Marketing’s Approach to Go-to-Market Content is Backwards – And It’s Leaving Millions of Dollars on the GTM Table

As I mentioned in a recent post, 82% of B2B sellers are out of sync with buyers.  Despite what many sales consultants may say, in many cases, it’s not the fault of sales. I think the blame (and opportunity) should center on the marketing function. Marketing isn’t taking the time to position the solutions that they want to go to market with, and make sure that they are in tune with the value prospects want. They’re not taking the time to understand their prospects’ dilemmas to design content that magnifies issues and quantifies pain points in a sales-ready, concrete way.

Click here to read my article that discusses in more detail why sales is out of sync and why it’s not the fault of sales

You see, once the offering is shiny, new, and ready to roll…there is an incredible urgency to get the marketing content and sales collateral ready. So, marketing pushes out a punch list of “deliverables” including website updates, whitepapers, webinars, roadshow “in a box” content, sales aides, battle cards, and on-demand and live training content all focusing on the product or solution.

There’s very little thought about customer dilemmas and customer conversations, and that’s where marketing is backward and why sales is out of sync. They’re forcing sales to have product-centric discussions that go nowhere instead of discussions that add insight on their prospects’ “big ugly” dilemmas and why they need to be taking an alternative approach. I believe there’s customer inertia leading to “no deal” because there is very little content for the selling conversation that drives real urgency.

Look at how many leads are stuck in your pipeline and how many sales conversations resulted in no deal. Look at how much revenue is being left on the table because of this lack of urgency.

Here are more reasons why the traditional approach to creating go-to-market content needs to be flipped over to start with the selling conversation…

  • Most so-called “thought leadership content” is simply a cloak for teaching the potential customer about your shiny new thing. It’s not fundamentally teaching the potential customer something that they didn’t know about themselves or their industry, or how costly their current situation really is. As a result, it’s allowing these potential customers to stay with the status quo because they personally don’t care that you are offering “best of class” solutions that your content focuses on.
  • Most content is not aligned with a big idea theme that the customer would desire, the value they would want, and the urgency they would need to move forward. So, even if marketing is teaching and talking about big idea concepts that showcase the organization’s thought leadership, it means nothing if next step actions aren’t being taken. When you start off with the selling conversation, you don’t just think about the value that buyers may want and what it may take to drive urgency. You confirm that value. You validate the sales messaging, not just with Board leadership and the C-suite but with sales, current clients and the analyst community. You then create your content to support conversations around the validated messaging. You must think of the selling conversation as an acid test that would show if your content would hold true in the selling dialogue and motivate the client to change and to buy into your strategy, approach and solution. This is how you complete marketing for sales!
  • Sales are only using 10% of the content that marketing creates – Sales reps are ending up crafting their own content, their own presentations, their own proposals and their own RFP responses because there is no sales and marketing alignment.  And have you seen the quality of the content? Yikes! They are not seasoned designers and writers, and the ultimate impact is low.  So, not only are organizations leaving millions of dollars on the table – the organization just spent money on having marketing take the time to create content that won’t be used to the fullest extent. Marketing needs to design visuals, whiteboarding approaches, etc. in the context of the selling conversation to wake the sleeping prospects up, drive engagement…and ultimately increase the deal close rate!
  • Sales do not want canned presentations – Years ago, I created a complete presentation with about 25 slides that told a complete story around a new solution. We had a VP of sales sit in and critique it for us. Being very polished and polite, he thanked us for the story and asked us to send him 2 of the 25 slides that he could see using in an upcoming selling conversations. My jaw dropped, and I quickly learned that great sales reps don’t just follow scripted, canned presentations, but think ahead to their selling conversation, and think about what will resonate with their prospect and drive them towards change. The wise reps also don’t want to PowerPoint their prospects to death…what we were guilty of in trying to pass him a 25-slide presentation! The moral of this story is to help the rep see the storyline, internalize it, and use a simple visual or two to communicate it . . . not 25 slides!
  • When you create content specifically for the sales conversation you think about what the sales rep will show, what are they going to say, and when!  It forces you to create content that sales reps can use at different points of the sales cycle. When I evaluate my clients’ go-to-market approaches and the content they plan to use, 95% of the time the planned content is for one stage in the buying cycle. And, because the content is usually product centric, the content is focused on a later stage when the prospect already understands that they have a dilemma, they need a solution to fix it, and are evaluating suitable vendors. Sales reps need to have the right content for the different stages of the buying journey so they can have the right selling conversations (supported by your content) at the right time. I normally see very little in the way of content that supports the “Why Change?” discussion in early stage selling conversations. This is content centered on the customer dilemma and the opportunity for change. It’s a more customer-centric conversation.
  • Starting with the selling conversation forces you to think about unconsidered needs. You see, when you focus on the selling conversation, you think about the customer priorities that could delay the urgency for moving forward with your solution. So, instead of having commodity messaging that’s based on customer inputs that your competitors are also using, you’ll have content and messaging that re-prioritizes your solution. You’ll be able to show how it fits into their current priorities. This article (not written by me) shows how a video explainer firm drove unexpected urgency and new revenue by focusing on unconsidered needs.

