I recently suggested that marketing needs to "fieldsource" more ideas from sales. The message obviously struck a chord, because Brendan Cournoyer, Content Marketing Manager at Brainshark, asked if I'd respond to a handful of follow-up questions for his readers.
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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value
The recent Sales 2.0 Conference in London seemed to me to be a great success. The auditorium was full for the opening address, the speakers were insightful and the audience was engaged and lively. I was able to make a modest contribution to the days proceedings by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 12 months about aligning the B2B marketing, selling and buying processes.
There’s no doubt that there’s still a great deal of room for improvement, as evidenced by 4 disturbing statistics:
What is it that your top sales performers do better than anyone else? Part of the explanation may, of course, be simply that they are more naturally talented, or have a greater emotional intelligence when it comes to decoding complex sales relationships.
I wrote late last year about the idea that “you can create brilliant content marketing and still miss the point”, and I want to develop the thought that there are still far too many dangerous disconnects between the marketing messages propagated by organisations and the conversations their sales people are actually having with prospects.
If anything, the issue has been compounded by the elevation of content marketing to a stratospheric pedestal as the latest saviour of B2B marketing. Now, there’s no doubt that compelling content offers a critical underpinning to much of today's most effective business-to-business communications.
But then what?
It’s not a very edifying sight, but it happens way, way too often. A prospect gives the faintest acknowledgement of a potential issue, and the impatient (not to say desperate) sales person simply can’t wait to respond by presenting the features, advantages and benefits of their proposed solution in glorious detail. They may even offer to follow up with a costed proposal. All this before the poor bewildered prospect has even come to terms with whether they need to do anything at all. The sales person has pitched their product way too early. This uncomfortable condition is called "premature elaboration" and, trust me, your organisation doesn't want to be seen to be suffering from it.
I referred to the underlying problem in a recent article “3 critical questions for B2B sales: Why Change? Why Now? Why You?” but now I want to develop the idea and share a way of progressively telling your story in a way that has a far greater chance of persuading a well-qualified prospect with a must-solve issue that you can satisfy their needs better than any other option open to them.
Most sales managers have a pretty clear sense of who their top sales performers are. But according to the latest Miller-Heiman study, few companies make a systematic attempt to learn from their success or to transfer their winning habits across the rest of their sales organisation.
By the way, I wrote the first version of this article nearly two years ago - and the striking thing is that I’m still coming across CRM implementations that bear little or no relation to how their most promising prospects actually buy, or what their top performing sales people actually do.
B2B marketing budgets took a hit during the recession. Most still haven’t recovered. Many don’t need to, because smarter tactics are generating better returns at lower cost. But it’s not just a matter of spending smarter - there’s a strong case for organising differently. Has your organisation made the transition yet?
What makes a sales meeting valuable to a prospect? It’s when the sales person clearly understands the prospect’s business issues and can clearly articulate how to address them. So how often does this happen? According to the latest research from Forrester, in an average of no more than 1 in 8 sales meetings...
Gyms and Sales Training Companies both seem to benefit from New Year’s Resolutions. But just as signing up for gym membership won’t do you any good unless you keep up an exercise routine, taking your team through sales training won’t improve their performance unless you consistently reinforce the principles they have been taught.