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: January 29th, 2013 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Sales Training, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
During a recent conversation with a valued client whose job role is Vice President of Sales Enablement, she shared with me some of the challenges her organization is facing as it transforms to be more customer-centric. She said, “Sometimes I think my job should be called ‘VP of Internal Selling.’”
How true. While many of us may not be quota-carrying salespeople, we are all in the business of helping our peers and colleagues visualize a better outcome through our ideas and perspectives. In fact, in Daniel Pink’s newest book, To Sell Is Human, Pink explains that each of us spends 40% of our business time in “non-sales selling” activities, such as persuading and pitching to a variety of audiences.
Pink reminds us that, “Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.” That’s an interesting perspective reversal from the notion that selling is a dying art and that salespeople will eventually become extinct. In fact, between 2000 and today—when online commerce was supposed to show signs of a decreased need for salespeople—the total number of sales jobs actually increased across the US. And, two million more new sales jobs are expected by 2020.
To Sell Is Human is an interesting and validating read that reinforces the fact that, as sales enablement professionals, our jobs have never been more visible—or more important. It is also true, however, that salespeople must be relevant in their interactions with customers, or they will not survive in today’s competitive, self-service climate.
Every client we serve is laser focused on solving the sales enablement challenge by building better tools and resources to support seller and buyer journeys. Those most successful have integrated marketing, thought leadership, and campaign strategies into their sales toolsets in a way that supports truly unique and differentiated interactions with customers using messages that are consistent and unified.
Stay tuned for the upcoming webinar on our Thoughtful Selling™ model, which provides a framework and system for creating truly unique and differentiated value conversations for salespeople.
Posted: June 10th, 2012 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
I wanted my blog post about our upcoming Channel Management Summit attendance to sound lofty and strategic–but I’m literally at 37,000 feet. (Thank you #VirginAmerica and #GogoInflight.)
This year’s theme at the Channel Management Summit is “Manage your Channel Strategy and Partner Relationships for a Seamless Approach to Maximize Results.” A quick read of the brochure shows a wide choice of topics, ranging from onboarding and recruiting to marketing and sales enablement. Since those key topics are squarely in our roundhouse here at Launch International, we’re coming to the show to talk to channel leaders about the importance of an integrated content strategy in their channel program.
The key concept we’ll be covering: The content you create, distribute and maintain for your partners is critical to helping your partners achieve greater results and better alignment with your organization. What goals can you achieve by developing better content for your channel partners?
- Align partner business models and offerings with vendor initiatives and market leadership
Partners that understand your business value to their business will align their practice and offerings to your solutions. That includes services and consulting offerings, as well as dedicated sales and technical resources to drive opportunities.
- Integrate vendor messages and value propositions into partner solutions and sales models
Developing better content for partner use helps them get beyond their own specific capabilities, and position themselves as a leader in solution areas that drive opportunities for your offerings.
- Execute flawlessly on sales initiatives and tactics, and marketing programs and campaigns
Better content drives better conversations—pure and simple. Sales enablement, thought leadership and collateral that combines your industry leadership with the partner’s local expertise is a win-win situation for all your joint sales and marketing initiatives.
That’s about all the strategy I can muster at 37,000 feet. Look for more at the Channel Management Show next week, and be sure to download our ebook, Content Strategies for the Channel Landscape!
Posted: October 14th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: channel marketing, content, messaging, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
In August 2010, Launch International published a white paper outlining recommendations for marketers around their cloud computing offerings. In How Marketing Can Accelerate Cloud Adoption: Three Strategies to Turn Buzz into Buyers, we offered some thoughts and examples around:
- Mapping cloud messages to buying and selling cycles and enabling the development of resources that guide customers and prospects to and through the cloud
- Investing in non-traditional thought leadership and awareness activities can dispel confusion and doubt surrounding cloud technologies
- Developing the right sales conversations to help build and sustain prospect interaction to continue moving an opportunity forward
But since we published that paper just 14 months ago, the entire cloud computing marketplace has grown and matured at an incredible pace. It seems the transition from “early adoption” to “mainstream adoption” has been compressed—and clearly that’s a good thing for cloud solution vendors, providers and resellers.
And just like the market adoption of cloud computing has accelerated—so has Launch International’s experience helping cloud vendors and suppliers develop the strategy, assets and resources it takes to recruit and enable resellers, as well as take an integrated, mature message to market.
The kinds of cloud vendor clients we’ve worked with is broad—from systems, software and storage vendors interesting in driving cloud infrastructure solutions through direct and indirect channels, to distributors and managed service providers trying to show value to both resellers and customers.
