Focus on the Conversation

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Scott Santucci of Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Group has an important blog post regarding sales conversations. (The Key To Sales Enablement Success Is To Focus On The Conversation)

“A B2B sale is really the synthesis of many discrete conversations, and value is best communicated when they are focused on a common goal: solving the client’s problem. What most organizations fail to address is how complex a task it is to corral many discrete conversations into a consistent value communications strategy.

To make matters even more complex, most companies have solutions that can address multiple different problems, so this set of questions must be answered for each opportunity. We all know that good conversations are dynamic, reciprocal and most effective where there is trust between the people involved in the dialog.

To accomplish this, the salesperson must communicate information that is:

  • Relevant: to the specific circumstances and realities of a given company
  • In context: to the roles and responsibilities of the individual with whom you are having the conversation
  • Timely: in concert with where the customer is in its problem-solving process and to the relative importance of that issue to others that could gain investment.”

Key Role for Marketing

If you’re in marketing, where is “helping to drive better sales conversations” on your priority list?

As important as lead generation and lead nurturing are — they’re a key component of sales enablement — sales needs marketing to help them design the selling conversation.

For any organization that is involved in, or desiring to move to, a complex, consultative or “solution oriented” sale, this has always been a requirement.

Fortunately for those of us in sales, this requirement now aligns with the newly discovered marketing requirement of creating “relevant” content to support lead nurturing initiatives.

My observation is, marketing organizations lack methodologies and frameworks to simplify and support the task of designing customer relevant conversations at different stages of the buying/selling process.

In much the way sales organizations have struggled to define, implement and embrace a formal sales process, marketing organizations continue to employ an ad hoc, almost artistic approach, to messaging and content development.

If you don’t have a documented messaging and content strategy and creation process, that is accepted by all message and content creators, and managed as a formal process, it doesn’t really exist.

Help Sales Become Thought Leaders to Customers

Adding to the complexity is the fact that MOST conversations don’t take place face-to-face anymore, especially in the critical early stages of the customer engagement. Telephone and email are relatively weak conversation tools.

I’d like to see marketing organizations deploy more content through sales people rather than in direct campaigns to customers. Help us become “thought leaders” in our customer’s eyes. Give us something of value to talk about — and to deliver.

Marketing sends blasts to customers — despite new technologies. Sales people, if they know their customer, are in the best position to define relevance, create context and select the right timing for delivering valuable information to customers.

But they are not the creators and originators of the information. Communication (conversation) is a function of message, content and delivery. Companies need to rethink their marketing and sales communication and content strategies.

Jim Burns
Jim Burns is founder and CEO of Avitage, which provides content marketing services in support of lead management and sales enablement programs.

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