1. Your first move in a selling crisis

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      What is your best first (positive) move in a selling crisis? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many possible remedies. Limited time, resources, attention. Success in B2B selling relies on effective sales conversations. Why then does it make sense to require each rep to figure out and execute every critical sales conversation, on their own, without guidance? It is not a competency sales people are trained for. Truly effective value conversations are complex, require study, and considered design work. Even the best sales people need to know what critical conversations they can expect to encounter, and how to effectively execute them. You experience this now, when you don’t know if your problems are due to poor messages (what to say), poor delivery (how to say it), an unprepared rep, or inadequate support (content, experts, coaching, etc). What if there was a way to plan for and design critical sales conversations,...
  2. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  3. How to define requirements and requisition content

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      To get effective, sales-ready content, sales organizations must “requisition content” from the marketing and content groups that are resourced and budgeted to create it. This article introduces an approach and steps to do this. To understand why, see Why B2B Sales Organizations Must Requisition Sales Content. To understand why you need a sales content strategy, see article referenced bellow. This requisition work could be a key role for sales enablement professionals. While the steps are simple, the work isn’t necessarily easy. In a sentence the approach is this: Assess critical sales conversations  at key buyer engagement points, in the context of:   1. Assess and Define Key Customer Engagement Use Cases This is the best starting point for planning and preparation work (content strategy). It defines the context for the “job” you need content to do. (See What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?) Identify each critical conversation within each use...
  4. Why B2B sales organizations must requisition sales content

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      B2B sales leaders know that effective, situation-specific, sales ready content is a strategic imperative. It is a key driver of B2B sales effectiveness. To provision sales and partner teams with the right selling information and content the sales organization must requisition sales content from their providers. Most people aren’t aware that effective sales content is significantly different from marketing content. This discovery helps explain the perennial frustration and challenge in arming sales and partner reps with what they really need (vs think they need). In short:   Marketing creates content for markets, segments and personas, to generate conversations (leads for sales people, PR and brand and other marketing purposes). Sales people require information and content to conduct conversations with specific account and buying teams. To be useful, sales content must align to and support the specific purposes of both sellers and buyers. So the question really is: How is it possible for non-sales-oriented, creative content people ...
  5. Where to start when you experience B2B sales performance issues

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      If you are a B2B sales leader experiencing sales performance issues, with sales teams that must execute a complex, solution, or value sales model — what do you plan to do? These are some of the actions you might be taking, or considering: A performance improvement “initiative” – reps often refer to this as the “program of the moment” – messaging work, prospecting training, account strategy planning, sales coaching, etc. Re-organize – teams, managers, adjust sales resources Change sales tactics — specialty teams, named accounts, vertical teams, product specialists, changes to individual rep’s sales bag Re-work territories – add or remove accounts Make product and/or pricing changes Manipulate incentives – (will spiffs work as well for a complex, value sale, as they do in a high-volume transactional sale?) We hear sales reps comment on it this way, “every six months it’s the same drill, people run around asking ‘why isn’t this working?‘” When this...
  6. Creating microcontent first might resolve your content problems

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      Looking back, I’ve been involved with microcontent for 25 years in the content business with Avitage. Although we never called it that. The name Avitage was created from “audio-video montage”. A montage is a picture created from many little source images. Microcontent is each slide in your PowerPoint decks. If you think about where “knowledge” is stored in your organization, you might respond, “in our people’s heads, in our PowerPoint, and in document, video and perhaps audio files.” Probably in that order. Our first software application managed PowerPoint at the slide level. The application allowed individual slides to be assembled into “Collections,” without duplicating source slides. It operated in a manner similar to the thumbnail view in PowerPoint. But it managed an entire organization’s sanctioned and personal PowerPoint. We subsequently associated audio with each slide. Audio as microcontent. One audio element could provide coaching on the intent and use of the slide. A...
  7. Three focused actions improve your B2B sales effectiveness

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      This article introduces the discovery of a simple and practical approach to improve B2B sales effectiveness. It is especially important for B2B selling organizations with, or trying to adopt, a value selling model. And it’s an approach few organizations have thought about.   The Sales Effectiveness Problem and Core Cause For B2B selling organizations, there is only one primary sales problem … … the inability to predictably, reliably and profitably hit your revenue (growth) number.  There are numerous causes. The cause that seems most pervasive, and not well addressed, is … … the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and information, in context, at scale.  These factors are each important and inter-related. But the core cause is ineffective sales conversations. Specifically, the inability to engage new prospects effectively, to speak with insight about the prospect’s business issues, and to create value through how you sell as much as with...
  8. Small moves, smartly made, improve (unified) content strategy

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      An effective content strategy is a challenge most B2B organizations face today. The maturing use of content, along with competitive market factors, means the bar is constantly rising. Effective knowledge, information, and content are key business drivers. They impact top business objectives, especially: Organic revenue growth through new customer acquisition Sales, marketing and channel productivity, lower selling costs Acquiring data about customers and buyers to feed data-driven decisions Delivering a consistent, exceptional customer experience. Most organizations claim a content strategy. The question is, “how effective is it?” This article introduces a novel and relatively simple approach. Small moves that, smartly made, quickly and dramatically improve the content strategy process, quality and thoroughness of outcomes. Sales and channel leaders, who want to improve the quality and completeness of their content, will find this approach especially interesting.   Beyond Content Marketing The state of the market has moved beyond content marketing. ...
  9. Questions for B2B Sales and Marketing Leaders

