Posted: February 1st, 2013 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Client communication, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Presentations, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Take a moment and try this: Search for “sales conversations” on Google, and see how many results you get. I bet it’s nine figures. My own search produced 109 million results. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of opinions about what makes a good sales conversation. That’s no surprise, because improving the value of sales conversations is a top goal for every single client we serve.
With good reason; it’s widely acknowledged that the makeup of an effective sales conversation has changed since customers and prospects have been able to consume more information digitally before a seller is engaged. That means salespeople are walking into meetings and conversations without the benefit of knowing their starting points, and the navigation is anything but easy.
In fact, IDC discovered in its research on the customer experience that more than 50% of salespeople were showing up to meetings unprepared. And Forrester Research reported that just 15% of executives believe sales meetings meet their expectations.
Stats like these have us wondering how our work as marketers and sales enablers contributes to such low marks from customers. After all, we’ve all been focused on improving seller conversations, so it can’t be in the tools they use, right?
Too many companies are still doing “random acts of sales enablement” which, frankly, do not improve the customer’s experience with your salespeople or your company in a sustainable way. Even the companies that believe they’ve implemented “best-in-class” enablement processes and tools are challenged to prove that they are moving the needle in any significant manner.
Why is this such a struggle for so many? Go back and take a look at the top hits of your Google search. Each article and blog post likely presented a similar theme on how to make sales conversations better:
- Uncover pains.
- Identify goals.
- Visualize improvement.
- Show outcomes.
- Use questions.
- Use number plays.
- Use proof points.
- Use better visuals.
- Appeal to the left brain.
- Don’t forget the right brain.
To me, it seemed as though most authors were focused on conversation architecture. A few offered techniques to serve up positioning and solution statements in response to prescribed customer need. Not one of them actually shared how to make a conversation truly different and unique.
No one is focused on the DNA of differentiation.
As reference, in a recent conversation with a valued client and VP of Sales Enablement, she shared that their customers were complaining that the introductory conversations being offered by salespeople across several different vendors presenting to them looked/sounded painfully similar. “Let’s talk about how we can help you reduce costs, manage risks, and improve service to your customers.” In an industry where we are all starting to sound identical (especially at high, introductory levels) and in an economy where we are all chasing the same budget dollars, what is it that separates true market leaders and their best-in-class salespeople from everyone else?
Answer: A truly unique point of view.
I don’t mean POVs. Every company we know is producing POVs out of their marketing and sales enablement teams. But, sadly, they are most often neither unique NOR a point of view. Meaning, salespeople forced to present a canned POV often do not bring truly differentiated insight from your company as part of their story.
The POV I’m referring to is about invention and innovation. It’s about experience and your ability to deliver. These are game-changing conversations. They are discussions that make customers think and ask you for more. They challenge or validate thinking. They engage.
When I explore the topic of value conversation creation with clients, my favorite question to ask is, “Where does true differentiation come from?”
Quite simply, without creating true differentiation, you cannot create conversations of real value.
My next blog will show you how to create a truly unique point of view, and then how to carry that brilliance into a strategy that brings marketing and sales together in a way you’ve never done before.
Stay tuned for the DNA of Differentiation, Part 2.
In the meantime, where do you think true differentiation comes from? I welcome your thoughts.
Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Client communication, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership | Tags: align sales and marketing, buyer's journey, demand gen, mapping, messaging, sales content, Sales Enablement, sales enablement job | No Comments »
Author’s Note: This blog originally appeared last week on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog.
For more than two decades, I’ve made my livelihood supporting salespeople. Twenty-five years ago, I was known as the product manager who could be counted on to launch products and provide salespeople the tools they needed to find, cultivate and close deals in the shortest possible time-frame. They sold my stuff because they knew I’d make sure they knew theirs. Salespeople don’t like to look stupid, and they don’t have time to waste.
I’ve always fundamentally believed that your salesperson is your first and most important customer. As such, when I think about enabling sales, I think about employing many of the same strategies used to engage customers. In fact, sales enablement professionals can learn a lot from their demand gen colleagues.
The true test of sales enablement success is measured in sales performance, not only in dollars, but also by how salespeople perform across each stage of a selling cycle. That means crossing pre-defined checkpoints efficiently and effectively, leveraging resources and removing obstacles along the way.
