Content is your product, the lifeblood of your organization, yet the core components used to create it are often either kicked around like trash or locked up where it cannot be shared.
When up to 70% of content created by B2B marketing teams is never utilized by salespeople who waste up to 15 hours per week searching for and creating their own, isn't it time to look for new approaches?
Despite massive investment in sales enablement,
buyers rate 9 out of 10 meetings with salespeople a waste of time. Salespeople are still struggling to engage buyers and articulate their value proposition in a way that sets them apart from competitors. (Forrester Research).
Sales and Marketing Messaging Alignment, Enrichment, Enablement
Disruptive innovation and proven sales and marketing alignment methods are breaking down sales and marketing silos that contribute to the above conditions.
If you want to create a core value proposition that clearly captures your differentiation and to reuse it consistently across the company in your sales conversations and marketing messaging then please join us for our Webinar on Thursday 5th Dec. at 11.00AM PST.
In the Webinar we will discuss:
How to create and structure a value proposition aligned with buyer needs,
How to adapt and reuse value proposition content components to create website content, brand messaging, sales-ready messaging and customer-service conversations.
How WittyParrot, an intelligent content delivery platform, is used to create, manage and deliver the right content to create consistent communication and competitive advantage in the hands of marketers and salespeople.
Join us on Thursday 5th Dec. at 11.00AM PST for our Sales & Marketing Messaging Content Capture and Re-use Webinar.
Earlier this year I ran a
Sales and Marketing Messaging Alignment workshop for an early stage company in the Bay Area. They are not actually a start-up as they have been in business for a few years, but they are still starting up.
The subject of capturing proof points and formatting them to tell stories came up during the messaging workshop and I want to use a story to illustrate the point of using a storytelling and to describe the discrete steps in the storytelling format. I partner with
Mike Bosworth and use his Story Seekers method in formatting and telling stories. The format is universally understood and follows the basic "hero's journey" format that powers so many of the scripts in our popular film culture.
The people in the company I'm working with are World-class thought leaders in their field, they have a great product for a well-defined niche, but they are struggling.
Their messaging clarity was 3/10 and their website unclear and they got few inbound leads. Like many other emerging technology companies, they were using outbound cold calling and spamming lists to generate interest and not surprisingly had very little success.
An additional problem was that the few leads they got often proved to be unready for sales contact. We (
Kuno Creative and Admarco) were hired to help clarify their messaging and to transform their Website and implement an inbound marketing methodology.
After clearly identifying their capabilities or Win-Themes and applying them to their Buyer Personas in the messaging workshop, I asked a couple of the top salespeople to role-play with me around the buyer persona issues, using the capabilities we had developed.
What happened next is happening in sales teams all over the World and explains why so many salespeople are struggling. They have plenty of success stories or proof points, but they don't have the stories in a usable storytelling form … and salespeople don't have the skills to relate their story.
(The barrier or status quo in the last sentence is the fact that they don't have the stories in a usable form – at their fingertips; the complication is that they don't have storytelling skills - even if they had the stories.)
But let me get back to the story and role-play.
Their salespeople who know so much about the problem proceeded to tell me what I needed (to use their product), - I immediately felt my personal space being invaded when being told what it was that I needed to do and I felt like I wanted to push the salesperson away. It felt like I was being sold and I pushed back hard and gave them an objection, I felt I was under pressure - like every buyer does. No-one likes being sold... it's offensive. ((Telling is the STATUS-QUO delivery mode and a BARRIER to success for most salespeople))
The other issue this sales team has is that their market has nuances that are subtle and they cannot be 100% sure they are "on-message" when making a recommendation – because typically they are premature in making it. Salespeople who have seen the problem dozens of times before, often can't wait until they fully understand the buyers story, before suggesting a solution. This is also known as premature elaboration. ((Market nuances are the COMPLICATION))
Now let’s break down the role-play with me telling a story vs. premature elaboration above.
1. We reversed the roles and I played the role of the salesperson and asked if I could share a story of how we had helped another VP in a similar company (same role) to solve a similar problem. SETTING.
2. I described the status quo - they had Oracle and lot of reporting tools to do the job… but the barrier was that they couldn't see the problem with their existing tools, despite having spent a lot of money on technology and decision support. STATUS QUO/BARRIER - Setting the Stage.
3. I then introduced the complication, which meant that because managers couldn't see the problems in their standard reports, they had to work Sundays to prepare for Monday morning meetings using a data dump and Excel to try and spot the problems. COMPLICATION/Constraint + vulnerable/human… we can relate to the pain of working Sundays.
4. Next I introduced the unique product capability and our insight which helped to identify the problem and show the customer how they could use our tools to see the issues and take action to solve the problems. TURNING POINT.
5. They adopted the solution and now the problems are made visible in reports that we generate automatically from our system and managers get to share Sundays with their families. RESOLUTION.
6. To add concrete evidence, I used the quote about the impact of the software on productivity extracted from a CEO's Quarterly Wall Street briefing = OUTCOME.
