory tower marketing. Sales enablement is it’s the mortar between the bricks. You heard me say that before in our last podcast and I really believe that. My job is to unlock the potential of other people’s jobs. Which means I go and sit with the sales teams on a regular basis. I go and have one-on-ones with our sales leaders practically on a weekly basis right now. And then, our sales teams, they always know that they can escalate things to me. No matter how small or how big they think the problem is. Whether it’s, hey, how do I use this thing or hey, how do I do this thing? As an enabler my job is to get people to trust me.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: And then they give me that feedback. They give me that information because they trust me and that I have their best intention at heart. So then when our product marketing team says hey we have this concept idea a thesis on what we want to do with it. We need to find some early signals before we fully invest in writing it 20-page white paper.

Nick: You can connect that.

Andrew: I say awesome. And that’s the whole thing.

Nick: And that to me gets at the heart of it being unstructured. I think so many teams go into this with the best of intentions saying, hey, like and they’ll have like a form for feedback and you’re missing the forest for the trees, right. We say unstructured, we mean that there has to be multiple channels that you could provide feedback and it can be to any degree, right. I think you need to set a bar for what the feedback should be like say, hey, like, I don’t like it, not good feedback, right. It has to be specific enough, but unstructured in a way that you could start even in the beginning ideation stages of creating content or after content is released, right. Like at any point in this in creating stuff for your users and prospects. You need to be able to engage that.

Andrew: Two rules. Check your ego and emotions at the door.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: So technically one rule.

Nick: Well, so this only works too when we when we talk about it being organized. This only works if they feel that there is a response to the feedback, right. Sales isn’t going to, right. I think you gave a really good example of product marketing seeking sales feedback before the assets even created. In many let’s say that we’re beyond that and the asset has been created and we’re giving feedback. It has to be responded to in some way. That doesn’t mean immediately fix every piece of feedback you get because no one, you’d never get anything done. But it needs to be addressed to say either why or why that will or won’t happen and when. And that to me is the hardest part, because it requires process, it requires discipline, and requires actually listening to sales. Which I know that most marketers say they want to do, but don’t know that.

I don’t want anybody just telling me that my stuff could be better, but to your point about checking your ego, that’s it is. So, you have to do something when these people tell you, because in the end you should all be trying to do the same thing.

Andrew: Yeah. No and it’s interesting to hear you say that as well because I do think it is, everybody asks for feedback but nobody really says like, hey I want to get my ass chewed today. Hey I want to get beaten up and beaten down today. But I think as enablers like that is part of our job. It’s going and getting beaten up beaten down. Getting the feedback and then doing it from an objective point of view where I said this to you right before the call. Sometimes I feel like sales enablement could be, it could be described as being a therapist for a sales team. Which is it’s an interesting concept, but the reason I say that is because sometimes taking the feedback from an objective point of view and talking about, like hey how does this make you feel, like what’s the root cause analysis of why things are irritated, right?

And never take it from a position of defense. Always taking it from a position of how, obviously this person is complaining about this or they don’t feel strongly that this is gets the job done, something has been missed. And if something has been missed, the chances of adoption are low.

Nick: Always assume.

Andrew: And the only way you can change.

Nick: When you get feedback, always assume positive intent. They’re not saying it to hurt you.

Andrew: That’s it and I love that. I love that. People are not giving feedback to maliciously attack you as an individual. Sometimes it’s like this didn’t work for them. You have to dig in and understand that root cause, right. Like, okay. So, sometimes I’ll joke with people when I see very defensive feedback happen like if it’s because there’s again there’s different levels, right. Like you can have feedback forms which at SambaNova we’re currently trying to figure out how we pull in feedback in a more scalable approach. Not just the qualitative piece we do right now of conversational, but how do we pull in a data bit like data backed approach to feedback as well. We’re right now we’re really looking at that, so this podcast is very timely for me. But when you see these things like how do you look at it and not get defensive about it. Like oh okay like this person just attacking me. How do you look at and say, I joked with somebody recently. They gave some pretty harsh feedback to me on one of the courses that my team had just built out for our new boot camp to help educate new hires and get us in the right domain thing.