Much has been documented recently about mapping sales tools to selling stages to ensure content coverage. (That’s something we’ve done for years.) But one thing many organizations have yet to recognize is the similarity in this process with the one used to acquire customers. In fact, the strategies we use to nurture prospects along a defined path are directly applicable to how we enable salespeople in complex selling environments. And by applying some of the same methods, marketers can monitor and move specific solution areas into top-of-mind positions across specific types of sellers, and based on organizational goals.
The graphic below shows a typical buyer’s journey from awareness through repurchase stages. The top section represents marketer stages and the bottom section represents seller stages.
Consider a customer acquisition strategy that might include:
- Prospect segmentation
- The development of target personas
- Sliced and diced databases
- Testing and measurement plans
- The development of multi-tiered messages and multi-touch strategies, such as those involving social media, direct mail, telemarketing, and events
- And more
Then compare it to a typical sales enablement effort where sellers are blasted by the sales tool fire hose at time of product/solution launch. The tools are created using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to playbooks, battlecards and scripted presentations (for example) without regard for the type of seller they are, their role in the sales process, the other things they also sell or the level of product/solution knowledge expected. That’s like sending every campaign element to a prospect in a “one and done” blast and expecting them to buy.
While many organizations are just beginning their sales enablement journey, more mature ones realize that the days of one-size-fits-all enablement are gone. And, such strategies as seller segmentation and seller nurturing are as important to the enablement process as buyer segmentation and lead nurturing are to the customer acquisition process.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you established a sales enablement program?
- Do you have documented processes and best practices in place?
- Have you mapped your sales enablement assets across your organization’s documented sales process?
- Have you worked directly with sales to understand what your sellers need and want?
- Does your organization have different types of sellers performing different roles in the process? If so, do you tailor enablement tools specific to their role?
- Do you provide sellers with a suite of enablement tools at solution launch, or disseminate tools over time?
- What mindshare tactics do you use to keep solution information fresh for sellers?
- How many different forms of media or different types of venues have you used to provide information to sellers?
- Are your demand gen campaigns synchronized with the conversations sellers are having with prospects?
- Do you track tool usage and retire unwanted or underutilized assets?
Because sales enablement is a new discipline within most companies, building best practices can be a challenge. (In fact, there are more than 1,600 sales enablement positions open right now.) Remember that some of the best sales enablement talent could be right down the hall in the demand gen department.
What’s your formula for enabling sales?
Posted: October 6th, 2010 | Author: Patti Drach Fiore | Filed under: Client communication | No Comments »
I was on a sales call recently where I walked a prospect through our business model. Instead of one person acting as the interface to the client and entirely different set of folks behind a curtain actually delivering the creative based on a funneled (think translated/interpreted) understanding of client needs and requirements, our account managers are doers. We write content, collaborate with our designers, and manage projects to completion. We know this is unique and present it as a differentiator, but it’s nice to hear feedback that our approach resonates.
This call was specifically about a design-only job of enormous strategic corporate importance, so the prospect really liked the notion that he would be kicking off the project via a telecon that included the people actively creating his identity and then regularly communicating with him throughout the process.
I can’t imagine working any other way, but I know that many other agencies do. As I mentioned during our discussion, our model helps us help our clients because it allows us to infuse and ensure efficiencies and economies of scale. And for our customers, we hope that means unprecedented turnaround times, top-rate quality, and unbeatable prices.
Companies are used to tolerating a traditional agency model, but they don’t have to. Think about how you engage with agencies. Do you feel your message is lost in translation from the interface to the doers? Do you feel like you spend too much time managing the project and the lion’s share of the work and wondering when the really thoughtful and meaningful creative output will come across your desktop for review?
The new big thing a few years ago was collaborative tools specifically for our industry. Agencies were touting them as a value add and big clients were demanding them because they promised to provide unprecedented transparency and visibility. But, you can’t, as they say, put lipstick on a pig. No amount of automation can force your reviewers and stakeholders to keep to a timetable. Plus, I find that the tools seem to encourage an approach to review that creates a Twitter-like top-of-mind and kneejerk response. This, in turn, results in “online dialogue” in up to 140 characters or less .
I guess what I am trying to say is that process tools cannot improve a flawed process. And in some cases, automation will only further break what’s broken. Agencies need to change their models—and that means eliminating the whisper-down-the-lane approach where only the account manager (who neither writes nor designs) ever speaks with a client. More important, the creative team needs to function as a team—with all parts regularly communicating with one another as needed—and with no character limits.