Ep 40 – Product Marketing & Sales Enablement inside an Insurance Company – Axel Kirstetter

Presentation of the episode

On the 40th episode of the Virtual Selling Podcast, our guest is Axel Kirstetter, VP Product Marketing and Sales Enablement at EIS Ltd. He explains the role of a VP Product Marketing and Sales Enablement inside an Insurance Company. He also presents the similarities of Sales Enablement and Revenue Enablement process.

About Axel Kirstetter

To learn more about Axel Kirstetter click on the links below :


With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal? We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organization’s KPIs. Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast we address these issues in depth twice a week with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablements of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared.
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Gabriel : Hi everybody. I’m very happy to be with Axel Kirstetter who is a VP product marketing and sales enablement at EIS. Hi Axel, how are you doing ? Can you tell us a little bit about EIS ?
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Axel : Gabriel, thank you. It’s fantastic. I appreciate the invite. EIS is a software company for the insurance sector. And so, we provide software that allows insurance carriers to have a policy administration system which essentially is allowing them to create policies, claims management, benefits, and all, everything around the administration of an insurance policy. It’s kind of, whenever I colloquially explain this to friends and famil, I also say it’s a bit like the ERP for the insurance service based business, so slightly different to manufacturing. But essentially, it’s the back end, end to end, including front end tools and functionalities for the entire insurance sector. Gabriel : Great. And, you are the VP product marketing and sales enablements. How did you came to this position ? Axel : So the company recently received well recently, about a year ago, a major investment for funds with the specific goal of building out its sales and marketing and go to market functionality. And one of the missing pieces, it didn’t really have a product or solution to marketing engine. So that’s one part of the role. And then the other part, and this is really me saying « Hey, I’ve kind of done this product and solution stuff for quite a while. What else do you need ? », it is really sales enablement, adding onto that as well. So as the sales team, the channel organization is growing globally. They need to be better enabled with better processes, industry knowledge, competitive knowledge, and so I’ve taken that on as my additional chapter and responsibility set as well for the company. Gabriel : And how do these two roles combined together ? Is it natural ? Axel : Yeah, the natural overlap, certainly early days is really to have all of the content which product marketing typically produces around how our stuff works, what is relevant in the industry in terms of trends, what the competition’s up to, which is typically owned by product marketing, pricing, packaging, differentiation. All that sort of soft storytelling information and then transferring that knowledge to sales. So that’s a common step. Next is obviously helping sales to be more efficient in terms of their actual sales process, discipline, how to enter stuff into the systems, into Salesforce, how to do cold calling, all that sort of stuff, which then moves onto being a bit more sales process specific. And, I’m not one of those people that, you know, is religious about it’s with me and I’ll own for the rest of my life. At some point, this could easily be transferred to a sort of revenue operations function or directly into sales, but initially in terms of getting going, it makes a lot of sense for sales enablement to sit with product marketing, where a lot of knowledge is currently located. And it’s about unlocking that knowledge to make sales, more competent in front of customers and more effective in terms of their ability to make their quota. Gabriel : Great. And we wanted to discuss about, even more largely about revenue enablement, all the different motions coexist between product-led growths, sales-led growths, service, relationships… Could you make us all this term being clearer ? And how do you make them coexist ? Axel : Absolutely. So, first of all, for setting up this function and hiring for people, I’ve had to spend a lot of time, educating myself evangelizing internally, in terms of what roles and responsibilities are. And one of the things I spent a lot of time on is really thinking through the distinction of enabling sales, so that’s the function of sales, capital S versus the other functions that touch on ultimate sales does is bring in a revenue. And so, very close to that is then a distinction between sales enablements only enabling the sales team, direct sales usually, versus the wider channel organization. So, we also have a system integrator team or partner team that needs to be enabled. We have a BDR team that needs to be enabled so that’s the business development, sales development representatives. Somewhat marketing’s enabled on the same me message as well. So that’s just channel enablement. And as you, stretch it out even further, this is only within the sales and marketing domain, but you also have, the customer