What is product enablement and why you need it now

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Product Enablement translates feature to value so customers can understand how your products and solutions help them solve their problems. It also ensures that your solutions deliver value throughout the customer journey -- increasing the odds of future revenue for your business.
Product Enablement Professionals can see the Matrix

What is Product Enablement?

Product Enablement translates feature to value so customers can understand how your products and solutions help them solve their problems. It also ensures that your solutions deliver value throughout the customer journey — increasing the odds of future revenue for your business.

You could consider this product launch sales enablement or product marketing sales enablement if that helps in our understanding.

Let’s begin this article by clearing up any confusion between roles such as product marketing and product enablement.

Is Product Marketing, Product Management, and Product Enablement the same thing?

In some companies, product teams, product managers, and product marketers have traditionally filled this need at least partially. To make the differences clearer, let’s compare.

What is the difference between product managers, product marketing, and product enablement?

The Job Comparison

Product Managers (PMs)

Product management focuses on understanding the market, identifying user needs, defining product requirements, and that a product that meets these needs is delivered.

  • These people are also the process owners, working with the teams delivering the solutions, translating business needs to technical requirements.
  • Product Managers understand all the new features, often deeply as subject matter experts.
  • PMs deliver documentation and training to customer support and perhaps customer success on best practices for using the features to their fullest.

Product Marketers (PMMs)

Product Marketing owns the go-to-market strategy for a given product or solution line of offerings.

PMMs continue the translation process performed by the PMs, converting product knowledge outward, explaining how updates translate into solutions for business challenges their customers have.

Product Enablement (PE)

Product enablement works inwardly, ensuring that the message from the PMMs, PMs, translating into messages, content, and training to support the sales team, support team, and all other customer-facing teams can use when communicating outwardly.

Product Enablement translates all of the knowledge above to enable customer-facing teams to have more effective customer conversations.

Product Enablement updates supporting materials (e.g., discovery guides, battle cards) to reflect new differentiators, traps, and so on to enable account executives and other sales reps to win more deals.

Again, for ease of understanding, consider this product launch sales enablement or product marketing sales enablement.

Summarizing PMMs vs PMs vs PEs

In the simplest of terms:

  • PMs work with product teams to create the solutions the customers need to overcome their challenges. They communicate internally to arm PMMs and Product Enablement teams.
  • PMMs take this information and package it for one-to-many communications from the company to prospects. Their processes and programs are educating the masses.
  • Product Enablement takes this information and packages it for one-to-one communications from the company to individuals and buying committees.

Do you need a product enablement function?

In larger organizations, where Enablement work is segmented into specialist roles, you will want to add this capability at the right time.

The right time will vary across organizations, but ask yourself the following questions to determine if it’s time to develop a dedicated product enablement team.

  • Do we have a product marketing team that translates product updates for customer-facing employees already, or is this a gap?
  • Does our existing sales enablement team have content creators and training teammates already doing the work, and can they continue to handle the workload?
  • Is our product roadmap built based upon a strategic and well-aligned go-to-market strategy, or is it guided by engineering building cool features or simply keeping up with customer requests?
  • Related to the above — when you release a new product, are your employees able to quickly translate that into sales for your company?
  • Do you have a clearly defined sales enablement strategy stating that this is part of your mandate? Or, does communication come from multiple departments without putting a relevant translation on it for those they are trying to support?
  • From your sales team through implementation, can all employees answer questions coming in from both employees and external parties?
  • Is this your biggest challenge?

Thoughts on Product Enablement Strategy and Tactics

If you decide that it’s time to add or optimize product enablement, please keep the following in mind.

  • As always, align your program with your overall go-to-market efforts.
  • Align across engineering, PM, and PMM to ensure all are clear about the jobs of each role — this is key.
  • Document and get buy-in on your product enablement strategy. Your strategy must align with the broader business, this is critical. Consider a framework like OKRs to keep you and the broader company focused.
  • PE must be involved before the development of new features and capabilities. Processes must be in place to ensure all internal stakeholders, including PE, understand WHY something is being built and HOW its introduction will help their customer-facing employees best support customers and win prospects.

What else does a Product Enablement Manager do?

In case I haven’t made this clear enough, a Product Enablement Manager:

  • Provides product launch training to internal stakeholders, ranging from sales management, sales reps, customer support, services, and so on how product capabilities impact their efforts (e.g., discovery, and so on)
  • Updates discovery guides and other relevant documentation based upon the releases.
  • Participate with other members of the release team to ensure a successful launch.
  • May be responsible for, or involved in, setting up and maintenance of demo environments. — although in some teams this is the purview of other departments (such as presales).

As noted, this role should reside within the revenue enablement team but, as with all enablement roles, will work closely with various cross-functional teams across the entire company.

