Senior decision-makers say they are disappointed by 85% of their sales conversations.1
What lies behind that number should be of concern to every product leader, manager, and marketer.
Your role is to ensure an active, enthusiastic presentation of your product to prospects – and that sales targets are decisively met. But to achieve that objective, you must arm and enable your salespeople with the messaging and tools to present that offering with conviction. Your story must also resonate powerfully with buyers.
In recent years, Visible Impact has interviewed hundreds of sales managers and thousands of sales reps from enterprise organizations to startups. Our research focused on their experiences with product management and marketing teams, and the breakdowns and barriers they face in getting a product value story told. What we uncovered was a recurring trio of “story stoppers” that imperil the effectiveness of both product managers and marketers. This deadly trifecta of message-killers includes:
- Messaging that lacks clarity and/or buy-in. Reps can’t sell what they don’t understand, and they won’t use what they don’t believe in. Yet they are often excluded from the messaging development process.
- Assets that are inadequate. The best reps typically rely on 27 different internal and external content assets in the course of a sales cycle.2 But our research, confirmed by recent Sirius Decisions data, found gaps in both quality and availability of the content assets provided to most sales reps.
- The wrong kind of training. It’s common for reps to be handed a set of materials that revolve around the product itself. Training (if it occurs) is also product-focused. But reps cannot engage in relevant sales conversations with buyers — much less convince them to change the status quo — if all their material and training focus on detailed information about the product itself instead of customer needs and benefits.
These story stoppers affect the relationships between marketing and sales, as well as between sales and prospects/customers. Take a look at what happens when they are present:
When the sales message doesn’t resonate, sales assets are inadequate or sales teams are unprepared to effectively engage buyers, the likelihood of a disappointing outcome is statistically high — remember that ominous 85% that kicked off this post?
It’s no surprise that breakdowns occur. Product marketers are expected to create demand, enhance marketing interactions, and strengthen sales conversations. If that alone wasn’t enough of a challenge, they also find themselves running up against the immovable forces of time constraints, resource limitations and increased expectations regarding content — from both buyers and top sellers.
So how exactly do successful marketers break away from messaging, content, and training practices that fail to mobilize sales teams and prospective buyers?
The short answer is: two ways. The first is how you approach the customer conversation. Research has shown that buyers now respond most actively to insights that illuminate the costs and consequences of the status quo,3 an approach known as Insight-Based Selling. “Insight-based selling rests on the belief that salespeople must lead with disruptive ideas that will make customers aware of unknown needs,” contend the authors of The Challenger Sale. “When handled skillfully, insights guide the conversation toward areas where the supplier outperforms its competitors.” 4
But choosing the right messaging philosophy is only the first half of the equation. Part two is that your value story must also be carefully woven into high-quality, attractive, easily understandable materials for both your sales team and your prospects. While it’s certainly possible to execute these steps on your own, most marketers find their path blocked by one or more of those previously mentioned immovable forces. With a trusted partner that specializes in sales messaging and readiness, however, product marketers like you operate at an entirely new level. A strong partner will help you eliminate story stoppers by:
- Identifying, clarifying, and fully developing a value story that will fully resonate with both sellers and targeted customers.
- Acting as a boundary-spanner and consensus-builder to ensure that your product marketing efforts fully engage selling teams and other key stakeholders.
- Rapidly designing and producing high-quality sales assets that are matched to the demands of your sellers and prospective buyers.
- Credibly and effectively training your selling partners on your insight-driven story and the techniques of insight selling.
- Executing a cost-effective program that delivers an impressive return on investment.
By embracing an insight-driven approach to sales messaging and readiness — while leveraging the skill of an experienced partner — product and solution marketing teams like yours are winning the hearts and minds of their sales teams while driving superior sales results. Between marketing and sales, there is now synergy on powerful value messages, a set of actionable sales assets, and collaborative relationships. And the story stoppers between sales and prospects have been replaced with compelling conversations, a sense of urgency, and a motivation to invest.
If you want to change the outcome, you have to change the approach. Accessing agile and responsive specialists can facilitate the development of an insight-driven value story, allowing you to produce a full arsenal of assets to arm your direct and channel sellers, while delivering training and support to enable the most powerful sales conversations possible. Remove your story stoppers, start moving your buyer to action, and feel the impact.
The team at Visible Impact has developed our approach to story design and sales readiness using more than one hundred combined years of sales, marketing and content-creation experience. Want to learn more about our process for finding your value story, and how we make sure your sales team is ready to sell it? Let’s talk.
1 Forrester Research
2 Sirius Decisions
3,4 Corporate Executive Board
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