To summarize, the selling conversation is what matters most. What does the selling conversation need to look and sound like with the target buyer(s)? The decision maker(s)? The influencer(s)?  All associated content should be centered around this. It’s the guiding light or the North Star to every action that sales and marketing takes.

Concur realized this when I was working with the organization on developing their sales messaging. The CMO halted their marketing deliverables production to take advantage of the new sales messaging platform and to align their marketing deliverables to it. This caused a lot of heartburn, but it was a wise decision. He realized that the selling conversation is the tip of the spear. You want to put all your wood (the executive briefings, whitepapers, web site, webinars, etc.) behind the tip of the spear.  So when marketing gives sales the spear – it’s actually being used in their hunt for prospects. And, the spear is hitting the target right at the heart of the prospects’ problems.

Before marketing creates content for your next go-to-market initiative, make sure they flip their processes and start with understanding their customers and the discussions that sales should have with them. This way they don’t miss the value mark. To help you understand the approach that sales and marketing should be taking to understand the customers, please read this article.

Then, join my Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Community where we’re challenging common GTM approaches that are keeping organizations from driving disrupting revenues. You’ll see why you’re leaving millions of dollars on the GTM table.

Click here to join my Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group


Most Go-to-Market Programs Are Not Prepared for Launch

A mentor of mine mentioned this truism, “you can’t afford to go to market twice!” It’s imperative to get it right the first time. However, the way that most b2b sales and marketing organizations create demand and revenue from their go-to-market initiatives is dysfunctional. They are pushing out thought leadership content (webinars, white papers and other demand gen and sales enablement content) without tying it to a big idea theme that resonates with target buyers. They don’t even have predictable insights on their buyers to increase market penetration with the right people. The results are squandered growth opportunities and millions of dollars plowed into “misfires.”

My clients who have put the right messaging, content, tools and processes in place have seen their go-to-market revenue generating capacities increase exponentially. Below, I show you what needs to change if you want to transform your go-to-market revenue performance into very exciting disruptive revenue growth for your organization or business unit.

Most Organizations Do Not Have Predictive, Observable Insights on Their Targeted Audience

Most companies are incredibly vague about their ideal clients – those with the “burning bridge” need for their solution and hence are “low hanging fruit.” When I ask clients to describe their ideal client in descriptive, predictive terms, most fall flat . . . using vague phases such as “they need our service” and “everyone can benefit from our product.” Vague targeting can be very expensive and waste a lot of precious time. In fact, estimates by Altify highlight salespeople with a quota of $1 million and an average deal size of $100,000 suffered a loss of $218,000 over the course of a year by pursuing the wrong leads and opportunities. The power of being more specific in characterizing identifiable characteristics can be a huge help in targeting ideal prospects and optimizing expensive sales resources. A short story will help make the point. I was working with an early stage firm offering outsourced IT services to small businesses. I asked for descriptive characteristics to help in targeting. There were none. Then they hired a very clever sales person, who started surfing Craig’s list for small firms posting open positions for IT staff. Bingo. His sales went through the roof. His identifiable characteristic was a small business posting an open position on Craiglist. That was a “predictive indicator” for the need for IT outsourced services.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: What predictive indicators can you provide to sales to accelerate your go to market and revenue achievement success?

