Category Archives: Sales

Enabling Selling with Thought Leadership

I attended the ITSMA annual conference last week in Cambridge, MA.  One of the major themes across the event was sales enablement, and how Marketing can play an important role there.   As a senior associate with ITSMA, I had the privilege of participating in a series of 1-on-1 meetings with various ITSMA members.  I was able to participate in some great conversations about challenges and opportunities across a broad range of technology companies!

One of the recurring challenges I heard was about the use of thought leadership content by sales teams.  The key question that came up multiple times was “How do I get the sales team to engage and use the thought leadership content that we create?”

Using thought leadership as a tool for sales is a multi-pronged effort.  Just creating the content and sending it over to them is largely ineffective – as many of these folks shared with me.  There is too much content already out there, and the most limited resource that a sales person has is time.  So, if you think they are going to read it, and figure it out on their own how and when to use it, you’ll be very disappointed.

Here is a great graphic done by Profitable Channels about “How Content Supports a Modern Selling System.”  (click on link for larger view)

http://www.thoughtleadershipselling.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MSS.jpg

Where I think this question gets answered is on the top half of the diagram.  What we ended up talking about in each of the conversations I had was the topic of Delivery.  My question back to them was: how are you delivering this content to the sales force?  Are you giving them what they need to actually engage and use the content?

Some of the key questions that need to be addressed are as follows:

  1. Can they find the content asset quickly and easily, or is it buried in a network portal somewhere?
  2. Is the content asset enabled across multiple devices (projector, flat screen, tables, smart phones, laptops)? One size fits no one!
  3. Have you provided an ABSTRACT of the content that gives them the following:
    • Short summary of the top 3 major points in the piece
    • 2 – 3 good discussion questions that a rep can use to engage the prospect or customer about the piece
    • Links to a follow-up content asset so a sales rep can serve up what comes next (i.e. webinar, invite to an event, additional piece of content, podcast, video, etc.), and continue to provide value and drive further conversation.

For every piece of piece of thought leadership content you create, I bet you have a program or campaign planned to get it in the hands of your prospects and customers.  Marketers should also include creating a quick and easy campaign aimed directly at Sales to arm them with the three enablers listed above. Make selling with thought leadership easy.  Remember, they are not the consumers of your thought leadership content – but they can deliver it directly to a customer if you make it easy for them to use it.

— Lisa Dennis

Great Saleswomen, Past and Present

From Nimble.com…

http://www.nimble.com/blog/great-saleswomen-infographic/

Value Propositions Must Evolve With the Buyer

I read an interesting article the other day, called “How to Write Your Value Proposition.”value

This is good foundation information, but the buyer environment has undergone radical changes over the past 5 or 6 years.

The advent of the ‘hidden sales cycle’ (the stages of the buying process that buyers are conducting on their own, without sales people) have made the value of the  age-old value proposition formula become less and less effective.  Buyers are engaging with sales later and later in the process, getting to a short list of vendors before ever speaking to any one of them.  The pithy one sentence value proposition that is product or service focused does not work as well in that environment.

Rather than just delivering a description of the value your company brings to the buyer, we need to communicate the value the buyer seeks in achieving their goals or solving their challenge – in their language.   Buyer-centric, not product- or service-centric.  To engage the buyer in the hidden sales cycle, we must rely more and more on effective content marketing because the sales process is happening there without the sellers.  This results in an evolved value proposition creation process that fully feeds all the content needs.

We have been working with customers on developing their own value proposition playbook to deliver a messaging platform that feeds the content needs of buyers.   The game has changed – and the value proposition development process needs to move with it.

— Lisa Dennis

Listen Up, People!

Think you know who makes the best fit for a sales role?  Think again.

Just read a fascinating article  in Forbes  magazine that shakes up the age old notion that extroverts make better sales people.  As a sales trainer, one of the biggest challenges I see is getting people to learn to listen.  Many extroverts, including myself, probably wouldn’t score high if we were tested for our listening skills.  Why?  We’re too busy being extroverted (think, talking, laughing, telling stories, talking, jumping up and down, bubbling over with enthusiasm and confidence, and more talking).

Just last week I had a VP of Sales ask me to help his team learn to ask better questions.  “How are they at listening?” I asked.   He responded by telling me that if they asked the right questions the rest would take care of itself.

