Are you are a start-up, early or mid-stage B2B company and struggling to make your numbers?
If so, it is often the result of poor, or non-existent, sales enablement process and associated assets (aka sales kit). I am not talking about mature companies with sales training programs, sales playbooks and established marketing infrastructure.
I have worked for quite a few early-stage companies with revenues under $30 million and small sales teams. Companies this size typically don't have a well-defined sales process, sales training is defined as “as the job” and sales tools are provided on an as-needed-basis.
Unfortunately they don't have a good handle on their sales efficiency. They don't know how many deals they missed, lost and why? But this is a topic for another day.
For now, lets focus on enabling the sales team to improve their odds of finding and closing deals.
“Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”
– Forrester Research
Beyond marketing infrastructure that provides air cover for sales (i.e. corporate website, advertising, social media, press releases, events, etc.), marketing needs to deliver a core set of assets that empower an effective sales team. These include, but aren't necessarily limited to the following:
1. Compelling elevator pitch
Spending the time to develop an elevator pitch that describes what you do and your value proposition for a specific buyer is critical to the sales process. You only have about 30 seconds or so to get a persons attention, so you need the right sentence or two that encourages the person to ask for more. Once you have the basic elevator pitch in place produce 50, 100, 150 and 200 word statements and commit to use them in all customer facing communications. I often hold messaging workshops with the clients and utilize the elevator pitch to frame the discussion. Contact me if you want to see a few examples.
2. Product literature
In today's digital market place product literature is almost always distributed in PDF files, integrated with the website or embedded on a jump drive. Gone, for the most part, are the days when you printed and inventoried glossy brochures and data sheets. Design of these digital assets should be consistent with your brand identify and the content in these documents should align with your message and value proposition as described in the elevator pitch. It is very important to ensure your customer facing assets contain consistent messaging to reinforce your brand and value proposition.
3. Introductory and promotional letters
Use the elevator pitch messaging to produce a few letters that a sales executive can use to engage a prospect. These need to be short and to the point. The first sentence or two is key. Be sure to include a call-to-action. You probably won't get this perfect the first time, so be prepared to refine the letters with sales input. Discard the ones that don't work, use the ones that do and refine as needed to improve response rates.
4. Brief company/product overview presentation
Build and script a short (no more than 15 slides) presentation that introduces the company, its products and value proposition. Scripting the presentation is important, but perhaps more important is providing a video of the presentation as a training tool. You can present it to the sales team, but they will have to see it several times to internalize it. The best way to get someone competent with the presentation is have him or her present it to the management team.
5. Expert validation of problem/solution
Prospects don't trust vendors. They know from experience that vendors oversell their capabilities. They Google your company, research the product category, review competitor websites and look for independent industry experts to validate their assumptions. Most early stage companies don't have the resources to influence the influencers, like Gartner, IDC or Forrester. With a bit of research you will be able to find 3rd party content to validate your story and make it available to your prospects/customers.
6. Value proposition/ROI
Nearly all B2B buying decisions today are based on a return-on-investment (ROI) assessment. The ideal ROI assessment is quantitative, but it can be difficult to develop and defend without a case study or two. Sans a specific ROI number, strengthen you value proposition to include the qualitative aspects of your solution -- like lowering operational cost, increasing revenues, lowering customer churn, etc. This is relatively easy to do and your first attempt won't be perfect. So, use your early customer interactions to refine and validate your ROI message. Build a ROI calculator if you can and let your prospects do their own analysis.
7. Customer reference and briefs
What is better than a customer reference? Nothing. Getting your customers to provide references to prospects and providing testimonials for your product or service is very powerful. Most happy customers are willing to provide 1-on-1 references to other prospects. However, case studies and supporting quotes in a news release are more difficult to achieve for a number of reasons. Beyond references, develop short 1 to 2 page customer briefs -- describe the problem, how your solution solved it and the resulting benefits.
8. Use case demo videos
I have seen technical founders consumed with doing demos. They like doing it because they love to show off their invention. But, as the demo volume increases it gets in the way of more important tasks. As a side note, the technical founder doesn't always do the best demo. They tend to focus on what it does and often don't point out the problem it solves. Producing short (under 10 minutes) videos that focus on specific use cases is valuable for prospect education and reduces the demand for your most precious resource (your visionary -- who should be used to close a deal, not qualify it). I want to emphasize that the demos should demonstrate a relatable use case for the prospect, that is; not simply a feature/function demo.
9. FAQs (frequently asked questions with answers)
Documenting frequently asked questions is a great resource for your employees, prospects and customers. Beyond simply documenting what are actually repeated questions, the FAQ can set you apart from your competitors and further explain your product or service in a simple Q&A format. Keep track of common questions and document them along the way. Encourage prospects to visit the website and FAQ page prior to the first meeting.