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Did you know that the typical enterprise sales executive spends only about 30% of their time in sales related activities ? Or that up to 80% of the leads generated by marketing are never acted upon by sales ? This qualitative and quantitative information points to a real problem within our industry - sales people are being sent into the field without the right preparation, tools, or support to be successful.
Define the problem
Very few sales people have ever financially justified an enterprise application, designed a technical architecture, or dealt with the internal politics of a global 2000 organization, so they are not in a position to empathize with the buyer.
While this lack of empathy prohibits sales people from communicating in the context of each stakeholder, it also increases the likelihood of them being out of sync with buyers. When faced with a major purchase decision - all clients go through a series of phases to evaluate that investment. The client's viewpoint on the issue is completely different for each stage. Lacking the knowledge of both the buying process and the customer's goals through each stage prohibits a sales person from being a value-added resource in the sales process and therefore limits their influence.
While at a high level, these goals seem simple enough, executing on them is quite a difficult process and requires cooperation across functional areas within your organization. To begin with, most IT vendors lack the knowledge of how an enterprise solution is actually made. Within an account, there is a lot of internal competition for resources and budget. While you may be talking to the right team who would implement your offering - the budget for your solution may not come from the functional areas you are dealing with. The problem is that the view most organizations have of their clients is skewed.
Customer feedback is typically obtained in the form of user groups, which are comprised predominantly of technical people responsible for implementing your solutions. These users are typically not the buyer; yet, decisions based on this type of "customer feedback" funnel their way into all marketing functions. This feedback loop is excellent for the technology stakeholder - but it increases the chasm between your sales people and the other stakeholders (who are the ones who write the checks).
Additionally, addressing these issues requires extremely good coordination between product management, product marketing, corporate marketing, customer support, and sales. Each group is collecting different data points, from different stakeholders, at different stages of the customers buying process. Logistically, it is extremely difficult to aggregate this information and then package it out to the various other internal groups who touch customers.
How to fix the plane while it's flying
There are many ways to address these challenges, but most of them involve stopping the company in its tracks to tackle them. We believe this issue can be addressed in a series of iterative steps, without disrupting your business whatsoever.
1. Determine the buying process of your customers. Knowing the criteria against which you will be evaluated, who will be involved at various stages of the process, and what your prospects' various informational needs are in each step is extremely important. This knowledge becomes the foundation for all the content your sales people require to help your customers facilitate a buying decision.
2. Determine the various stakeholders involved. Information about the buying process is important to help organize your content, however people are involved in processes. Understanding the most common job functions involved allows you to prepare the right information in their context.
3. Map your sales process to your customer's buying process. The milestones you use to "audit" sales performance help dictate the actions of your sales force. If these milestones are aligned to key objectives your clients have, each sales person is evaluated by how well they are driving their customers' buying process. This function helps focus the management oversight given to sales people on "how can we help our prospects achieve success", rather than on "why don't you give your prospects another call".
4. Communicate value in each stakeholder's context. Your products have multiple benefits that they provide and there are multiple stakeholders involved in your purchasing process. For sales people to be effective, they must be able to articulate all of relevant benefits in each stakeholder's context. If not, a sales person is only acting as a product-mover rather than someone who adds value to his customer.
5. Equip sales with customer engagement tools. Sales people are not the subject matter experts on your products, markets, or services. Yet every day we ask them to be just that. Providing sales people with readily accessible tools that are easy to understand, empowers them to speak knowledgably on a given subject without requiring them to research these issues themselves. Additionally, you can dramatically increase sales productivity by reducing the time they spend researching topics, writing follow up letters, or trying to decide what to send a customer.
6. Arm internal champions to communicate value when you are not there. As much as 80% of the buying process happens behind the closed doors of your prospects - without your sales person being able to influence the decision. If you can equip your internal champions with the right information, they can be more effective selling on your behalf.
7. Provide organized, easy to distribute, accessible content. Your traditional sales collateral (product sheets, corporate brochures, white papers, etc), account information, training guides, call reference sheets, etc are completely useless unless sales people can use the materials. This means theses tools must be designed for a specific purpose, organized to the workflow of a sales person, and easily located.
Scott Santucci is a leading authority on reducing the business development friction caused by the divide between sales and marketing. His company, Blueprint Marketing ( www.blueprintmarketing.com ), helps companies realize the compounding returns on revenue generation investments that are achieved by harmonizing sales and marketing efforts. Scott can be contacted by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and phone (703) 723-5900.
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