I was on this call and I got some it was it was kind of harsh feedback and I just stopped and I laughed a little bit and you’re like, well, I mean what are you going to Joe? I was like I just have one question for you and they said why? I said who heard that? And they were like what do you mean? I’m like, first of all thank you. Feedback is a gift. Thank you. But second of all like the feedback you’re giving is in a place that I don’t feel like is authentically you. So what’s going on? Let’s talk about like you’re giving me feedback based on this course that I feel like you’re nitpicking small details but talk to me about the overall theme of the course. Execution we can fix. The volume level in the course we can fix. The UI we can fix. The UX we can change. So we just launched our LMS for the first time, right.

Nick: Congrats.

Andrew: Like these are things we can change. But the feedback you’re giving me is it’s less about the content, the feeling, any of this and they’re like, well, the course is really good. I just feel like this is not going to give me the right tools I actually need, because I’m missing blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. I was like, okay, fantastic. Let’s dig in on that. And then I started listening to them and interacting with them and saying and I got to a point where I said, I’m going to show you something. I’m going to open my kimono. You know me. I believe in transparency. Let me open the kimono for you.

Part one, two, three, and four of these courses are these things. Currently, we’ve built part one. We have built part two. We’re currently working part three, because it’s stuff that is actively changing in the market right now which will get us to part four. And he was like, yeah, if you do that that is like spot on the money. I said, fantastic you have to remember there’s two of us right now there’s two people on my team. Two of us.

Nick: Which goes to a really good point about any of this, right. You can’t take any of this in a vacuum whether it’s the feedback you receive or the things that you’re sending to your sales team. There needs to be context around all of it right whether is this a part of a thing is this. When you deliver that infographic the sales know it’s going to be a part of a white paper. Because if not they’re probably going to think well this isn’t enough, what am I going to use this. And so, as we begin to wrap up, I think this has been great. I think our next episode is going to be how to deal with toxic sales people as a sales enabler. Because that was a clinic right there, but we don’t have the time to get into it now. But I do think by the way that’s one of sales enablement’s because challenges. We’re going to skip pass that.

Takeaways. Create a space for the feedback. It could be public. It could be private. Don’t make it too open to the entire company. Make it useful and action oriented.

Andrew: Power of 3e. Yeah, like power of 3, right. You want signal and thesis on a new piece of asset. Pull in your three most experienced sales people. Pull in the three sales people that have an opportunity in the space you’re trying to create an asset on. Pull in the three practitioners who sold that deal in the last year, right. Power of 3s. Find your three advocates for this and get that feedback and signal early. And the other part of that to me is like, open the kimono, right. Don’t just be like, ha-ha, surprise. We dropped this thing. Talk to the sales team talk to enablement.

Nick: Hey listen, I think Beyonce did a wonderful job dropping her latest album, giving plenty of time releasing cover art and snippets. Do that when creating marketing material, is what you’re saying, is that’s what I’m hearing. Fellow text in Beyonce. And then finally respond to the feedback close the loop in some way of form and then and obviously sales feedback is good. Find data that helps that. Whether it be a content space, whether it be a data from prospects, whatever that is, data’s going to be your best friend here. As we wrap up, any other any other closing thoughts you have?

Andrew: I think the biggest one for me is feedback is a journey, right. It’s not a destination to arrive at. Having perfect content is should not be your destination. Your destination should be about the adventure. You should look at this whole thing and say, how do I produce things that helps our customer-facing teams do what they do best. And then more importantly, how do I have these incremental improvements over time. because even enablement programs that we’re writing right now are onboarding that we’re in the middle of creating. I told you about part one, two, three, and four, right. That will never be done.

I don’t care how like if we produce, if my team and I produce the best, best, best part one, two, three, and four program on the world, guess what? In 3 to 6 months, it won’t be the best anymore. so, it’s all about how do we continuously look for these evolutions and involvement, and from an enabler’s perspective, like you have to look for collaboration points. How can you help? Your job is to empower the customer-facing teams, right. If product marketing it maybe is not doing the best they can do. Your job is to enable the customer facing teams. That’s what an outcome of that means you need to enable your product marketing team. So, you need to be an A player for them whatever that means and that’s my big deal.

Listen, the destination is the adventure. Understanding the feedback workflow with Andrew Gray. Thank you. Thank you. Listen, we just and at the last minute of the 11th hour, you gave us our episode name. So, thank you. Hey, listen. It’s been a great time chatting with you. Have an awesome day and thank you so much for coming on the pod again.

Andrew: Thank you sir. I will see you again very soon. I’m confident of that.