This was a watershed moment for my client and the sales team.
Stories give us the natural ability connect emotionally with buyers in a non-threatening way and to accelerate trust.
Stories need tension and emotion/vulnerability to connect emotionally with buyers.
Stories are boring without emotion and contrast to bring them to life and are quickly forgotten.
Salespeople need to be prepared to be vulnerable and go first with a story and then to carefully "tend" or listen to the buyer’s story.
The “Who I’ve Helped Story” starts with the setting and introduces our buyer and the status quo.
The journey begins with Barriers that describe what's preventing the buyer from achieving their goals.
Complications/constraints are emotional factors that bring our story to life and give it tension through struggle, resistance to change and ultimately this is the point of human connection.
The turning point is the insight we bring with our expertise and the use of our software to help the buyer see the problem in a new light.
The resolution is the successful outcome and if possible, some hard ROI evidence
Stories are the most powerful connective link between salespeople and buyers to convey insight in a way that buyers want to receive it. Just about everything else can be gotten from the Website.
The news is that the state of the union between sales and marketing is not all bad. Like President Obama's State of the Union message, we're doing well in some areas, but have a long way to go in others.
The state of the union between sales and marketing is imperfect, but growing stronger and the hard work and dedication of the pioneers is beginning to deliver quantifiable results. It is our unfinished task to ensure that both sales and marketing teams are served by the sales and marketing alignment process, not just a vocal few in sales.
The changes in buyer behavior are permanent and both sales and marketing must unite and adopt a new vocabulary, new methods and embrace new technologies to more effectively serve buyers, achieve revenue goals and to lower the cost of acquiring and servicing customers.
We need to recognize that for sales and marketing to best serve today's Internet savvy, socially connected buyer, we need to evolve one contiguous and tightly coupled revenue generation process. The outbound "hunter" B2B sales role as we knew it, is giving way to scientific methods of lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring, marketing automation, free trials and light-touch engagement across the
IMPACT buying process.
Inbound Leads vs. Traditional Outbound Leads
Mark Roberge, VP Sales at HubSpot is a 10 on a scale of 1-10 of the smartest sales leaders I know. When he talks about sales and marketing alignment, I listen.
HubSpot has created what is probably the most effective sales and marketing union in the industry and one of the fastest growth rates of a SaaS company in the history of the software business.
Mark published an article this yesterday on the HubSpot blog entitled,
"Help, my sales team thinks our inbound leads suck" which captures with great clarity, a number of issues I was planning to write about in my sales and marketing alignment blog today. I will discuss them from our viewpoint as facilitators of change and enablers of the sales and marketing alignment process.
Buying a list of names vs Inbound Lead-gen.
Generate lots of leads, but only pass the good ones to sales.
Inbound marketing has turned the fit/pain funnel on its head.
In an outbound model, companies start with a list of executives at a “perfect fit” company and bombard them with hundreds of calls and emails until 1% or 2% call back and admit they have pain.
In an inbound model, all your leads have the pain your company solves. Otherwise, they would have never conducted that Google search, downloaded that whitepaper, or read that blog article that led them to you. The problem is that your company doesn't sell to the entire world. Some percentage of these leads are just not a fit for your business. However, the inbound leads who
are a fit are exceptional -- and they close much faster and at a higher rate than your outbound opportunities.
The problem here is that marketers get so excited to be generating hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of
inbound leads each month, that they end up passing
all these leads to sales. If Marketing passes the sales team 1,000 leads, only 100 of which are good, and Sales has to sift through 900 bad leads, they're going to hate it, and they're going to say things like,
“These leads suck.”
However, if Marketing can filter out the 900 less-fit companies and pass along just the 100 good ones, their sales team will think they have the best marketing department in the world. As a result, Marketing and Sales must align to develop and
implement a lead scoring system that makes sense and results in only good fit leads getting passed from Marketing to Sales.
Comment: We generate well in excess of 500 leads per year for our consulting business over more than two dozen landing pages, but only about 5-10% are a fit for our business. Prior to new capabilities delivered in the HubSpot3 Contacts System, we struggled with the above problem. However we have now implemented a lead scoring algorithm to help us figure out our best-fit prospects and to engage and market to existing contacts more effectively.
Don't Call High
When I started Advanced Marketing Concepts nearly 9 years ago, we used to teach salespeople a combination of techniques, including a cold calling workshop, how to get access to the decision level or VP. Today, those executives are virtually impenetrable to outbound cold calls. Mark's advice is spot-on.
Mark Roberge writes, "... not every inbound lead is going to be a C-level executive. In fact, very few of them will be. You’re much more likely to get a mid-level manager, associate, or even an intern on the other end of the phone. So what does your typical salesperson think?
“This isn’t a qualified buyer. This is an intern. These leads suck." However, who do you think told the intern to do the Google search that led to your company? The C-suite. The inbound lead indicates that pain exists at that company -- the pain you solve. So call the mid-level manager. Call the associate. Call the intern. But don't try to sell them.
