Matt Cohen is the Enablement Manager at Workfusion 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.

What is product enablement?

“Aligning use cases to customer problems that we see in the market, rather than getting caught up in the feature function conversation.”

What deliverables are the focus of product enablement?

1️⃣ Training on products

2️⃣ Facilitating internal launch of new releases

3️⃣ How to position products in the market

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

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
And I’m so excited to be here today with Matt, even though Matt and Matt and I were joking about this former enemy of mine. Just kidding. I’m a victim combat wasn’t seismic, both great companies. So I’m just joking around there, Matt. But Tommy, you’ve moved on to work fusion. I

Unknown Speaker
think that’s all about yourself

Unknown Speaker
and what you’re up to these days.

Matt Cohen
Yeah. Well, first off, thanks for having me, john. I’m excited to be here. So yeah, I’m, I’m an enablement manager at workfusion. Now, I’m responsible for connecting internal and external stakeholders to optimize enablement services. So we include under that umbrella customers, partners and internal go to market teams. Work fusion as a product is actually a robotic process automation solution. We focus on tackling document heavy workflows to accelerate our vision is to accelerate the world’s transition more meaningful work. We really specialize. And I think we’re strongly differentiated for those who are familiar with the space, given our solutions, machine learning capabilities, so the company is growing really quickly.

The Collaborator
who’s supposed to primary customer for stuff you guys do? Is it like a manufacturing kind of good question, digital transformation? And, and trust me, people, I won’t spend this time talking about maths new company the whole time, but I’m just curious.

Matt Cohen
Yeah, no, it’s a good question. So we have been focused traditionally, and banking and financial services makes, you know, we’re moving more into insurance in the near future. But that’s kind of where our bread and butter is. Yeah.

The Collaborator
Nice. So that’s awesome. And thank you talk. Let’s dive into the cool stuff, though. The stuff that we’re came here to talk about, yeah, product enablement. There’s 5000 different types of enablement these days. And that’s both awesome and scary at the same time, what the heck is product enablement?

Matt Cohen
So and you know, I have not validated this with anyone, this is my own definition of perfect. But I think of product enablement, as enabling go to market teams. And when I say go to market, I think of anyone who’s buyer facing and customer success, sales marketing,

Matt Cohen
to align solutions to value and also leverage their tools to maximize productivity. I not everyone would include tools in there. I include tools, because I was the product enablement lead at seismic, as you mentioned, yeah, you know, a solution in that category is used by sellers every day. And it integrates with a lot of their tools. So that’s why tech stack was kind of part of that. But you know, day to day responsibilities include training on how to use the products, facilitating the internal launch of new releases. How to position products in the market. So there’s a messaging component to so how

The Collaborator
is that different? Or how does it complement OR compete with, you know, product marketing or solution marketing? Are those other roles that you do see it some other organizations too?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
So what I’ve,

Matt Cohen
what I’ve noticed is, you know, traditionally, only the largest organizations, or the most mature enablement functions have a role dedicated to product enablement. I think this is starting to change a little bit, for example, workfusion. Actually, just even though this is not my role now just hired a product enablement manager, and they have around 300 employees, but I think, you know, I’ve been a product marketer. There’s no, when there isn’t a formalized enablement function, it often becomes a capsule that includes seller support.

Unknown Speaker
Right. So that’s great point.

Matt Cohen
And however, you know, not only is Product Marketing its own job with plenty of unique responsibilities. There’s also no guarantee that product marketers are experienced facilitators, and I think you would be hard pressed to find someone in enablement who wasn’t an experienced facilitator. That’s an separate job product. differentiation. Yeah, very Yeah, product marketers should be focused on developing, you know, a compelling narrative for the organization’s buyers not supporting continuous development for every buyer facing team on the narrative they’re developing. Right. So, you know, on the enablement side, it’s also really challenging, I would say, to decouple sales skills and competencies from how you position the product, those two things are really closely related.

The Collaborator
Yeah, really good. What what you were just saying workfusion is just adding that product enablement role. What’s the impetus? And what should others be thinking about in their own company that might trigger them to say, Oh, we want to look at this now?

Matt Cohen
Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say, you know, we’re for workfusion. Specifically, we have a very complex product, and I wouldn’t say it’s something that is immediately understood. And so we have moved similar to actually what seismic data about a year or so ago, we’ve moved toward use cases and And aligning use cases to customer problems that we see in the market, rather than getting caught up in the feature function conversation because that is complex.

