This article “Market Your Message” was published by Selling Power magazine, written by Kim Wright Wiley and taken from an interview with CustomerCentric Selling®.

Click here to read Part One.

internal silos competitionAccording to CustomerCentric Selling®, marketing and sales are typically separate silos in the company. They point fingers at each other; they blame each other for their problems. Behind closed doors, salespeople have a lot of gripes. The marketing guys come in late and leave early. They never wear ties; they’re always at lunch. They’re flaky, they’re arty and most of their brochures are totally useless. According to sales, the bottom line is that these guys never have to justify the bottom line. Marketing people respond with an even bigger insult. They secretly believe that the purpose of all great marketing is to make sales unnecessary; the message should drive the sales process. So, can this marriage be saved?

CustomerCentric Selling® thinks it can. The solution lies in collaborating to make the messages generated by the marketing department more sales relevant. This system is referred to as the “message-driven sales process” which is much like a ladder. On the left side of the ladder we have the sales process – the steps salespeople take from the initial customer interview to the close of the sale. On the right side we have the sales message. Every step of the way, the message has to be tailored, customized and targeted to the unique and specific needs of the customer. In other words, rather than the sales department being the passive recipient of whatever message marketing happens to cook up, in a message-driven sales process, marketing tailors that message specifically to what sales tells them it needs. Instead of being handed down from on high, the sales message is built from the ground up.

The solution is to give companies a standard format of sales-ready messaging that their sales department would be willing to use. You have to join the two – architect the integration of the sales process and messaging. Marketing has traditionally been focused on getting out the message at the highest levels, but at the end of the day, marketing’s real job is to be the in-house consultant for the sales department.

Charles Orlando, Director of Marketing at Pixion, has the reputation of a master marketer; he designed a Super Bowl commercial to introduce the idea of Web conferencing using RuPaul as his pitchman. Like

George Eastman from Kodak, Orlando had the challenge of telling people they needed something that they didn’t know existed. “The idea that you can have meetings on the Web was a totally new message,” he says. Although it may have ended up in the rarefied air of Super Bowl ads, Orlando began to shape his message by tagging along on sales calls. “I went out on 50 or 60 calls because I wanted to hear both the good and the bad,” he says. “Marketing doesn’t believe in listening to the bad because generally they drive their programs strategically. I drive my programs tactically. In order for marketing to write the most effective message, they have to have a face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball experience with the customer.” Orlando also asked plenty of questions of his sales team. “I needed to know, ‘What are the pain points during the sales process? What tools are missing from their battle chest? How can I make their life easier?’” he says. “Here at Pixion it’s a very collaborative effort – we don’t build things in a box in marketing and ship it out to sales. It has to be interactive because that’s the only way we’re ever going to get ahead.”

Messages move the conversation to a happy conclusion.

Dennis Dunlap, CEO of the American Marketing Association, also believes that messaging must originate in sales. “The key is providing salespeople with the information that gives them the opportunity to have an intelligent conversation with a potential buyer.” It really comes down to a simple scenario. Let’s say a journeyman salesperson, a young guy in his twenties, needs to have a meaningful dialogue with a 55-year-old enterprise executive who is considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on technology that he doesn’t understand. The message should allow the young salesperson to relate to this executive by his title and have a conversation about a specific goal that person would have. We emphasize the word conversation, meaning that a good conversation accomplishes a lot more than a one-sided presentation.

Messages only resonate in the customer’s mind if they are shaped in words and portrayed in images that the customer can understand. For example, one of the features that the VP of sales has control over is who in his organization has access to what information. Now that’s a feature, and some customers will be able to immediately think of uses for it and others won’t. Let’s say it’s an industry with high employee turnover; the salesperson could say, ‘What if you heard that one of your top salespeople was going to leave you to go work for another company? What if, from wherever you were, even if you were traveling, you could go into the system and stop that salesperson’s ability to download customer data on file? Would that be useful to you?’ The message works because it’s so specific. Showing a client exactly how he could use a product to protect his company’s assets during times of employee turnover is a far cry from saying something generic such as, “We have a data security feature in our product.” With the right messaging – delivered at the heels of a few targeted questions – a 28-year-old can sell the system to a 55-year-old in a language that the 55-year-old can understand.

CustomerCentric Selling® emphasizes the need for meaningful conversation with the customer: Salespeople who tell customers what they need are perceived as presumptuous. Customers are only willing to explore new ideas if the salesperson can talk about subjects that have priority and matters that are meaningful to the customer. Trust grows to the degree a salesperson’s message resonates in the customer’s heart and mind.

Click here to read Part Three.

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