From the category archives:

Messaging

storytellerAfter a sales presentation, what do your buyers really remember? You may be surprised! It’s not always the compelling statistics you’ve provided. It’s more often the stories you share that stick with them long after the presentation is over.

According to a study noted in Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, 63% of audience members remember stories they’re told. Yet, only 5% remember numbers or statistics.

Are you someone who has always peppered sales presentations with plenty of facts? While specific numbers are important to B2B selling, they need to be infused into relevant stories to make them tangible and valuable to your buyer.

All companies are looking for solutions to increase revenue, reduce costs, and retain customers. And, many vendors claim to help with these. Yet, too often these claims are meaningless and generic because they are not focused enough on the buyer’s specific situation.

Great story-telling can make statistics and figures truly meaningful to your buyer.

So, how can you incorporate hard facts into a story that actually resonates? It starts with turning the focus away from your product and on to your buyer. Yes, it’s all about figuring out your buyers’ perception of value and building the story from there.

The Four Dimensions of Buyer Context
Proving your value begins with having a good understanding of the four dimensions of context for your buyer:

1. Their External Environment
Outside factors can greatly influence your buyer’s situation and decision-making. From what’s happening with competitors and the industry to advances in technology, it’s important to “get” what’s going on in your buyer’s world.

2. Their Internal Environment
What’s happening inside your buyer’s organization is also very relevant to figuring out what’s important to them and how to build a story that will resonate. What’s their decision-making style? Do they have a quick or lengthy purchasing process? Understanding these internal factors can greatly help how you create a value story that makes sense to your buyer.

3. The People Involved in the Decision
Who participates in decision-making? Understanding their mindset, relationships, objectives, and roles can enable you to determine how to construct your sales presentation.

4. Use Cases
How will your buyer most likely use what you’re selling? By creating use cases that incorporate their specific objectives, processes, systems, and more, you’ll be able to bring relevancy to your presentation that your buyer will remember.

To create a story that provides context, relevancy, and facts, it’s essential to listen, show a level of understanding, and then prove value. When this has been done, you’ll have a story that your buyer will want to hear, will remember, and will act upon.

How do you provide relevancy in the value stories you share with your buyers?

 

 

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I just hosted a webinar introducing the second edition of my book, 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue: Practical Strategies for Increasing B2B Customer Relevance.

Watch the webinar to get a quick overview of 7 strategies for becoming more relevant to customers:

  • Selecting markets where you matter
  • Focusing on customer interactions rather than your org chart
  • Using context to define and articulate value
  • Collaborating with customers
  • Moving from products to solutions
  • Exploring vertical market alignment
  • Empowering your sales channels

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Ways to Matter More to Customers, Lilia Shirman from Laura on Vimeo.

 

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I bet you already have a long list of launch announcements and product training sessions for your 2013 sales kickoff.   That’s important information, but it’s not enough.

If your sales people are still having difficulty engaging executive and business audiences, even after that expensive solution selling training you invested in so recently, it’s because they lack a good alternative to the product-centric pitch.

Executive audiences – whether IT or Business – don’t need your sales people to recite widely-known industry trends as an intro to the product pitch.  They don’t want to waste a meeting hearing information they could just as easily find on your website.

They DO want

  • To see that you understand their business, in-depth
  • To hear new insights about how to apply technology to grow their business
  • To experience what it’s like to collaborate with your company
  •  To be able to justify their decision to work with you

That means your sales people need a new arsenal.  Here are some changes you can make in time for Sales Kickoff:

  • Throw away the PowerPoint.  Replace presentation slides about industry trends with interactive discussion guides about customers’ objectives.
  • Ask Insightful Questions.   Your sales training and tools should provide lots of open-ended questions that intrigue customers, demonstrate sales reps’ expertise, and help discover what’s really of value to buyers.
  • State a point of view.   Give Sales something unique to say that customers haven’t heard from everyone else: Make some bold statements, show a distinct approach, or share a new perspective. Challenge common knowledge or the status quo.
  •  Tell Stories. Replace recitations of product benefits with use case-driven value stories.  Provide sales people with stories that illustrate how you have helped similar companies (and will help them) create tangible business results within specific use cases by leveraging your unique capabilities.
  • Brainstorm.   Turn sales meetings into collaborative brainstorming sessions by enabling sales people to discuss many options and approaches, point out the pros and cons of each, and explain how they fit with other products the customer is likely to need.
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I sell to some really big companies.   One rule I established when I founded my business is that sales is about listening and collaborating, not presenting.  The reason was that I had watched cost of sales at many companies skyrocket due to huge investments preparing elaborate sales presentations that often fell flat and pursuing deals that should have been disqualified or re-framed early on.

Even with the best qualification questions and inside sales efforts, a sales rep walking into an initial customer meeting is going to have, at best, a superficial understanding of the customers’ need.  If they start by bulldozing through pre-prepared slides, they are likely to a) waste time on topics irrelevant to the customer b) miss the opportunity to gain a better understanding and c) fail to establish a collaborative relationship with the customer.

If you’re a marketer creating content and tools for a direct sales force, ask yourself if the information and asset you’re giving them help sales people to:

  1. Ask questions that both demonstrate their expertise and help them gain greater insight into customer needs
  2. Facilitate in-depth discussions that are positive and valuable experiences for customers
  3. Articulate how what they’re selling is directly relevant specific customer situations they discover during the meeting
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This post is by guest blogger, Charles Born:

I could subtitle this “How to Lose at Buzzword Bingo and Increase Sales” but this is not where I whine further about buzzwords and jargon. I did that in previous blogs (Buzzword Bingo and Avoiding the Buzzword Bingo Trap). All kidding aside, there is a time for professional jargon: when you know you’re speaking to an audience that understands you, and you need the extra specificity and precision that jargon can sometimes provide. If you’re using it outside of that then you’re probably not communicating clearly, honestly, or effectively.