Most Organizations Do Not Have a Big Idea Theme, Leaving Sales Reps to Engage in Point Solution Selling

Most reps are fed with product training and literature but lack a higher-order big idea theme to provoke their target audiences. They show up and share their “all about me and my solution” content, and buyers aren’t enamored unless they are lower level and adding the product as “column fodder” as part of their potential vendor evaluations. And if that’s the case, the rep is almost always late to the party. For a more powerful, early and higher level dialog, I really appreciate IBM’s new “Outthink” big idea theme that replaced “Solutions for a Smarter Planet.” With this theme, reps can talk about “Outthinking” current business problems versus talking about feeds and speeds of Cloud, Big Data, Analytics, storage, etc. We coined a big idea theme for one of our clients in the 2008 downturn, and it was a game changer in getting executive-level attention in tough economic times when lower level buyers weren’t buying anything! Click here for a more in-depth article on this topic.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: Do you have a big idea theme that maps to a “big problem” the customer will have urgency in solving?

Most Organizations’ Messaging is Product-Centric, Forcing Sales to Be Out of Sync with Buyers

Most selling conversations are focused around the product and services being sold. If fact, according to Miller Heiman Group, only 40% of sales organizations clearly understand a customer’s issues before proposing a solution. Additionally, according to QVidian, 58% of sales pipeline ends up in “no decision” or stalled deals because sales have not presented value effectively. As I share in my post that talks about sales being out of sync – It’s not sales fault . . . they are often fed simply product-centric content. Click here to read the post.

What they really need is “dilemma-centric” content. A wise client taught me long ago to talk with prospects about their “big ugly.” That means providing prospects with a visual depiction that puts a spotlight on their big problem and implications and talk about that until there is confirmed desire and urgency for change.

Let me provide an example of a “big ugly.” A client and I crafted a visual to show multiple siloed information sources across the customer’s environment. Different departments were using different solutions with their own data sources. And these data sources weren’t talking with one another. Consequently, the customer had multiple versions of the truth, a limited perceptive of the current state of affairs across the whole company, and associated dysfunction. We really pushed into this, talking about how emotionally painful it was for all parties involved, how the current state disrupted operations, and just how costly it was in terms of time, technology and lost opportunity. Then we created a visual and a tight storyline for how we made the “big ugly” go away in a compelling, unique way with a much better platform and cross-functional data management capability – getting the customer excited about the future state and associated benefits.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: Can your sales reps paint a visual picture of your target customers’ “big ugly,” and confirm the emotional, operational and financial costs of the situation?

Most Organizations Are Pushing Out Sales and Marketing Content Without Any Validation

I attended an industry event and watched ahead of global sales enablement for one of the largest technology firms talk about creating sales-ready content. Their work and diligence was awesome, to say the least, but their blindspot was strikingly familiar. When I asked how they validated their content, I was met with a blank stare. They didn’t, and unfortunately, this is normal.

The situation gets worse when non-customer-facing marketing staff is producing the content. When we work with clients to help ensure they “hit the mark” with their go to market messaging, we validate concepts and content with key audiences – industry analysts, sales professionals and last but not least the sales reps responsible for delivering it.

A validation discipline can also help overcome internal politics. We had done some messaging strategy for a very large technology services provider, and the CEO wasn’t happy with the messaging strategy. When we showed him the validation work we did, and how the message strategy was resonating with the target audiences, he quickly changed his tune and got on board. Without good validation, internal opinions can rule the day and cause a lot of strife. I often say the customer’s opinion is the most important opinion for go to market success.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: Do you have a plan in place for validating your message strategy and content with target customers, key analysts and sales leaders?

Most Organizations Lack the Tools to Communicate a Quantifiable Business Value Proposition

It baffles me how often I see organizations going to market without having figured out if their solution really delivers a positive ROI. To make this point, I was working with a business leader who was having an internal battle about their product pricing strategy and price points. After working with him and reviewing the business benefits being realized by their early stage beta clients, we discovered literally a negative ROI associated with the customer’s total solution investment (including customer internal and vendor costs). This was actually perceived as good news, helping our client know they needed to reset their pricing strategy before they got too much egg on their face when going to market.

Aside from not knowing the economic value proposition, I don’t know why more organizations don’t supply their sales professionals with the ability to quantify value for their customers. A friend of mine and expert in the business strategy execution space highlights that a strong business case is one of the top drivers for organizational change. And we all know that many deals end in “no deal.” Without a solid business case, there should be no confusion as to why. I also see a missed opportunity in helping customers see, quantifiably, just how far off industry benchmark they are in relation to key business processes, and how much that is costing them. It’s not rocket science to get smart people together, develop a framework, conduct a study against it, and offer it to clients so they can see their “big ugly” in a quantifiable way.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: Will your reps be enticing their prospects with a quantifiable value proposition, or will they be speaking to features, functions and less tangible benefits like everybody else?