You're right -- they're not buyers. Instead, use that call to prepare yourself for the call with the executive. Ask them, "Why did you download that ebook? Why did you read that blog article? Who told you to conduct this research? Why? What are your boss’ key initiatives for 2013? What did your CEO talk about at the annual kick-off?" If you're doing inbound marketing well, you'll be surprised how much these leads trust you and how honest their answers will be.
Now you're in a position to call high. You don’t have to leave the typical voicemail ...
“Hi John, we help companies like you get more leads and customers from your website. Give me a call back so I can tell you more about ways we do this.”
Instead, you can leave one that says ...
“Hi John, a number of people from your company have contacted me about effective lead generation strategies. I understand you're hiring 10 new sales reps next quarter and need to increase lead generation by 35%. I've been working on a strategy with your team that I would like to run by you.”
The Elevator Pitch is Obsolete
Lead with your buyer's interest
By the time they get passed on to your sales team, a typical inbound lead might have visited your website 15 times, read 11 blog articles, opened 3 emails from you, and downloaded 5 ebooks. They’re already several stages into the
buying cycle before they’ve even spoken to someone from your company. So what do you think happens if a sales rep calls them up and leads with a stone-cold elevator pitch?
It comes across as completely tone-deaf to the prospect, right? It might even erode most of the trust your marketing team has worked so hard to build up. The lead hangs up on your salesperson, and again, your salesperson thinks,
“These leads suck.”
Instead, salespeople need to leverage all the data you've collected about your inbound leads in your contacts database. How they found your website, what pages they viewed most, what emails they opened and read, how often they shared your content on Twitter and FaceBook: All of this tells you loads of information about what the prospect’s problems are and how you can help. Your salespeople should be using
that information to open the conversation on the phone ...
Sales Rep: “Hi, Mary, this is Mark from HubSpot [pause because at this point Mary may start telling you how much they love your content and your company]. I noticed you downloaded our ebook on lead generation. What specific questions did you have?” Mary: “Oh, I was just doing research. I didn’t know I’d actually get a call from a salesperson." Sales Rep: “That’s okay. I’m actually looking at your company's LinkedIn page right now and had two quick tips for you. Do you have a minute to go over them?” Mary wants to hear those tips. Mary will ask more questions. Mary will be impressed with how helpful and smart you are. Mary will wonder what she can buy from you. Congratulations! You no longer have a salesperson-prospect relationship, you have a doctor-patient relationship. Now you can diagnose whether you can help their company -- and how.
If you’ve never cold-called before, you’re not missing out on much. Imagine a day where you dial the phone 100 times, leave 95 voicemail messages, and not one person calls you back. Of the five people who did pick up the phone, three hung up within the first five seconds. And when you do get somebody on the phone who’s willing to talk, it’s clear that he’s not really qualified to buy from you. But because you’re having such a lousy day of cold calling and feeling unloved -- and because you don’t have enough leads to begin with, and beggars can’t be choosers -- you book an appointment with them anyway. It happens more often than most salespeople are willing to admit.
But with a steady stream of inbound leads flowing in, your salespeople can approach these initial conversations from a position of strength. Every minute you spend on the phone with an unqualified buyer is time you could be spending with a warm lead. Do build trust. Do understand the prospect’s needs. Do attempt to provoke pain if it doesn’t exist. But most importantly, do move on if they're not a good fit. Thank your prospect for their time. Introduce them to someone else who can help if you know somebody. Encourage them to continue to enjoy your content. And quick ... call that next inbound lead.
If you have had a productive conversation with a prospective lead, send a
qualification confirmation note to confirm agreement in the points discussed in the recent conversation and the next steps you agreed to in the meeting.
Don’t “Always Be Closing.”
“Always Be Helping.”
Most salespeople, following the directive of the infamous movie
Glengarry Glen Ross, adopt the rallying cry, “Always Be Closing.” But this is a disastrous approach to take with an inbound lead. The internet has shifted control from the salesperson to the buyer. People can research your company, research your competitors, understand your price, and sometimes even try your product -- all without speaking to a salesperson. And by the time an inbound lead reaches your sales team, that’s exactly what that person has done.
Sales should not start out by looking to close. They shouldn’t even be thinking about pitching your product. Instead, they should look to
help the buyer. Strive to uncover the thing your buyer is worried about -- the thing she's stuck on -- and if you find it, help her with it. Don’t try to tie it to your product. Just help them. Buyers don’t need to talk to Sales anymore. Make them
want to talk to you because they trust you and you've been helpful in the past in solving their problems. If done correctly, your product and how it can help them will naturally come up at the right time.
Just as the internet has changed life for the modern buyer (and the modern marketer), life has also changed for the modern salesperson. In all cases, it’s for the better. If your salespeople still complain that your inbound leads suck, try running an experiment. Choose a sales rep with an open mind, and tell them they need to make their goal this month from inbound leads alone, using the guidelines above.
Then tell the rest of the team to watch as their colleague starts closing business faster and at a higher rate. Nothing succeeds like success. The rest of your team will soon follow suit.