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        Are you involved with a commodity, or a complex/value sale? How would you know? Do your prospects understand the business problem that your offer addresses? Do they know what’s required to solve that problem? If the answer is “yes” to both, you are selling a commodity — or soon to be — offer. If the answer is yes to the first question, and no to the second, yours is a value added commodity offer. If the answer is no to both, you’re in a complex/value selling situation. Why does this matter? How does your marketing and sales strategy differ if you sell a complex/value offer? For many companies that require a complex/value selling model, this may be the crux of your new customer acquisition and revenue growth problem. You’re using a traditional marketing and sales strategy to conduct a value sale. What’s the difference? A key premise of the traditional marketing and selling model...
  10. Critical but misunderstood Challenger “B” sales conversations

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    Most sales reps who are trained in the CEB Challenger Sales model do a pretty good job with the “A” sales conversations. This is the first of what I call three distinct “sales” in the B2B complex or value sales process. In a complex or value sale, we first need to “close” the customer on the need to change, due to the real and urgent nature and cost of their current business state and problem.The Challenger Customer principle is to first address, or “break down,” the customer’s “mental model” of their business and problem. Their label for this the “A” stage of a sale. Challenger points out that most B2B sales reps proceed immediately to the “C” stage — how they solve the problem. CEB didn’t even bother putting “C” on their model. It comes automatically. We’re all so anxious to explain how we solve the business problem, and the value (proposition)...
  11. The evolution of content quality criteria

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      For too many organizations I meet, content quality is assumed. Or, it’s delegated to those creating the content. Defined and documented content quality criteria typically don’t exist. They aren’t part of a service agreement with content creation teams. When content quality criteria are discussed, it’s typically using the lowest level of quality maturity. Of course, this makes no sense. It’s part of the legacy of where and how content has traditionally been sourced. Agencies and production teams were hired to not only deliver quality content, but to figure out what that actually meant. With greater content production and accountability moving internally, this gap in thinking and practice is an important reason for low content performance. It also impacts content operations productivity. Content time-to-market is delayed, and costs rise, due to re-work of content products following initial and often multiple reviews.   Incremental Content Quality Stages Here’s how I describe...
  12. Why your approach to content alignment hurts your results

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      The long-prevailing wisdom is to align content to the customer’s buying stage and/or the sales process stage. This approach reflects an outdated content alignment and management mindset. Yes, we all long for simpler days of old. It’s the folder mindset that says, “we need to group content within hierarchical folder categories.” Buying and selling stages are a rather obtuse concept. Few content users or their audiences really know or think about what stage of the decision / selling process they’re in. The Gartner Buying Journey model below shows a more realistic reality. So, aligning content to the yellow box stage doesn’t accomplish much. It probably contributes to confusion and difficulty finding exactly the right asset, quickly. This simplistic thinking also causes you to miss content requirements that a more rigorous approach will identify. Asking, “how will my content users go about looking for content?” is a better approach. This is what should be...
  13. The Content Design Point is Different for Marketing and Sales Content

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        In Marketing and Sales Content — Differences That Matter I identified the problem that few people explicitly understand the difference between sales and marketing content. Does this really matter? During 20 years creating sales, marketing and training content for B2B organizations we discovered it really does. I believe this misunderstanding is a primary cause of poor or missing situation-specific sales information and content. This matters because the quality of sales information impacts B2B sales and marketing performance, as well as revenue growth. For companies pursuing account-based marketing tactics (ABM) I suggest success depends on information that is more like sales content than marketing content. The question addressed here is, “what can be done to improve sales content?” I will offer a prescription for what to do, based on adopting a different content design point, and how to do that. Consider for a moment the infamous marketing and sales...
  14. Sales Content for Sales Knowledge and Performance Support

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        This article is a deeper consideration of some of the questions and answers raised in my article, Marketing and Sales Content — Differences that Matter. A category of sales content I highlighted is Sales Knowledge and Performance Support. Outside of onboarding, periodic training, and informal sharing, this is an area that is largely left up to individuals. When this is the case, sales organizations lose an important sales performance lever — a continuous, collaborative learning and performance support program. Sales (enablement) leaders should foster a culture of learning, which is different than a culture of training. “Knowledge which is related but not identical to information, is exploding at the same rate as information. Doubling every two years.  Even though our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our questions are expanding exponentially fast.  And as mathematicians will tell you, the widening gap between two exponential curves is itself an exponential curve. That gap between questions and...
  15. How to Level Up Your Content Operations

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      At some point B2B executives realize that adding resources and technology to the traditional content operations process produces only marginal improvements. Digital era content requirements are rising exponentially. They will not be addressed with the current process. This will become even more evident when marketing begins to adequately support B2B sales content requirements, as well as those of the sales channel. That will probably require you to level up content operations.   Background on B2B Content Operations All content is outsourced, or should be. By this I mean sales and marketing people, and their audiences, use and consume content. They don’t create it. They rely on internal or external content development teams. I also mean subject experts who possess the knowledge that informs content should not create it (mostly). They have a “day job.” Their domain expertise may not include the skills required to design and create effective content. Subject...

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