Most Organizations Do Not Have a Dynamic Sales Playbook That Can Be Optimized and Changed to Hit Revenue Objectives

I often talk to sales reps who stayed up late surfing “the portal” looking for content they can use in their meetings. Unfortunately, most sales portals are like graveyards with lots of old, sub-rate content to wade through when looking for the one or two “money slides.” Most reps give up and craft their own customer content. What a pity. They don’t have the content development and design skills to make the content come alive and waste valuable selling time taking matters into their own hands.

To counter this situation, many organizations are trying to mobile-enable their reps with the customer and internal-facing content they need to be successful. I have been working with clients to introduce a dynamic mobile playbook in the form of an HTML5-based app with native apps for iPad, PC, and Mac. It’s been a huge boon in helping reps have distilled, current, sales-ready, best-of-the-best content in real-time. . . in-between meetings, sitting in the client lobby, in front of the client, etc. This is the ideal way reps should be working and accessing information. The cool factor is the content can be updated real-time to keep the content within fresh and evergreen, driven by sales rep feedback and analytics.

Key Question to Answer for Go to Market Preparation: Will your reps be able to find, focus on and leverage awesome content to prepare for and improve their selling conversations?

With my LinkedIn community Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group you’ll learn more about the big ideas, messaging, content and tools that can improve the performance of your sales teams and drive disruptive product revenues from your current pipeline.

Click here to join the Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group


Big Ideas That Can Improve Your Sales Performance

Please ask yourself this question: Are sales reps at your organization equipped with a “big idea” that compels your target audience to buy your organization’s solutions?

I see very few organizations equipping their reps with a big idea, and would like to offer an approach to teasing out a big idea your reps can use to improve selling performance.

The Current Situation – Selling Point Solutions

Most reps identify a prospect, ping them with a message around their point-solution, and follow-up multiple times to try to land the deeper selling conversation. They are usually targeting lower level buyers in hopes they have a self-identified need for that particular solution, and the timing is right. Yes, sometimes the rep gets lucky…the prospect returns a call, the need and budget are both in alignment, the timing is perfect and a deal gets signed.

That’s great when it happens.

Frustrating when it doesn’t.

These stats showcase the magnitude of the frustration when stars for buying point solutions aren’t perfectly aligned. From a survey of buyers conducted by Forrester, 18% of sales reps “only want to tell me about their products and services, and present what they do,” 31% “listen for a key word or two so they can launch into a prepared pitch about how they relate to that topic.” These are sentiments of buyers who feel like the reps are not in tune, and just trying to push their point solution.

Another study by SiriusDecisions finds sales executives are well-aware that their reps are struggling, with 71% citing the “inability to articulate value to the buyer” as their number 1 issue. 32% cite their top issue as the lack of useful and relevant content from marketing.

A Better Approach – Selling a Big Idea

A better approach to selling, especially to higher level decision makers, is selling a “big idea.” You can use this big idea theme to sell various point solutions that relate to the big idea. I’d like to offer a few examples and ideas you might find useful in teasing out a big idea for your organization. I often see big ideas come in 3 types, including an Aspirational State, an Alternative Approach to Solving Business Problems and a Blind Spot.

Let’s break down each type with an example.

With an Aspirational State big idea, the sales rep is painting a picture for the prospect of what life can look like with a significant change. The rep characterizes the customer’s current situation and dilemma, paints a future state vision, and then showcases how their solution capabilities can support the journey to the aspirational state. For example, we helped Alcaltel-Lucent sales reps speak to executives about an aspirational state of being a dynamic enterprise. Most of their prospects were painfully aware of how slow and static they were to change, with the world of change and new competitive entrants passing them by. Alcatel-Lucent knew their vast portfolio of communications and knowledge management solutions could support a new speed of decision making and organizational improvement across larger enterprises, and make their prospects more dynamic. The big idea resonated with higher level decision makers, and opened new doors for exploring how to become more dynamic with capabilities Alcatel-Lucent could bring to the table. The sales reps appreciated the “big problem” they were helping business leaders solve, versus the little problems they were trying to address in their more traditional point-solution selling conversations.

