A week ago I attended an event put on by one of my clients. A ‘Global VP’ from a multinational IT mega corporation was flown in to speak to a room full of executive clients and prospects. The topic was Business Intelligence, so I was looking forward to it. I was disappointed. It was overly long and complex.
It reminded me about the disconnect between large vendor Marketing and the sales messaging needed by SMB MSPs, SIs and VARs. That VP had a slick PowerPoint presentation developed by a corporate Marketing department. It leveraged information purchased from major IT research vendors – Forrester, Gartner, IDC, etc. It was a good starting point, but almost worthless to sales people on the ground trying to sell specific solutions.
Sales Enablement is the process of arming an organization’s salespeople with information that will help to close profitable deals. Sales Enablement delivers the most relevant information for a specific sales situation.
Sales people are what I call “just in time learners”. They are extremely busy. They are action-oriented. They have little patience for sitting, reading and digesting reams of information so they can later distill and communicate the most significant message for a particular sales situation. Salespeople learn what they need to know when they need to know it. Sales Enablement should bridge the gap between the 35,000 foot PowerPoint and the, “I’m sitting across the table from a decision maker who is willing to take the next step… if I can show her that we are capable of solving her specific business problem.”
The specificity need not be deeply detailed, but it should address the particular problem… not describe issues that are universal across an industry. It should bridge Sales and Marketing departments. It should augment market research and global messaging with:
- Competitive Intelligence – not at the vendor level, but of local MSPs, SIs and VARs
- Tribal knowledge – specific to the client industry in the local geography
- Product knowledge from the minds of the technologists who have developed/integrated similar solutions, and
- Answers to questions and objections encountered by salespeople who have sold similar solutions in that market.
Here are three common mistakes salespeople make when attempting to bridge the gaps described above:
Mistake #1: Giving the Feature/Benefit World Tour
These tours often happen during demos, presentations, proposals, and in printed and online collateral. They’re an attempt to show prospects everything that your product/service/solution can deliver. Don’t give the ‘List of the Top Ten Features and Benefits’. Your website should have that information. When in front of a customer you want to pick the two or three features and benefits that are meaningful to them given their situation.
A savvy sales enablement provider will help the salesperson pick the three most relevant features and benefits, and will translate them into higher-order value statements. As an example, the three most relevant value statements for an Electronic Records Management solution might be:
- A 25% increase in productivity due to improved access to information for daily tasks.
- An average 40% savings on paper storage costs.
- A 99% reduction in fines and penalties due to regulatory non-compliance.
If you know that all three of those are primary concerns with that prospect, you’ve just reduced your sales cycle significantly.
Mistake #2: Let Me Tell You All About My Baby
This happens most often when an engineer is brought along on a sales call. They are (usually justifiably) proud of their baby. They built it, and they love to talk about it… what it does, how it does it, why it does it this way, and so forth ad nauseum. There’s a time and a place for this conversation – when your techie is talking to their techie. When that occurs, it’s usually quite late in the buying process and the business people have already decided to go ahead.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, though. Summarize the solution effectively (and briefly) using graphics, then provide a link or a white paper which details the technical information. Your decision maker will be more at ease if he can give those details to his trusted technical advisor.
Mistake #3: No Proof Points… Just Trust Me
This is a situation that’s as old as B2B technology sales itself. Salespeople understand the effectiveness of case studies and testimonials. They constantly ask Marketing for them; but they never want to take the time to elicit them from clients. Your salespeople, and your technicians and customer service reps too, should be alert for positive statements from clients. When clients make these statements, the automatic response should be, “Thank you. We’d love to be able to use that in our promotional materials. Can I have someone contact you about it?” Then, whoever is handling your Sales Enablement should quickly follow up with a written testimonial, or if appropriate, an outline for a case study, for their approval. Don’t wait for the client to write it. It won’t happen.
Also be alert for situations where your solution has made a hero out of someone in the client organization. Those people will be happy to sit down with your Sales Enabler and tell them all about the problem that was solved, and how it came about, and the results achieved. Case studies with a client hero or heroine resonate with prospects. After all, who doesn’t want to be seen as a hero by their company?
Consider incenting everyone who has client contact to submit potential testimonials and case studies.