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sales ready messagingIntegrating Silos With Sales Ready Messaging™
A survey done by the American Marketing Association in 2003 concluded that 50 – 90% of the collateral created by tactical Marketing is never used in the field by salespeople. The most disturbing aspect of this finding is that few people question or are surprised by this statistic. It points out the fact that most companies do not provide customer centric product training or messaging to help salespeople make better calls. I’d like to outline an approach to improve support of selling efforts that uses “sales ready” messaging as a foundation.

Identify Key Players
One of Steven Covey’s most widely known quotes is “start with the end in mind.” As a starting point, we work with clients to create Key Player lists for their offerings for each of their vertical markets. The Key Player list consists of the titles their salespeople must call on in order to sell, fund and implement an offering. While the lists vary based upon the size of a prospect organization, the complexity of offerings and the size of transactions, it tends to be fairly consistent. Another way of looking at the Key Player list is that you are identifying likely members of a buying committee for a given offering.

Create Menus Of Goals
Much in the way I learned to discuss business issues with buyers when selling for IBM, the next step is to take each Key Player title and create menus of probable business goals that your offering can help them achieve. In most cases, the litmus test for determining if you have defined a goal is to ask yourself whether a CFO would be willing to spend money to achieve it. Doing this exercise helps identify levels within organizations at which goals are more personal vs. business oriented. While these people may influence a decision, they will tend to be a less than optimal starting point for buying cycles and conversations with them will be difficult to orchestrate. By completing this exercise, you have taken a major step in guiding salespeople toward the vertical markets and titles that you want them to call on. These Key Players and menus of goals are the Targeted Conversation List for your salespeople. They should reflect the collective best practices of your organization with input from product development, marketing and sales. Sales and marketing can now agree that a lead is a Key Player interested in discussing one or more of their menu items.

Positioning Your Offerings
In creating menus for each Key Player, you define targeted conversations (title/goal) you want your salespeople to have with members of a buying committee. The next step is to position your offerings and develop a way to orchestrate usage conversations with buyers. This is the first touch point for integrating sales and product training, now possible because you have defined each conversation (title/goal). Now the collective best minds in your company can start positioning, which nets out to determining all your product features, capabilities and which ones are most likely to be used by the buyer to achieve the goal that they’ve shared. By determining the usage of the most relevant features to achieve the stated goal, you have done the seller and buyer a great service.

usage scenariosCreating Usage Scenarios
A danger of being intimately familiar with product offerings is the tendency to create a series of phrases or acronyms that make sense internally, but may be confusing to buyers. Especially when calling at senior executive levels, how often do salespeople blurt out features their buyers don’t fully understand, but fail to challenge? A way to avoiding such miscommunication is to focus on usage versus product. Before it became commonplace, think how telephone representatives tried to sell Call Waiting:

“Mr. Smith, I’m Joe Jones with the ABC Phone Company. You need call waiting and we are offering a 30-day free trial. If after 30 days, you want to keep it, you will be billed $4.95/month.”

How many people either declined or accepted the free trial, without understanding what Call Waiting was? Usage scenarios consist of four components and can ensure the buyer and seller are communicating effectively:

Event: “When someone calls while you’re on the phone 
Question: could missed calls be reduced if 
Player: you 
Action: could hear a tone, at your option click the receiver to take the incoming call and when finished, click the receiver to resume your original call?”

If a buyer says yes, it confirms that they would like this capability and also ensures that they understand why they would need it and how to use it.

The Next Step
Superior salespeople don’t lead with product. Along the same lines, I’m not suggesting that sellers lead with usage scenarios. Before offering a usage scenario, directed diagnostic questions to develop a buyer’s needs should be developed and asked.

To continue our simple example, the phone company salesperson could be prompted to ask the following questions:

“Mr. Smith, have people tried to call you when you or your wife may be on the phone? Have they been frustrated by busy signals? As a result, have you missed or been delayed in receiving important calls?” Contingent upon getting positive responses, the Call Waiting usage scenario question would be posed to the buyer.

Sales Ready Messaging
IFor each targeted conversation (title/goal), companies can create questioning templates to guide salespeople in having conversations with buyers about business issues. For each targeted conversation the questioning template would contain usage scenarios that related to the goal being discussed and directed diagnostic questions so the seller can offer only those usage scenarios that are indicated based upon the buyer’s responses. By creating this messaging, marketing can influence the quality of the calls their salespeople make. Rather than supporting the field from a “10,000 foot level” as much collateral does, I call this method supporting salespeople at the 5-foot level. That is to say supporting them when they are across the desk from a buyer and trying to have a conversation versus make a presentation.

For most organizations, some standalone product training is necessary to give salespeople the background and knowledge required to call at all levels within an organization. Having said that, traditional training better prepares sellers to call at low levels where people are more interested and willing to learn about products. You may want to step back and evaluate the ultimate objective of product training for salespeople. If it is to empower them to make better calls and close more business, it may be time to reassess how your training dollars are being allocated. Hopefully a higher percentage of product training can be integrated with sales training by leveraging the concept of sales ready messaging. Buyers would appreciate it if companies integrated these silos so sellers could relate product usage and potential business results.

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