People will always listen to someone who they think can help them solve their problems, so the most successful sales messages give concrete answers to that burning question ‘What’s in it for me?’

In our last segment, we learned about how Ventaso helped American Express develop a Web-based portal to help salespeople access relevant sales messages and create very focused documents. “The process is similar to sales coaching,” says Ventaso CEO, Riesterer. “Salespeople go through a quick query, tell the system about the sales opportunity, pick a document, and then the system automatically pulls the needed pieces of information. It will build a document that fits both their sales process and their marketing for branding guidelines and gives the customers only the information they care about.”

Thus, with very little effort field people can create targeted messaging. They can get customized white papers for different industries, custom-tailored market data sheets, and PowerPoint presentations that are designed to zero in on the specific interests of the person who will be viewing the presentation. If a saleswoman is going out that afternoon to see several officers at a corn chip plant, she can use the messaging template to create a custom sales presentation for first the VP of production, then the CEO, and finally the VP of sales. The result is no more canned brochures that nobody reads and no more marketing documents that are out of date before they’re in the customer’s hands.

A good message is like medicine for the customer’s pain.

Why does a song tug at people’s heartstrings? Because the songwriter uses a language that skillfully expresses what people think and feel. One of the reasons why it is so difficult for marketing departments to create the right messages for the sales force is that they don’t know enough about what their customers think and feel. CustomerCentric Selling® recounts a workshop where a man who sold glue was asked to talk about glue. A chemist by training, the man cheerfully went through all the properties of glue – talking about surfaces and temperatures and stickiness factors and completely going over everyone’s head. He saw glue as a noun. Asked to use glue as a verb, he immediately began talking about things one could do with this glue. It was a much more compelling presentation. The problem with marketing brochures, reports and white papers is that they’re noun oriented. They say ‘Here’s what we are’ and not ‘Here’s what you can do with us.’ It’s the job of the salesperson to figure out how the customer can use the product – especially if it’s something brand new –but marketing can help.

One of the reasons why it is so difficult for marketing departments to create the right messages for the sales force is that they don’t know enough about what their customers think and feel.

Charles Orlando agrees. “Technology companies often refer to their product as if it were an ‘it,’” he says, “and traditional marketing glorifies the product instead of matching the benefits to the pain points. Marketing departments need to know which questions the clients are asking.”

Perhaps not all marketing people are prepared to go out on sales calls like Orlando, but they can all seek feedback from salespeople by asking them, “Where does the client hesitate? Where is the sales process stalling? What else does the client need to know?” Once this information is in hand, marketing materials can be designed to relate to those specific pain points. Sales is no longer just delivering marketing’s message, but is also actively working to shape what that message is.

Ideally, a salesperson equipped with good sales messages can act as a diagnostician and alleviate the customer’s pain. What about the consequence of poor messaging? If the message is weak, off target, poorly expressed or delivered late, the salesperson will end up feeling the pain of not winning the sale.

Why message management must be mission driven.

A major problem has always been the lack of measurable connections between marketing content and the revenue-generating activities of a company, but a sales-focused marketing approach actually gives the marketing department a real report card, a way of measuring their impact on the bottom line.

A message-driven sales process can help sales and marketing share a mutual goal of increased revenue generation. For once they really are playing on the same team.

Dennis Dunlap, president of the American Marketing Association, says, “In the past 10 years marketing has gotten more competitive and bottom line driven. For a long time marketing didn’t have the tools necessary to justify its investments against a matrix of results. Customer Message Management not only helps them justify their expenditures, but also helps them make the best use of their marketing budget.” A message-driven sales process can help sales and marketing share a mutual goal of increased revenue generation. For once they really are playing on the same team. Another advantage of Customer Message Management is that it promotes brand consistency. Savvy VP’s of sales and marketing realize that good customer-message management has to be a reflection of a company’s brand culture. Harvard’s Dr. David Shore told Selling Power, “A successful brand culture allows people with a common focus to speak with a strong voice, share a strong vision and pursue a common goal with a passion.”

Building a brand culture begins with articulating a company’s mission, vision and values. Says Dr. Shore, “If your employees don’t know the mission that spells out the noble purpose of your organization, if they don’t know why you are in business, how are they going to most effectively support your cause?”

A message-driven sales process must be deeply rooted in the company’s mission to insure brand consistency. Comprehensive message management insures consistency that makes the salespeople less likely to become free agents or loose cannons out in the field, saying whatever it takes in order to make the sale. The data sheets, usage scenarios and white papers keep the messaging consistent throughout all departments, even when a sales force is remote or distributed all over the country. With a strong message-management program in place, a CEO can be sure that his salespeople in Seattle are promising the same things they’re promising in Miami.

Correctly used, a message-driven sales process is the ultimate win-win-win situation.

Customers get their needs met without a lot of hoopla. Marketing creates messages that impact the bottom line and enhance the brand. And sales? With intelligent customer-message management systems giving them the kind of backup they need, salespeople can in turn meet individual customer needs without spending hours behind a desk. It’s only logical that a system created to make things easier for clients would ultimately make things easier for salespeople as well.

As George Eastman would say, “You press the button, and we do the rest.”

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