With a New Approach big idea, the sales rep illustrates how the current approach to solving business problems isn’t working well enough, and executives should step outside of the norm with new approaches to solving business problems. A great example of this kind of big idea comes from IBM. They started with their big idea campaign around “Solutions for a Smarter Planet” and have evolved the campaign to “Outthink.”  I love the simplicity of this big idea and how it relates to IBM and how it can serve its customers. In a nutshell, their prospects often “inthink” their approach to solving business problems organically. The world has changed. In this modern “cognitive era,” they can “outthink” their business problems with IBM and Watson to gain much better insights and accelerate the time to value. This big idea puts the sales rep into a position of selling a new, more compelling approach to solving business challenges versus selling point “cloud” and “big data” solutions. Which selling conversation would you rather be having?

With the Blind Spot big idea, a friend of mine spoke to me about a trucking services company with service stations that were losing business to other service stations with less amenities and a much lower costs of fuel. Fuel prices had become a key decision making factor that corporate trucking firms were considering in where their truck drivers would be allowed to refuel. Of course, the low-cost providers knew this and were promoting their lower pricing accordingly. What the trucking companies weren’t seeing was the extra miles the trucks would have to drive to get to the cheaper fuel, creating more driver fatigue. The lower priced service stations were also in locations with a higher crime rates, with drivers often feeling they were at risk and uncomfortable in traveling in these areas.

The trucking services company did its homework, uncovering data about how hard it was to hire truck drivers in the current economic climate and how costly it was to bring new drivers on. They equipped their sales reps in how to show trucking companies their blind spot. They were able to quantify the cost of the extra driving to get to cheaper fuel, and the causal relationship between offering their drivers better truck station amenities in safer environments and the ultimate impact and cost savings through lowering truck driver turnover and improving employee retention.

Creating Your Big Idea

I’ve offered 3 types of big ideas that I’ve seen work magic in improving selling conversations and revenue performance. They’re not safe ideas that are often seen as small, easily achievable and like everyone else. These safe ideas are the ones that are being offered by most positioning, messaging, branding and sales enablement firms.

Your big idea needs to be bold. It needs to challenge common thinking, assumptions, ideas and actions of your prospects. It needs to provide insight that others have not thought about before. It needs to outperform and be big from a “move the dial” perspective, leading edge in terms of innovation and in many cases, difficult for the customer to implement without your support. At FutureSight, we start off with inside-out research to understand our client’s offering and the market domain. Then we focus on the unconsidered needs of our client’s prospects, so our clients are not touting the same commodity benefits already creating noise in the market, ensuring our client’s selling conversations are of high value.

Inside my LinkedIn community – Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group, we’re sharing in more detail around our approaches to help our clients and their sales professionals stand apart from typical point-solution selling approaches.

Click here to join my LinkedIn community


Are Your Sales Reps Ready to Have Winning Sales Conversations?

The following brainshark presentation proposes 10 responsible questions sales and marketing leaders should be asking themselves in ensuring sales reps are ready to have winning sales conversations… conversations that move the ball forward resulting in more closed deals.

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What is positioning and how do you do it?

Positioning-eBook-CoverPositioning is one of the most misunderstood concepts in business-to-business (B2B) software marketing. Most companies don’t really know what is it or how to do it, thus are doomed to failure.  It’s not taught in business schools, and there are few proven methodologies out there.

Yet who can dispute the importance of positioning if you realize it communicates the unique benefit of your product or service? In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore writes, “Positioning is the single largest influence on the buying decision.”

Moore describes a position as a buyer’s shorthand for the best solution for a particular problem. What Moore and others haven’t done is tell you how to go about establishing a position. Some experts say there’s no formal way to position, no step-by-step method to follow to stake out a unique position in your market. I beg to differ. In fact, that’s exactly what FutureSight provides for its clients.

A position is a mental space that you can “own” with an idea that has compelling meaning to the recipient. In that mental space, the product or service benefit and the customer’s most important needs meet, and hopefully form a meaningful relationship.

We teach a process, or methodology, that many companies have used successfully to greatly improve awareness and demand while reducing their cost of creating marketing materials. The objective is to develop a message strategy that most effectively expresses your position. A strong message strategy will accelerate the marketing-sales process, because it will heighten awareness and convey the reasons that lift you into the top rank of the prospect’s consideration set. From there, you’re at least in shooting distance of making the sale.

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