Cloud sales enablement and marketing for 2012
We’ll be updating the cloud marketing paper in the coming months, but I wanted to take a rainy Friday here in Philadelphia to put a few ideas to paper:
- Maturing the cloud message: I’ve seen a real shift in the way cloud companies are talking about their solutions. The early messages around cost savings are still valid, but it seems we’ve all done a lot more thinking about driving real business value: becoming more agile; being more responsive to market fluctuations; developing new capabilities and services for customers. This more proactive, value-centric approach better addresses customer challenges and is helping with cloud adoption.I’ve been speaking with a desktop-in-the-cloud company whose offerings are basically the same as they were 12 months ago. But their business has really shifted quite a bit as desktop virtualization has become a much hotter topic. I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve shifted the message to be more customer-centric, while still retaining their focus on managed service providers. Which leads me to point #2…
- Targeting service providers: With more cloud technology options on the market every day, hosting and service providers have many options for how they deliver their cloud services. Security was an early message for cloud marketers, but that’s now become table stakes. Today’s service providers are looking for new technologies that will help not only with cost savings and security, but in driving agility and flexibility across the infrastructure. Large technology vendors in the server and storage spaces are retooling their messages and recruiting materials to show service providers how they can help customers be more dynamic.One of my long-term clients has started putting significant resources into forging better relationships with service provider partners. Much like the long-term strategy of encouraging consultants and systems integrators to base their solutions practices on a certain technology, today’s vendors are showing the value of their offerings in a service provider’s cloud architecture. That’s also critical in recruiting new reseller partner…taking us to point #3…
- Enabling VARs and partners: Channel industry trade publications and websites are full of headlines and articles analyzing the impact that cloud computing is having on the traditional VAR channel. Certainly pure-play systems resellers are going to need to transition their business model to take more of a cloud strategist role, and depend on their vendor suppliers and regional service providers to help craft a complete cloud transition strategy that adds value to the customers’ business AND the reseller’s profitability.One client of mine has added “cloud aggregator” to their reseller line card. They’re helping their reseller partners identify the best cloud offerings to offer, as well as offering a dashboard of cloud usage issue resolution—a critical part of resellers becoming a “trusted advisor” for clients and their cloud strategies moving into the future.
No shortage of cloud information for customers OR resellers
The cloud computing marketplace has made me realize that I’m truly a “market headline junkie.” I’ll click on any story or blog that offers information or insight into how marketers can help sellers make money selling cloud computing.
I’d be interested in your feedback and thoughts about sales enablement and marketing cloud computing services in 2012 and beyond.
Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Social Media, Thought leadership | No Comments »
It’s not easy being an alliance manager these days! Alliance managers need to play the roles of both the strategic visionary and the tactical execution expert. Their corporate marketing peers often have teams of marcom specialists and product marketing experts on hand to create long-term marketing strategies. But alone in the alliance management arena, marketing managers have to be fast on their feet and think quickly!
Launch International’s alliance marketing clients tell us their biggest challenge is being experts on multiple products and solutions. In addition to their own company offerings, alliance managers need to know their alliance partners’ solutions, as well as their sales channels and customer base. That’s a lot of specific audiences—and a lot of custom messages.
Fret not. Launch International has helped many alliance marketing managers navigate the wilds of alliance solution marketing. Our “Alliance Marketing Triple Play” will give you some ideas and direction for creating a marketing foundation for your alliance partnerships.
Don’t assume that a great solution will naturally make its own friends. We’ve seen the best ideas die in the channel because the vision and value weren’t properly defined up front—before launching to sales teams.
Alliance solution messaging is critical to the success of a joint solution. Both partners need to agree on the solution basics: what the solution is, who it’s for, what value it delivers to the audience, etc.
What’s more, there needs to be a competitive differentiator that separates your solution from others in the marketplace. Let’s face it, your alliance partner likely has partnerships with other similar or competitive vendors, so spend a little time defining how you’re better!
For one Launch client in the ERP software space, we developed a complete message overhaul to better align the company’s software with the platforms of its primary server partner. The new messaging included the highlights of the server platform and how the ERP application leveraged those features to deliver speed and efficiency to the user.
Once you’ve defined the joint solution messaging, it’s time to roll it out through the sales channels of both companies. This is where we’ve seen many clients hit a roadblock—not because they lack the ability to sell, but because they haven’t properly shown either sales force how the solution can benefit their common customers and prospects.
While brochures and data sheets may come to mind first, be sure to include white papers and case studies—which can often move a customer to a buying decision faster. In addition, solution selling guides for both companies will help the sales teams understand the total solution and best describe it to their customers.