How to lead product enablement

The function is relatively new, so there is plenty of debate about how to lead product enablement.

However, summarizing our thoughts above:

  • PE should report into the rest of the Enablement and ideally reside under the CRO.
  • People in this role have to work closely with product teams (e.g., engineers, marketers, managers) and other members of the larger revenue organization such as sales and customer success.

With this in mind, the question of how to lead product enablement becomes a bit clearer.

  • The role owns the readiness of all customer-facing teams to sell products.
  • The role collaborates across the organization to deliver on readiness.
  • The role works closely with product teams to understand new product features, the roadmap, and how all of it ties back to solving customer problems.
  • This role must be part seller, part SME, very organized, and a good storyteller.

If you are leading product enablement, you must recognize that, while you are responsible, you cannot do this job alone.

Product Enablement and Product Releases

Your product managers think about features and functions, bells and whistles. This is not what sells products.

Your product enablement team:

  • Delivers product training that explains how these capabilities solve common customer challenges
  • Managing and overseeing product launches internally.
  • Developing content to support the sales and success motions required for sales and renewals.
Project Planning

The best product enablement managers are detailed project managers. Use a solution like monday.com to create a standardized project plan for product releases.

 

New Product Release Training

As noted, your product enablement team will develop and deliver product training. Note though, that this training should be tailored for the needs of each group.

 

How do you deliver this training?

As is always the case for training:

  • Deliver a small in-person or remote session covering the basics insights. Record this session.
  • Make the recording available in your Sales Content Management System, chucking it up into smaller segments for each section. This approach will simplify the lives of your revenue teams when they are looking for information.
    • Note:  Always use a solution like Otter.ai to extract the transcript and include that in your CMS. Some users will prefer reading over listening.
  • Use a solution like Spekit or Usetiful to ensure easy access to information when and where needed.
  • Deliver regular knowledge reinforcement through emails, slack channel updates, and other modalities to reinforce the initial sessions.

USE VIDEO FOR REINFORCEMENT:

Remember that video is impactful for reinforcement — but keep it short.  Use a solution like Loom, as I demonstrate in this simple example, to share brief overviews with your team.

 

What does each team need from PE?

As you plan product information delivery needs for the teams, consider the following in terms of needs for each role.

Content Requirements

When you release a new product, ensure all relevant content is updated. This content includes:

  • Competitive battle cards
  • Product brochures your teams share with prospects
  • Knowledge-base articles
  • Sales playbooks
  • Discovery guides

And yes, much more. Ensure your project plan includes all of these materials, and you review and update them, as required, with each release.

Note: Your product enablement team may not be making the updates, but they should ensure the appropriate teams make the updates.

Metrics

Product enablement should work with your product managers and revenue operations team to ensure tracking of:

  • Impact on revenue for these updates
  • Any other metrics this release was intended to impact.
Must-Have Tools

Enablement practitioners always need tools to help them with the following tasks, and these are the top tools for the job today.

And the best part?

These tools are all low-to-no-cost solutions,

Recording Short Videos

Not a day goes by where you don’t need to explain something visually.  Using a solution like Loom, which is low to no cost, is a must.

Loom Logo
Curating and Paraphrasing Content

Whether you are creating or curating content or training for your customer-facing teams, rewrites and paraphrasing are a daily occurrence.  A low to a no-cost option like QuillBot, is required.

QuillBot Logo
Creating Images

If you don’t have access to a design team, and what Enablement does, you need a solution like Canva to easily create good-looking images for your work – and again, at low to no cost.

Canva logo

A Product Enablement Manager Job Description

Matt Cohen, interviewed in the podcast episode below, was kind enough to share a sample job description for this role.  You can find the product enablement manager job description template in our free templates area.

Listen to this Podcast Episode on Product Enablement

Matt Cohen is an experienced Enablement Manager and formerly the Product Enablement Leader at Seismic. In this session with The Collaborator, Matt provided a great overview of what is product enablement and shared how it can benefit the organization.

Listen and learn how the role differs from product/solution marketing, building alignment from front to back of the house and vice versa, and much more.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Summary

 

What is Product Enablement?

Product Enablement translates feature to value so customers can understand how your products and solutions help them solve their problems. It also ensures that your solutions deliver value throughout the customer journey — increasing the odds of future revenue for your business.

Is Product Marketing, Product Marketing, and Product Enablement the same thing?

In the simplest of terms:

– PMs work with product teams to create the solutions the customers need to overcome their challenges. They communicate internally to arm PMMs and Product Enablement teams.
– PMMs take this information and package it for one-to-many communications from the company to prospects. Their processes and programs are educating the masses.
– Product Enablement takes this information and packages it for one-to-one communications from the company to individuals and buying committees.