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.
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.