One Launch client, a storage networking market leader, created a selling guide for the sales force of its largest OEM alliance partner. The solution messaging was developed to leverage the server vendor’s current messaging. Meanwhile, the joint solution was positioned as the premier choice for the companies’ mutual customers. Early feedback from the sales force has been very positive, and we’re exploring additional solution selling resources for this client.
This isn’t about maintenance services; it’s about maintaining communication with your various audiences. It’s simply not enough to create the solution and expect the sales teams to go forth and conquer. Like any other solution marketing initiative, audiences must be continuously cultivated and reminded of solution messaging, benefits, and value propositions.
Ongoing communications like email and social media can further reinforce your messaging and help customers and salespeople better understand your solution in specific contexts. Be sure to find a new or original hook in the marketplace as a reference point for your solution. For example, compliance, security concerns, and ROI are recent hot buttons in the industry press. Figure out how your joint solution can best help your customers solve these challenges.
Launch International used security management as the angle to help a large storage and security services client combine their messages with a software alliance partner. The joint solution leveraged strengths from both companies, truly differentiating their solution in the marketplace. In fact, a large analyst firm posted the thought leadership materials Launch International created for the client on its website and in subsequent webcasts.
While alliance marketing will never be easy, you can increase your effectiveness through the “Triple Play” of Messaging, Mindshare, and Maintenance.
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: May 20th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Social Media, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: content, content marketing, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
I’m preparing a presentation for channel resellers next week at the Arrow ECS May Days IBM Partner Conference. The title (which was provided for me) is “Using Marketing Plans and Social Media to Create Selling Situations.”
My first thought: “Wow…that could be a pretty broad topic.” In my 15 years of channel marketing, I’ve come to appreciate the differences of marketing at the vendor level versus marketing at the reseller level. With channel resellers, we don’t typically talk about sales enablement, content marketing or strategic asset alignment.
However, my presentation has pretty much followed the same 4 critical components of marketing execution that we talk about at the higher-level vendor level:
- Messaging and positioning
- Asset alignment
- High-value content
- Effective distribution
I’ve developed some slides and content around each of these components,and I think it could really change the way some of these IBM partners manage their marketing endeavors this year. The content is mostly directed toward channel resellers, but there are lessons and ideas for all vendors and companies.
The ideals of content marketing–focusing on customer challenges–remain top of mind for regional resellers, as well as for large vendors.
I’ll update these topics soon, and will let you know how the seminar went!
Posted: May 10th, 2011 | Author: Jody Canavan | Filed under: Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: content, Sales Enablement, Twitter | No Comments »
Okay, I admit it − I was poolside one hour after I arrived at the beautiful Fairmont Scottsdale Resort. I smeared on the SPF 45, ordered the resort’s signature margarita and began reading my Summit registration packet.
Let’s face it − we’ve all been to dozens of conferences where the host suggests that if we leave with two new ideas and meet a couple of like-minded peers, we’ve had a successful trip. At first glance, this conference was going to be no different. The longer I sat in the glorious Arizona sunshine, the more I decided that I’d be perfectly willing to sacrifice a couple of keynotes, sessions and tracks for some much needed R&R. So I promised myself that as soon as the conference lost my attention, I would return to the south pool.
I never made it back. Not only did the conference keep my attention, it turned out to be one of the best events I’ve attended in years for quality of content, attendee interest/interaction and for building post-conference momentum.
SiriusDecisions couldn’t be more right when they describe their world as “the place where sales and marketing meet.” Every keynote paired marketing and sales execs who presented how they overcame the challenges associated with aligning their two organizations toward supporting sales and driving increased revenues. Every track reinforced this aligned strategy with analyst perspectives on best practices in demand gen, product marketing, sales process and sales and channel enablement − each followed by practical, proven examples of success.
Most relevant to my world was Marisa Kopec and Joe Galvin’s session on sales enablement, since that’s what we do. In the most attended breakout session of the conference, the duo together shared the nuts and bolts of an effective sales enablement practice. The statistic that hit home for many (and confirmed via live polling) was the fact that the greatest inhibitor to an organization’s sales force achieving quota was their inability to communicate value messages. The need for customer-focused/value-based messaging and content has never been greater, but alongside that need comes the requirement to map those messages to suitable points and conversations in the buyer’s journey − carried forth not only by sellers, but also via various other customer touch-points. This is one area where many organizations continue to struggle. (PS – We do that, too.)
And by the way, this is one of the slides the Kopec/Galvin team presented:
It seems to me Sales Enablement is another place where marketing and sales meet. I’m just sayin’…
I left the Summit with more than a renewed sense of purpose and a full bottle of SPF 45. The next few years are going to be tons of fun as marketing and sales continue to align and sales enablement practices flourish.