I was reflecting on a thought-provoking blog by Dave Brock, who asked "what would happen if we saw things the way our customers saw them?".
As Dave points out, your capabilities as a vendor are irrelevant unless and until they can be connected to your prospect’s challenges in a language they can relate to. Your value propositions can’t be generic – they have to relate to what really matters to the prospect.
The really smart sales people have already figured this out. That’s why they so often tailor the “corporate” presentations churned out by marketing to reflect what they have learned their prospects are really interested in... which is almost never the "feeds and speeds" or technobabble so beloved of the average product pitch.
Marketers, this is no time to get upset with them or curse them as rebels. They are only responding to what they sense their prospects are looking for - and remember they are probably having many more prospect conversations than anyone else in the organisation. Let's celebrate their adaptability!
Imagine what could happen if product marketing listened to and learned from their wisdom? Imagine what they could produce if they saw their primary role as "problem solving marketing" instead?
Of course, the best product marketers do this already - to the great benefit of the organisations they work for. But from my observations, many others - and it's a significant proportion - are still far too fixated about what their product does, rather than what problem it solves.
The resulting sales tools often end up wandering around like the Marie Celeste, with no clear sense of their destination or what role they play in facilitating the prospect's buying process. As a result, as many as nine out of ten corporate sales tools end up being little used by sales people. It's a huge sales enablement challenge for many organisations.
I'd like to suggest a checklist that could help to ensure that sales materials are focused on the problem, not the product:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- Who are we trying to solve it for?
- How will they recognise they have a problem?
- How do our capabilities help them solve the problem?
- What phase in the buying process is the sales tool intended to support?
- What do we want the prospect to do as a result of the tool?
I think it's a fair bet that if your organisation's sales tools were designed with these questions in mind that your sales people would be more inclined to use them and less inclined to develop their own. Even more so if they contributed to the design and development of the tools in the first place.
Am I on the right track? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
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