Sirius Decisions are just the latest in a long line of analysts to declare that the #1 factor preventing companies from achieving their revenue goals is their salespeople’s “inability to communicate value messages”.
Well, who wouldn’t want to communicate value? But it’s obviously a concept that is harder to implement than it is to agree with. And I don’t think it’s all (or even mostly) the sales person’s fault…
How does your company create value?
All too often, the root of the problem lies in their employer’s inability to communicate the value they create as an organisation. If your corporate messaging leads with how great your products are, or how big a market presence you have, you’re already in trouble.
It’s been said time and again, but it clearly bears repeating: in complex B2B buying environments, your prospects care far less about how great you or your products are than they care about what you can do to help them run a better business.
They want to know what they can learn from you, and what you can do for them, long before they care about what they can buy from you. They want to know what problems you are really good at solving. And they want to know how you have helped other organisations like them.
If you’re not communicating all of this in your company’s messages to the market, you have no right to complain that your sales people are struggling to communicate value. You’re doomed to rely on a handful of sales superstars performing sales heroics - and even then, quarter after quarter, your revenue numbers are going to be at risk, and your fingernails chewed.
Don't waste money on sales training
Sales training won’t solve this. If you haven’t already laid the right messaging foundation, then don’t imagine for a moment that putting sales people on some flavour of a value-selling course is going to either change behaviour or results - because it won’t. It will just waste your budget, and delay your recognition of the real root cause of the problem.
The remedy has got to start with improving your company’s ability to communicate your unique value - and to do that, you’ve got to understand the common characteristics of your ideal prospects and the key decision-makers you need to appeal to. You’ve got to identify one of a (small) handful of actionable issues that your prospects have to do something about, and for which you have a better solution than any of the other options they might consider.
You’ve got to understand (and look out for) the trigger events that will cause these prospects to start their search for a solution, you’ve got to understand the competitive landscape from the prospect’s perspective, and above all, you’ve got to have a crystal-clear and compelling way of explaining exactly what it is that sets your organisation apart.
And this deep understanding of what really matters to your prospects and what you can do to help them has to be embedded in a rich stream of relevant, easy-to-find, easy-to-consume content that leaves your target audience wanting to learn more.
Giving your sales people a fighting chance
Armed with the above platform, you will at least have given your sales people a fighting chance of finding, engaging, qualifying and persuading more of the right sort of prospects - and now their selling skills can really come into play.
Properly equipped, and appropriately trained and coached (and yes, now the right sort of sales training can have a real impact), your sales people can start to translate your generic value messages into specific propositions that relate directly to the individual prospect’s priorities.
Curiosity never killed a sale
So you can, in fact, do a great deal to train and equip your sales people to identify and communicate value to their prospects, once you’ve worked out how you company creates value for your customers. But there’s probably one thing you probably can’t teach them, but which you ought to expect from them: a genuine curiosity about their prospect’s business, the challenges they face, and how they can be overcome.
You see, top sales people are first and foremost problem solvers - and it’s their ability to help their prospects solve problems that sits at the very heart of their ability to create and communicate value.
If you’re in a complex sales environment, and any of your sales people lack this curiosity and problem-solving instinct - relying instead on rote, activity level or formulaic process - they are unlikely ever to succeed. And if you can’t detect the seeds of this ability in them, it may be better for all concerned if they were to move on - before they waste any more prospect opportunities with their value-less conversation.