Well, frankly, nothing takes care of itself when it comes to communicating with customers and prospects.  Most sales people are planning their response, WHILE the prospect is speaking. So much for those listening skills.

Here is why the research is interesting:  between an extrovert and an introvert is someone who has both speaking AND listening skills.  They are flexible in being able to switch back and forth, which is much  more in tune with a prospect’s rhythm.  This type of person is an ambivert.  Even more interesting is the fact that in the study, the ambiverts had higher sales than extroverts, and that extroverts and introverts actually are extremes, whereas most of us fall in the middle.  The good news is – we’re all capable of being effective in sales.

Check out the research here, and let us know what you think.  We promise to shut up and let you talk!

Lisa Dennis

Making the Choice: Marketing and Sales Alignment or Buyer Alignment

Two Hour Workshop by Lisa Dennis, President, Knowledgence Associates, and co-author of 360 Degrees of the Customer:  Strategies & Tactics for Marketing, Sales and Service

AMA Marketing Workshop

In the quest for new and repeat customers, the marketing and sales professionals in your organization have been in a push-me, pull-me struggle to align their processes, tools, approach and philosophies to get better revenue traction.   This ongoing challenge is gaining in urgency given the increasing propensity of buyers to take over the early sales process and leave us out of it.  There is an alignment choice to be made here, but it isn’t really about aligning marketing and sales with each other.  The increasing demands of prospects and customers alike all point to the critical necessity of alignment with the buyer.  The real choice for marketing and sales is about whether to align from the inside-out, or from the outside-in.  The highest performing organizations align from the buyer-in and keep the focus on engagement.

This workshop will walk you through how to build a buyer relationship framework to drive alignment within your marketing and sales teams. This modular and customizable approach will provide the road map and steps to integrating marketing and sales across all the key areas that drive new business.

Topics include:

  • Charting the Buyer Journey in your Key Markets
  • Building the Relationship Framework & Stages
  • Redefining the Buying Cycle & Pipeline Process
  • Identifying & Delivering  Tools that Drive Internal Engagement
  • Charting the Buyer Alignment Course Forward

Six New Pitches for the 21st Century

From Dan Pink‘s new book, To Sell is Human

6pitches-3

Social Selling

One of the bigger challenges facing sales people these days is the fact that buyers are not connecting with sales people until later in the sales cycle.

Frankly, they can self-serve and don’t need us for education and awareness any more.  So what does that mean for us sales types?  Social Selling.

Check out this great article in Forbes.  

Three challenges facing today’s Chief Marketing and Sales officers – Forbes

See on Scoop.itKnowledgence: Marketing and Sales

Three challenges facing today’s Chief Marketing and Sales officersForbesFor all this opportunity, however, your strategy is more important than ever but I’m surprised how often a company’s social media strategy is really just a collection of tactics.

See on www.forbes.com

Hearing Voices is Good for the Prospect

No, you are not outwardly seeking clients with voices in their head.  The voices that you want your prospects to hear are those of your satisfied customers!

The single most effective marketing and sales tool you can have is a sincere message from a satisfied client or customer, singing your praises.  For this reason, it is important to let those voices be heard (or read).

Check out Lisa Dennis’s recent article in Mass High Tech, which discusses specific kinds things that you’d like your customers to address, as well as the best way to present these voices so that prospects can get a feel for what it is like to work with you.  This should be a significant tool in your marketing toolbox!

Developing Buyer Personae

An important shift that I’m seeing more frequently is tailoring marketing content by persona.  Seems like a no-brainer:  focus on the “who” of your customers to be able to address them directly in their voice, about their concerns.  My experience has been that most B2B companies understand that is what they should do, but the pull of talking about their own products and services in their own voice is irresistible.

Marketing Sherpa published in their Chart of the Week some research on the methods of developing buyer personae.  Major emphasis:  interviews – going to the customers and prospects (64%) and talking to sales (56%).

They make a further point to  balance this qualitative data with more traditional quantitative data.  I’m in total agreement with the interview method.  There’s nothing worse than a buyer persona that describes who we “think” the buyer is, as opposed to mirroring the actual buyer.

— Lisa Dennis

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