PowerViews with Tim Riesterer: Targeting Prospects via Status Quo Clusters


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Today’s guest is Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions. Tim is responsible for strategic direction at Corporate Visions including thought leadership, positioning, and product development.

Tim has more than 20 years experience in marketing and sales. Prior to joining Corporate Visions, Tim co-founded Customer Message Management where he was CEO until it was acquired by Corporate Visions.

Tim is also co-author of Conversations that Win the Complex Sale: Using Power Messaging to Create More Opportunities, Differentiate your Solution, and Close More Deals and Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing’s Impact on Selling.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

2012 Surprise: Getting the “At Bats”But an Increase in “No Decisions”

Click to start video at this pointAsked about what has or hasn’t happened in marketing and sales in 2012 that surprises him, Tim notes that lead generation and sales activity are up—providers are getting the “at bats.”

But he adds that this positive motion is facing a continuous challenge in the form of companies opting not to move forward: “The bigger challenge I do see, though, is that the ‘no decision’ threat—the threat to not do anything even though they want to squeeze you for all the information you’ve got—is looming large and only seems to be expanding. So we’re getting more opportunities to have conversations, but we’re not necessarily closing anymore. And that’s kind of the painful part of what I see going on right now.”

Alignment Shifting to Jointly Developing Impactful Messages, Tools and Assets

Click to start video at this pointTim sees two primary focal points for marketing and sales alignment: the lead generation/demand generation element and the content/sales enablement piece.

Regarding the former, he notes, “You have to find something concrete. I think really for the last five or six years or so, that effort’s been focused on lead generation, lead scoring, nurturing and service level agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales. So you manage the hand-offs, you manage the recycling, and that’s all good. And I think that was concrete, and people focused on it.”

He sees alignment work still needing to be done in the area of enabling salespeople or work “that’s more focused on the conversations and presentations they have. When a salesperson gets a lead, that’s all well and good. They know where to show up, but at some point then their lips have to move.”

At this point, several questions come into play:

  • Are they saying things in a high-quality, consistent manner that consistently puts your company’s best foot forward?
  • Do these conversations have the impact you’re looking for?
  • Or are these things happening more by accident?

Tim adds that the new frontier for alignment includes “a very purposeful focus on the messages that are developed, the tools and assets that they’re put in, and then the skills development of salespeople to have distinguishing conversations that use all that content.”

Demand Generation Recommendation: From PDFs to Visuals and Video

Click to start video at this pointAsked about recommendations to improve demand generation results, Tim talks about a new wave of demand generation that is “going to be sort of out with the white papers and analyst reports and all those heavy text things and in with video-oriented content.”

He notes that video speaks to the part of the brain you want to appeal to in demand gen—the old or primal brain that doesn’t have the capacity for language and craves visual emotional stimulation.

Tim adds that the vehicles or channels—like smart phones and tablets—that people are consuming content on are optimized for video, so demand gen tools need to be focused on video as opposed to traditional PDF types of assets.

He summarizes by noting, “I think that’s the real sort of turning point that we’re at right now. So people have to figure out how to create visually the sort of stimulating content that creates urgency and shows enough contrast visually to see why people should do something different.”

The Perils of Ignoring “Why Change?” and “Why Now?” Discussions

Click to start video at this pointAsked for his suggestions given recent research that shows only 40% of sales leads end in a decision to go with a new solution or provider, he comments, “I think the most painful part of that stat is that it’s not 40% of all sales leads—it’s actually 40% of qualified pipeline. So what that means is six out of ten or 60% of qualified pipe is going to ‘no decisions.'”

He continues, “That means that all this activity, all these engagements, all these resources applied—and six out of ten times, the majority of times, people say, ‘I think I’m still OK.’ So what people have to think about is what’s going wrong in the sales cycle if people who thought they had a problem got to the end of the sales cycle and decided, ‘We’re still OK.'”

As important as the “why you should pick us” conversation is the “why change” conversation that helps unstick or loosen the status quo. Tim notes you have to “convince people it’s time to do something different before you can convince them to choose you. Most messaging, most conversations, even most demand generation content skips that whole part, and no wonder people at the end are going, ‘You all sound the same. I think I’m OK.’ So applying yourself to that ‘why change/why now’ conversation is so important.”