success organization. So, post sale, there’s still that ongoing maintenance and success that needs to be enabled as well. Ideally, same message, same company positioning so that it is a consistent story over time. And that’s kind of where revenue enablement is heading, as opposed to sales enablement. That’s only aimed at the function. And the difference here is, service teams or especially customer success for example, typically have different processes. They have different systems that they utilize. And part of enabling is also making sure that as you come and join the company as new employee is they actually know how to use those systems, how the process works and which elements it impacts. From there you also have competency elements etcetera. And so, at this point, I’m purely focused on enabling the channels, so not just sales, but all of my channel participants, but at some point, you know, we can easily expand the responsibility also to include all touchpoints on the revenue journey. Gabriel : For you, enablement is a training tools, messaging or what else ? Axel : Process ? So simple things like how to enter information into a system so that everyone has a single system overview. It’s also representing, the sort of reverse. So one thing is what we want to inform the customer, but it’s also in, informing the channel organizations, what the customer wants to let us know. Tickets they’re raising, touch points they’ve had in terms of information they’ve downloaded, what kind of events they’ve attended. So pretty much all of the information and passing that knowledge back to the sales teams, back to the channel organization, so that if we have a partner led event, for example, that we inform the channel organizations before or after the fact. Well, both before and after the fact that there has been a touch customer or prospect touchpoint to allow them to be successful, bring together all of their knowledge and making sure that whoever is going to be informing and leading the discussion has the same information as everybody else. Gabriel : Great. You wanted to express us the difference between relationship and services. I forgot the term, sorry for my English. Axel : Yeah. So, in terms of go to market methods, you know, that sort of two, three years product-led growth has become the « oh, everyone needs to be product-led growth ». But when you take a step back, there are other mechanisms to foster growth. And I think what product-led, has introduced is actually depending what you do is not a, a binary option in terms you must do either product led or something else, but, it’s really multiple things that you can do. And I think there is probably six ways that growth can occur. Talk about product-led, talk about sales-led. So the traditional, you know, he’s a salesperson and I know that, you know, we’re obviously on a podcast here, which is the classical inbound marketing. So, marketing led growth, which is ultimately what this is all about. And then the other three to think about as well are service led growth. So, that is off the fact of the back of a service you’d need an ongoing growth mechanism. So provide someone with better service, they’ll keep coming back. Simple things like, you know, a marketing agency, if you know that they’re any good, you keep asking, well, can you do this ? Can you do that ? And you sort of keep growing. It’s the same equivalent of product led except that it’s on the service level. And then, the other two : the relationship led growth, and community. So relationship, because we’re talking about sales enablement. There’s not much you can do to enable that either you have a relationship or you don’t, relationship mean in « I know someone that X » and then you’re trying to foster that relationship all the time. And community is obviously you participate in a community of, let’s say sales and professionals. You mentioned the trust « oh, I’m working with this company and we’re talking about these sort of methodologies » and off the back of that, you sort of have that community effect of « Well, I am a member, so I should probably do something to participate and I’m buying off the back of that ». And I know as you probably have seen, the last sort of, two or three years, the big explosion of all these communities alliances and so forth, which is really off the back of this sort of notion. So those are kind of the six growth mechanisms that exist. And we’re talking about, you know, sales or revenue enablement, whatever. And depending on which growth mechanism you choose, you do have to adjust and adapt how you enable ultimately the sales or selling efforts. So, you know, talking about the inbound marketing piece, well, there isn’t much to do because a lot of it is automated. So, kind of falls away, product led and, or service led, which is similar to product, service is just a different element. You then take the information of the touchpoints what’s been developing and you inform the seller, the relationship manager of this is what’s happened and here’s how to adjust and adapt according to the elements that we have. It’s about optimizing the packaging, optimizing the pricing, informing where the value points sits. And so, I could go on, but the point here is really one of, according to your go to market method, you do have to adjust and adapt how you enable the revenue sales function on the front end. Gabriel : And this is very complete. There