If you fear that your messages won’t get used by salespeople, you aren’t being unreasonable. A quick review of content downloads by your salespeople will likely reveal that, in general, they use less than 30 percent of the content you’ve created, which means 70 percent of your budget and efforts is going to waste, while key content isn’t sticking or getting used.
Meanwhile, your sales enablement experts are wringing their hands because often-repeated statistics indicate that nearly 90 percent of the training they provide is forgotten in less than four weeks after it is delivered. They are desperately looking for something to make the skills they teach your salespeople stick once they reach the field and are in front of customers.
The Answer To Both Dilemmas: Match Stories With Skills
If you want your salespeople to use your messages and tools, then make sure they align with the sales skills and selling processes on which they are trained. The more your content matches the conversation approaches salespeople have been taught to employ with prospects and customers, the more likely they are to use it.
The problem is, today a mismatch exists between the way messages and tools are developed and the way salespeople are taught to sell. Have you looked at the prescriptive sales process and solutions-oriented selling skills your reps are supposed to be using? Do you understand the key steps in the consultative sales process they have put in place to become “trusted advisers”? What kinds of activities and “job aids” are salespeople tasked with using or completing as part of their opportunity or account management plans?
To improve the stickiness of your stories and the desired selling skills, you must make sure you’re developing messages and deploying them in tools that sound like the conversations your salespeople need to have. You also need to ensure the stories match the tasks identified at each stage of the process.
Every solution-style sales process has a similar flow:
1. Create interest by sharing disruptive insights.
2. Uncover known and unknown customer needs with a series of thought-provoking questions.
3. Document the pain and impact of sticking with the status quo.
4. Align the distinct and relevant capabilities you offer to solve the pain, eliminate the risk, and meet the needs.
5. Describe the value created by your contrasting alternative to the status quo and competing alternatives, which includes proof points and testimonials.
This probably covers 90 percent of the sales processes and conversations skills training in the market today. So the question is: How closely does your messaging mimic this progression? Do you provide content inside of tools that enables the right dialogue at each of these key inflexion points in the buying cycle?
More than likely, your message starts with your products, progresses to the unique features of those products, then describes the benefits of those new and improved capabilities, and finally attempts to describe the value proposition this creates for the customer. This may sound good, but as you can now see, it doesn’t resemble the desired, best practice conversation described above. Your company- and product-centric organizational structures and P&L centers actually compete against the customer-centric interactions that need to take place.
Reconfigure Messages To Match The Process And Communications Tools To Support The Task
Your typical sales process requires a number of job aids, planners, prompters, engagement communications, and other tools to drive and reinforce the right behaviors. Yet none of these coaching and customer-facing tactics is on your marketing communications checklist. Instead, you are building a whole series of collateral and presentation materials that have no resemblance to the primary content-carrying vehicles prescribed for a day-in-the-life of your salespeople.
These standard tools−typically blank templates that must be filled out by individual reps for each deal−are often inspected by managers before a deal is allowed to advance to the next stage of the sales process, but only to make sure they are complete. Instead, managers should grasp this opportunity to drive content deeper into the selling process, improving the consistency and quality of selling conversations. Prepopulating a library of these job aids with your freshly developed customer-centric messaging, which allows salespeople to tweak and edit (as opposed to write from scratch), will generate tremendous alignment between marketing and sales.
Your sales enablement group will love you for this because your stories, and the assets you put them in, will match the skills they’ve been teaching−instead of opposing their principles and best practices.
So, to be sticky with sales, try syncing your stories and skills.