He adds that people tend to skip over it because “they can’t wait to talk about themselves, they love their own story, they think everybody else will, and they can’t wait to tell it because they’re excited about it.” He characterizes the problem as an absence of critical messaging: “We often say salespeople need to do that, and the company actually doesn’t create any messaging to support that. They just say, ‘Well that’s just good salesmanship—discovery and agreement.’ No, no! You actually have to build stories for the front part of the buying cycle or sales cycle that include the ‘why change’ discussion and build stories for the ‘why us’ discussion.”

2012 Recommendations: Don’t Make More Content—Make More Meaning

Click to start video at this pointAsked about his recommendations to marketing and sales for the balance of 2012, Tim expands on the idea of moving from leading with your own story to leading with the customer’s story and how this change needs to happen.

He notes that we are all so inundated with information that we are bumping up against limits processing it in a meaningful way. Tim adds, “So there’s this gap in between that I like to call the meaning gap. People have to make meaning, and too much of what we’re doing is just overloading the marketplace with too much information. Company’s say, ‘We need more content because there are more channels for content.’ The problem is the customer says, ‘I’ve got enough content. I just can’t make sense of it.'”

He recommends we make meaning for people by doing the following:

  • Find your voice.
  • Develop a distinct point of view.
  • Make sense of it all.
  • Add value that way to the marketplace.

He summarizes by saying that when you do this, people can actually make informed decisions and will start to gravitate towards you.

Develop Messages for Prospects Grouped into Status Quo Clusters

Click to start video at this pointAsked about a suggestion from SiriusDecisions’ Tony Jaros in an earlier PowerViews interview that prospects should be clustered into like groups and approached with highly targeted messaging, Tim replies, “Absolutely. We sometimes try to cluster people by titles and personas. My argument—and it supports what Tony said—is group them by status quo, because the thing you’re trying to defeat is the status quo.”

Tim says the right messages evolve when you group prospects based on elements like the following:

  • What systems they have installed today
  • What processes they’re using today
  • Why they think they’re safe
  • Where they are not safe

Grouping in this way lets providers start to picture a message that will appeal to that status quo. Tim adds, “They might be ready to buy because they live in this status quo,

and this status quo is not getting them to where they want to go. So clustering and defining as your design point for your messaging and demand gen the status quo you’re attacking—and your best story relevant to that status quo—is what we’re recommending for companies.”

Message Development: “Ta-Da!” vs. Fingerprints on the Gun and the Snicker Test

Click to start video at this pointCommenting on the importance of collaboration between marketing and sales groups in developing messaging, Tim says too many companies “use what I like to call the ‘Ta-da!’ method of creating a great story for the marketplace. A couple of people get in a small room. They think they’re very clever, and they then they come out and go, ‘Ta-da! Don’t you love it?!'”

“We prefer what we call a ‘fingerprints on the gun’ method where you have cross-functional representation for the people who have to carry the message, deliver it and move their lips in front of a customer,” he adds. Under this scenario, subject matter experts in the same room coalesce and come to an agreement on what’s the most powerful, provocative message that both represents the company’s strengths and is defensible in the marketplace.

He elaborates on a key element of message development by noting, “Actually I like to say it passes the snicker test. What that means is can a salesperson say it without a snicker or a grin? Too often our marketing content is built in such an ivory tower that we say things that sound clever in an ad or in some sort of marketing piece. A salesperson could never deliver that with a straight face. It just doesn’t make sense in those three-foot level conversations like it makes sense in the 30,000 foot conversation.”

You can connect with Tim and learn more about his work at Corporate Visions via the following resources:

Tim Riesterer

Corporate Visions Website: www.corporatevisions.com

September 18 – 20 Conference: The Marketing and Sales Messaging Conference

Tim’s Book: Conversations that Win the Complex Sale

The next PowerViews will be with Craig Rosenberg of Focus. Stay Tuned.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dan McDade
Dan McDade founded PointClear in 1997 with the mission to be the first and best company providing prospect development services to business-to-business companies with complex sales processes. He has been instrumental in developing the innovative strategies that drive revenue for PointClear clients nationwide.


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