The Collaborator
And so losing commoditization type of play, so much smarter, you know, use cases over functions and all that. Exactly,

Matt Cohen
exactly. And when in when you’re shifting the conversation in that way. That’s a really compelling reason, I would say, to start a product enablement function, because there’s a lot of activities that have to be done to to accomplish that transition. And I

The Collaborator
apologize, Matt, because sometimes as I have these conversations I go off of, you know, some of the questions we were originally talking about doing. And everybody unfortunately knows john chases shiny object. You know, when you think about starting up that product enablement function, because you’ve been a product enablement person in the past,

Unknown Speaker
you’re seeing

The Collaborator
it get really stirred up, what are some of the things people should keep in mind as they’re starting up this function? Maybe also, who’s the ideal type of candidate for it? Is it somebody who’s already in your enablement team is that, you know, how do you think about those things? Yeah. So

Matt Cohen
I would say that the three main areas, at least the way that I thought about it at when I was in the road seismic Yeah. There’s the internal launch portion. Supporting internal launches, I view that the product enablement manager, as the owner of that portion of the process, you may have a launch readiness manager, and then there’s the other lap. But I think that’s one big piece. I think the there’s also the messaging component, we refer to it as storytelling and seismic, but making sure that they understand, as I said, How to align use cases to value and client customer problems. And then there’s the the tactical training of how to use the product, even if it’s not something like seismic where sellers use it every day. They need to understand the capabilities and how to how their buyer is actually going to use the solution. Right. So like that, those are the roles if you have the opportunity to actually build out a product enablement team. Those are the specialties I think of, in as far as background goes. It kind of depends on which role you’re talking about. But I would say, you know, someone who has buyer facing experience, as you know, john, like not everyone, and enablement these days has, you know, experience carrying the quota, or many Jew, but they’re coming from marketing and customer success and all kinds of buyer facing roles. So it’s more important that they just understand how to tell a story, how to position a product, how to work cross functionally, and then as I said, you know, have experience facilitating as well.

The Collaborator
Love that. I really do appreciate it, man, that’s so cool. How do you, you know, part of what strikes me about being successful or key to being successful in enablement? And I think it’s even more important, or at least equally important in the product enablement side is how do you build that collaborative environment across all those teams. And early in my career,

Unknown Speaker
I spent the

The Collaborator
first I spent the first half of my career in the engineering side, and all the sellers were idiots. And now that I’m on the business side, all the engineers are idiots, and I don’t mean any of that’s 100%. But there’s some of that mentality. There’s a little bit of a natural competition or lack of respect in some companies, between the front and back of a house. How do you go about building that collaboration? to keep people working together in the line? Yeah, I’ve,

Matt Cohen
I’ve heard it explained a different way to you know, the saying,

Unknown Speaker
blank rolls down.

Unknown Speaker
podcast here, right.

Matt Cohen
Blame rolls upstream. So the, you know, the seller is blaming marketing is blaming product, right?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Matt Cohen
You know, while I mentioned Product Marketing being its own role, I also think they need to be a key stakeholder and partner for enablement teams. The responsibility for which you know, this is most apparent is supporting internal launches, like I mentioned earlier of new releases, right. So during the launch process, coordinator between product management, Product Marketing go to market leadership, and they have to be involved early, upstream, pre release conversations, to understand what’s coming. And they have to be involved in those early conversations. As a product enablement manager to leverage their knowledge of the field, and also act as an advocate. I think sometimes people in enablement, gets so caught up with tactical execution that they forget to advocate on behalf of sales and focus on the voice of sales and what they want and what they’re hearing. And I feel

The Collaborator
like that’s implied.

Matt Cohen
If there are breakdowns in communication on what is being released phases of release. When it’s being released, things like that product enablement should have a strong The strong relationships needed to bring people together and figure that out.

The Collaborator
Yeah, it’s such a hard thing, but so many important points. And, and I think the reality is, every part of the business has its tremendous value that is providing. So we’d all be better served if we stopped complaining about all the other departments and just found a way to totally gather more often. So yeah,

Unknown Speaker
he did. Um,

The Collaborator
I’m going to ask the question, but I’m gonna ask it in a more direct way. And please ask it generally, I know you ran product enablement, you did product enablement, as seismic, I’m not asking you to share anything about seismic. But in terms of the day to day of running a product enablement team or month to month, do you basically have regular meetings with the product team, the rest of the enablement team, sort of? How does that communication and collaboration model typically work day in and day out?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah,

Matt Cohen
I so I think it’s important to manage those relationships individually, and certainly to have syncs with product and marketing and, you know, respectively, is a good idea. I approached it more comprehensively, because, you know, one of the main rules of enablement, my opinion is breaking down silos cross functionally bringing people together. So I set up, as I said, I viewed myself as the owner of internal launch. You know, we did have a launch readiness manager at seismic and I worked with him very closely. And he was in the marketing organization. So I’d say he was more involved with the external activities, and internally pushing

The Collaborator
up to the website, all the other communications,

Matt Cohen
right, how he’s going to be positioned with analysts, and communicating with marketing leadership. And so for me, I positioned to answer your question. I had a normal internal launch sync, where I would bring together leaders from sales organizations, so I could hear what was going on in the field, and get their perspective on what’s coming, what was being released, leaders from the product organization leaders from product marketing, and just make sure at the very least a lot of times I was just getting out of the way and being like, Hey, this is what’s coming up. Does everyone know what they have to do? Does everyone understand what’s coming? And that was a huge win. That was a huge win by itself.