In the web and social marketing world, online “conversations” are the perfect opportunity to meet buyers’ information needs with smartly targeted and informative content that buyers consider valuable. Unfortunately, Web copy is often written in less than ideal circumstances by product marketers who do not have the time to do it right.

The good news is that anyone who writes content can ensure that every chunk of text on the web is doing something concrete and useful. Good marketing copy accomplishes specific goals; just touting a product is not one of them.

Let’s look at an example. Here is a chunk of text displayed prominently on one company’s website:

With Product X advanced features, capturing and reporting product sales data in the cloud and in real-time can improve operational intelligence and provide insight that enables more effective strategic, tactical and effective decision-making. With Product X researching your online sales is FASTER!

What do we know about this product from the two statements? Intelligence and insight will be improved by capturing and reporting! And that will enable, among many other things, better tactical decision-making! And we end with a tag line – in CAPITAL letters no less–with an exclamation point, indeed! Here we have a simple example of what happens when the goal of the writing is to fill up a web page with copy.

How do you approach writing product copy and potentially winning buyer attention and sales interest?

Just KIS – Keep It Simple (not stupid)

Most product content needs to answer 4 basic questions:

  1. Who is the product for?
  2. What is the product?
  3. What does the product do for its target user?
  4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?

The lack of answers to these really basic questions is what frustrates buyers in their journey and wastes marketing money on writing babble. To do it right, let’s look at the questions in more detail.

Who is the product for? Think of your target audience. Can they tell from this copy that you are speaking to them? Can other people outside your audience tell that you are NOT speaking to them?

What is the product? Try to write in conversational tone using short and simple sentences. Make sure you have spelled out, clearly and in simple language, what the product is and that the nouns as concrete as you can make them.

What does the product do for its target user? Be specific in laying out the product’s primary features and benefits in a clear, concrete way.

Why is this product better than the available alternatives? Here is where flowery prose needs to be edited. If you make a claim, give evidence for the claims clearly and without empty language that makes you look like boasting.

Answer these questions, and you’ll communicate more clearly and efficiently than the horde of companies who’ve filled their web product pages with the content equivalent of cotton candy.

Please share your tips and suggestions to making content work.

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Buzzword Bingo

by Charles Born on October 16, 2012

in Marketing,Marketing 2.0,Messaging

This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born

Online “conversations” are a perfect opportunity for marketing to meet buyers’ information needs with smartly targeted and informative online content that buyers consider valuable.

At odds with this need for “conversations” is the high tech marketing history of using “words du jour” to make our products seem unique and different. Words like “cloud”, “social” and “big data” are just some that are rapidly littering our marketing content and are so over hyped their meaning is questionable. Coupled with over-used words like market leading, one-stop, scalable, easy to use, customer focused, best in class and many others, you have a winning game of buzzword bingo.

Does this buzzword bingo have any real meaning or value for the reader? The repeated use of trite phrases devalues them even if they are true. Furthermore, as marketers we know that when every company make similar claims, buyers struggle to tell us apart from competition. Of course, who wouldn’t claim these things? But more importantly, who isn’t claiming them?

Even if you think you are avoiding the creep of jargon into your marketing content, I’d encourage you to conduct a quick exercise with your marketing team:

1. Identify the most commonly used words and phrases on your website, in your online marketing materials and in your sales tools.

2. Do the same with your leading competitors

3. Compare the two.

If your language is truly distinct from your competition, congratulations! If, on the other hand, there’s an uncomfortable similarity between your words and phrases used by your competitors, then you have some work to do.

Next post, “Avoiding the Buzzword Bingo Trap”

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If individual employees have more power to select products and technologies, then should we market to them the same way we market to consumers?

Consumerization of corporate buying decisions is leaving B2B marketers asking if and how to use B2C techniques in B2B sales.    I like to break the question up into pieces, starting with messaging, then sales strategy, and finally marketing tactics.

What’s really different between messaging in B2B vs. B2C environments?

First, consider the similarities:

Everyone develops initial preference based on emotional response, whether they are making personal or business purchases.   So you must appeal to the individual and their personal priorities in both settings.

In B2B, recognize that business people often have unstated personal interests and decide how your sales strategy is going to address these.  To make this a repeatable sales practice, include an assessment of personal objectives for key stakeholders in your account planning process.  (Assumes you have one, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Now the big difference:

While the consumer might or might not bother to rationalize their decision, the business buyer almost always MUST demonstrate tangible (not just perceived) value to the company.  While you can rely exclusively on brand image and emotional response with consumers, you have to message to BOTH the emotional and rational considerations for business buyers.

If you’ve used B2C-style messaging for a B2B product, tell us how that worked.
More on this topic in our next post.

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freepuppy_cropped

Better than "Please Don't Touch"

Pam Fox Rollin, Executive and Leadership Coach extroadinnaire,  shared this photo recently.   Its a perfect example of using insight about your audience’s complete context to make your message more relevant and notable.

The owners of this store didn’t just state what was important to them (i.e. “Don’t touch” or “Watch your children”)  They thought about what would make the request really stand out to busy parents.  They thought about the reality of the lives of those busy parents, and came up with great, catchy, and funny sign instead.

Are you thinking about your customers’ real life when you design your messages?

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