is ones that I still need to dig into it just to understand it better. It’s the relationship that growth. What do you mean by this one ? Axel : Yeah. So relationship is really one of, if you happen to be buddies with someone in higher political powers or at the very top echelon of a company, that’s a relationship that you have. You went to the same school, you studied in the same field, you can foster that relationship. There’s a trust element, which doesn’t require that much. Here’s the product, here’s the brand. No, but Axel and Gabriel, we are buddies. We both speak French. We know each other, and there’s a relationship. And off the back of that relationship, you can keep introducing more and more sales touchpoints. You know, a lot of MNA work is being done off the back of, well, we already have a relationship from by saying the same stuff from us for the past 20 years. So let me buy another company and push it down the same channel. And obviously because you have relationship, you hope they’re just going to buy off you. Gabriel : And is your network large enough to this ? Too wide enough to develop a company or it’s really for the start. Axel : Yeah, that’s a great point. There’s also, company size, timing, growth, stages to de factor in. And look I personally don’t have that much experience with that relationship based sale. But I know that in the earlier stages company founders, start with your network, right ? Who you’ve worked with in the past, which networks you’re part of, and you try use those relationships to foster and grow that initial sale. And then to your point, as it goes to, you know, beyond the founder, beyond that sort of initial touchpoint of who do I know, and what can I exchange with them ? And you need to have a better process. You can either keep churning those relationships out. So new sales contact, old one out, and you try or do need to move to, possibly, service led growth, sales led growth motion that gives you that sort of next level up. Gabriel : And, within EIS, what type of motion do you use? Axel : Yeah, we have a sales led direct deals led motion. I think the one thing to point out for us is both direct and indirect. So partner organizations are critical for us. Both from a perspective of informing us what’s happening in the market, as well as promoting us, you know, we sell multimillion ticket items. And so, it is all about that mix between direct sales combined with relationships, but those are pragmatic relationships based on a, you are at AWS. You are at Azure, you are at young PWC and we know each other, we had a trusted relation, but it’s not quite the same as we went to the same school, therefore let’s talk more. So that’s kind of the difference. Gabriel : Great. we are almost at the end of the podcast. Do you want to add something before we finish ? And we have the last questions? Axel : Maybe I, you know, whenever I do sort of podcastings worth pointing out. We are growing, we have money. We are growing, especially on the sales and marketing sites. So if anybody wants to check out the website, it’s, a whole bunch of opening position not just on the sales and market rules and technical side. So, I just wanted to add that as a last point. Gabriel : Great, and also if some people want to contact you, can you share with us your contact information and way to contact you ? Axel : The easiest way is probably via LinkedIn. My handle is AXLKI. So whatever LinkedIn backslash at AXLKI. The alternative to my address is a And, I try to respond to all of inbound requests within 48 hours. But helpful to know where you found me, saw me, heard me. Gabriel know how helpful this podcast is. Gabriel : Thanks a lot Axel. And last question. You had the chance to discover Salesdeck. What do you think of the product and the solution ? Axel : I think the product is really a bit of a category changer for the sales enablement function. Typically, you take static information and you inform, train people of to back of that. And I think one of the exciting things here is that you can adapt the story, the message, according to the context of the conversation. And I think it brings together, you know, two sort of separate areas of sales, enablement tools, functionality with content management functionality. So some of the, functionality exists for AI pick your own journey, but it’s always static and here it’s becomes conversational. So I’m really excited to see how the journey is going to evolve. Um, you know, what I’ve seen is really quite game changing for any sales professional, but also sales profession. Gabriel : Thanks a lot. Actually, it was a pleasure. This episode of the virtual selling podcast is over.Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode, with new stories and challenge of giants in the field. If you enjoy today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback. Share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. So you don’t miss any episode. This episode was brought to you by, the virtual selling platform that increase your sales team efficiency and sales readiness, enable remote management and bump sales, operational excellence. Book your demo today to discover how you can close more deals with engaging and better prep customer meetings. Thanks a lot Excel. It was really a pleasure. Thank you. Axel : Thanks Gabriel for having me, I appreciate it.


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