The Collaborator
Oh, and I applaud you for that. Because I think that is a tremendous win, just getting people in the same room to say, I understand, I know what I need to do. Or if you don’t ask the questions, that so often, that doesn’t happen, or it doesn’t happen enough. So So kudos to you on all of that. Let me ask you this. Three to four tips. I’m looking now I say to myself, geez, I want to set up a product enablement function, I buy it, I see why there’s value in it. What are the three or four things you’d share with us about how to do this? Well.

Matt Cohen
So first off, I would say you have to become a technical expert on your product, that may seem obvious. But I would say the part that may or may not be as obvious is also the message, you have to own the story. And you have to lead by example. Okay, so I had to, you know, when I transitioned more into a broader product enablement, lead role at seismic, it also coincided right when they were rolling out a new narrative in the market. And so I took it upon myself to get certified just like I was asking all the reps to get certified. Right. So that way, I could speak credibly about what we were asking them to do. I would also say understand all the components and stakeholders involved in your release process, and develop strong relationships with with product management and product marketing. You know, I think even when you’re not talking about product enablement, I would say that’s really important for enablement to have a strong relationship, particularly with Product Marketing, there’s so much overlap there. But yeah, those are probably the three things on point two,

The Collaborator
how do you really I’m curious at this, how do you measure success for product enablement? Because it I know it’s not as simple as well guess what we launched the product because enablement had nothing to do with that we didn’t code it, we didn’t push it. How do you think about or how should people think about? This is what success looks like if you have

Unknown Speaker
product enablement?

Matt Cohen
So if you are a product enablement manager for a product that your field uses, as was the case with seismic, okay, we had the opportunity to look at it in a couple of different ways. I’d say most product enablement managers, you have to really focus on certification, testing people’s knowledge of the product, and also testing their knowledge of the messaging. We were able to take it a step further and also look at adoption of the product, which is a nice luxury, right? Not everyone has that. For instance, our Yeah, our sellers aren’t really using workfusion at workfusion. That wouldn’t make sense. They’re not the target persona.

The Collaborator
But those of you and I had that luxury of saying, you’re using the product is for you. Right? Not just for you to sell. Yeah, it’s a rare luxury to have that. So absolutely.

Matt Cohen
Yeah. So so we had, you know, a number of ways of looking at adoption and actually seeing, hey, they, you know, they passed the test. But we said, we see them doing XYZ, so maybe they don’t fully understand, you know, the getting those additional insights was super helpful.

The Collaborator
If it’s, if it’s a company like workfusion, and I know you’re not stepping into that role, you guys are just hiring it. But we don’t have the luxury of it’s a product for the team selling, Are there additional things people should have in the back of their head, in terms of how to think about success beyond? You know, the things you’ve already mentioned that,

Matt Cohen
I would say, you know, and I would recommend this to anyone. And I think one of the first things you do when you started a new company, is you need to go on what I call a listening tour. And you need to set up one on ones doesn’t matter how big the company is, with as many field facing people as you possibly can fit into your calendar, and just learn from them. And what you’ll find out when you start asking them about the things you plan to solve, you’ll find out very quickly, especially seller’s they’re not shy, right, you’ll find out very quickly, if you’re focused on the right things, and you’ll find out very quickly if they understand what you’re talking about. So you know, if you’re doing all this work in an ivory tower on use cases, and then you start talking to a rep and they’re like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m talking about positioning use case. That’s probably a red flag. Yeah, right. That’s more of a qualitative component. But I think that’s really important to

The Collaborator
note, I think that’s great. But let me switch gears back to so so you gave us some good tips to consider some things to think about in terms of what success looks like, what what risk should people be looking out for, if they decide to go forward with a product enablement kind of function?

Matt Cohen
Yeah, so generally, I will say from the organizations that I’ve seen with product enablement, you know, it typically only supports the perception of enablement as a strategic function, rather than one that’s tactical and reactive. But I know, finding that perception is something that enablement, people often battle. Yeah. However, the risk could be that it grows the range of responsibilities for enablement. And any time that happens, you’re running a risk of increasing the perception of enablement, as a catch all are misunderstanding what enablement does. So if enablement teams run into this, I would suggest being very specific and clear about what does and does not fall under product enablement.

Unknown Speaker
We all throw

The Collaborator
out this idea of charter all over the time. But is it charter the right way? In your opinion? Or is there just some other way of being clear about that with people?

Matt Cohen
I do think charters the right way. And I think our charter is an enablement charter, that term is so misunderstood. Yes. You know, when you, when you start thinking about developing a charter at an organization, that enablement is just starting out in a lot of times, it’s hard to get buy in, because the leaders are the people you’re accountable to are just like, Oh, we don’t have time to do something like that. It’s really not I know, you know, this, john, it’s really not that hard of a document to put together a lot of times the information you need for a charter is already living in different places in different decks. Yeah, you just have to spend some time to bring it into a cohesive vision of strategically, who’s your audience? What are your priorities? What are the services you offer? What’s the what are the How should teams work with you? Right, that sort of essential information, and it becomes a great go to resource internally for people to understand quickly what it is you do and what it is you don’t do.

The Collaborator
Amen, amen. And it’s a living document. So your example, you’re bringing it into a brand new company, it’s going to change 3000 times. And that’s okay. That’s the reality. It’s going to grow as your business and you and your services for up to right, wonderful. You know, we’ve gone 20 minutes, and I feel like we barely skimmed the surface, but I want to be sensitive and, and stay on top around partner enablement. I don’t have any more questions. But what happened? We talked about math that, that you like, geez, john, I wish we had talked about this.

Matt Cohen
I would say, you know, we’ve kind of circled around the topic, but I think product enablement is an opportunity that a lot of enablement leaders are missing, just from being involved in the sales enablement society, like I know you are talking to people in the profession. It’s not even on their radar. A lot of times when I would say that I was a product enablement lead at seismic they’d be like, are you you know, they think I was in product marketing or something they wouldn’t fully understand. But I think it’s really a unique skill set. And I would just encourage, you know, enablement leaders They feel they have the authority to look into doing something like this, to really think about how it could benefit the organization because there are a lot of potential benefits.

The Collaborator
The I mean, you’ve been around this space for a while you, you’ve worked at one of the biggest vendors out there. You and I both work in vendors. I know I don’t see it very often, to your point in companies that I have the opportunity to talk with. Were you seeing it at all frequently? Or were you seeing it rarely as well?

Matt Cohen
I typically. Well, I’d say about a year ago, a little over a year and a half ago when I first kind of got that title. Yeah, I started looking into it. And I noticed that only the largest organizations, I think, you know, AWS spoke about it at sales enablement society annual conference, and I think it was 2019. They spoke about the product enablement role. Yeah, Google has solution enablement, people, product enablement, people. That makes sense, right? Those are the biggest organizations with the most resources with the most developed teams. Exactly. But as I said earlier, I’m seeing I’m seeing a shift where smaller organizations I mentioned workfusion are starting to think about that and have that role. So it’s changing, but it is still a minority of of teams that I would say have a product enablement function. Well,

The Collaborator
it’s funny because I was thinking you know, on on the copy, collaborate collaboration enablement website, I’ve got templates for so many different job roles. I don’t have a template for product enablement, you’re gonna just add on it’s hitting me over the head that like, john, the ad that template, but anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Anything else Matt?

Matt Cohen
No, but I would absolutely not consider you an enemy. JOHN. I,

Unknown Speaker
you’re

The Collaborator
Me neither. Me neither. It’s funny. You and I, and sorry to bore people mad and I think we first ran into each other. It might have been FCS I think, years back or whatever. And I remember I went right up to the table like, Hey, nice to meet you. Yep. And, and you knew somebody.

Matt Cohen
Q was it? Hugh Redford? I think you Oh, yeah.

The Collaborator
I had been talking to you who was Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I think the whole enemy thing is silly. And I was just busting chops.

Matt Cohen
Totally, totally. We, we have to feed that the vendor perspective, right. To feed that narrative? We do. We totally do. We totally do. But you know, we’re all trying to solve the same problems. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize is, those companies have enablement teams that are dealing with all the same stuff. You are, you know, exactly.

The Collaborator
I remember talking to you, Redford. And it’s the last thing and I’ll let you and everybody else go. But talking to you, Redford, who was running enablement, I think at the time, up in Maine, he was he was living up in Maine, but I said, Oh, when I see what the next event, I’m going to come up to you and throw books at you. And you throw him back at me. So people can think we’re all fighting all the time, or we never, we never did it. But it sounds like a nice dramatic way of highlighting it at a fire. Anyway, Matt, thank you so much. This was wonderful. I am going to share this up on the site, I will have to go find a product enablement template that I put up there as well. if people have questions for you, though, about this, this role or anything, then LinkedIn, is that the best way for him to reach out? Yeah,

Matt Cohen
absolutely. Please connect with me on LinkedIn. I checked LinkedIn on a daily basis. I’m a total LinkedIn nerd. In my my personal emails on there, so you can find all that but yeah,

The Collaborator
wonderful. All right. Well, thank you, Matt. Thank you, everybody, for listening. We appreciate you and talk

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