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It makes sense that a company's marketing messages, content and other output work to meet the needs of its sales reps and the requirements of the selling process, right? Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen, often because of a common disconnect between the marketing and sales departments.

Marketing and sales must be in total alignment for a company to truly achieve revenue-generating sales effectiveness. What's needed to bridge the gap is a methodology for structuring marketing and sales messaging—in other words, a systematic approach to creating sales-ready messaging that boosts sales effectiveness to the ultimate benefit of the bottom line.

The Messaging Component List

A good place to start is with the creation of a “marketing bill of materials.” The first was originally created some 30 years ago by the marketing industry as a means of applying structure to the design, manufacturing, inventory and resource planning processes and, in the process, revolutionizing efficiencies.

Today's iteration is based on messaging components that correspond to different steps in the sales cycle. When brought together, they form a sales-ready, customer-relevant story.

Consider the four basic questions sales people ask themselves when they wake up each day and, as marketers, you're creating messaging designed to really fit with your target market:

1. Who am I selling to today?

2. Why are they buying anything?

3. What do I have to sell them?

4. Why should they buy from me?

Here are some corresponding marketing content and messaging components that respond to each of the four questions:

Target Audience

“Who am I selling to today?” refers to the target audience. When creating messaging for an industry segment, develop materials with background and descriptions for each of your company's target markets; they should include actionable information concerning issues and characteristics relevant to your solutions. This provides sales reps with a reasonable working knowledge, and thus a place to start relevant conversations.

To take this a step further, profile and describe each key decision maker, then create messaging around how your company's solutions can be a benefit to their professional concerns and corporate challenges.

Business Goals

The answer to the question “Why are they buying anything?” is simple: to achieve business goals. For each decision maker in each market, identify specific business needs and requirements, then work with your sales reps to understand what issues they are being asked to address by their customers.

Include in this analysis appropriate diagnostic questions that will help uncover issues faced during customer interaction and will draw out interest or acknowledgement of relevant business requirements.

Solution Development

Sales reps are looking for solutions specific to the needs of their customers when they ask, “What do I have to sell them?” Prompt the development of a “custom” solution by pre-identifying the best products, services, programs, features and capabilities across your company that help meet each identified customer requirement—and develop messaging accordingly. This allows you to ensure that sales reps are leading with the best capabilities in response to customers' needs.

To give your messages even greater impact, develop usage scenarios for each selected capability. This helps the prospective customers envision how they would use the capability to meet one of their requirements, and has a greater impact than just hearing it from a sales rep.

Value Messaging

The value in what's being sold—from the customer's point of view—must be clear for sales reps if they are to effectively answer the question, “Why should they buy from me?”

To achieve this, develop messaging that describes the ultimate business value and impact for each capability, linking this value messaging to exactly how the capabilities meet specific business requirements. By aligning your messaging to customer business requirements, you'll put your sales people at a significant competitive advantage.

Be sure to also create a set of messages that offer sales people a source of positioning tips, such as objection handlers, competitive “landmines,” and unique selling propositions. To complete the messaging components, incorporate your best proof sources (testimonials, quotes, test results, success stories, etc.) that demonstrate your company's ability to solve a particular business requirement the way it's described in your value messaging.

The Sales Tool Output List

With the right messaging components in place, the next step is to determine the types of sales collateral materials needed. This begins with an analysis of your company's sales process, which often dictates the types of deliverables required of sales people. Or, as a result, the behaviors, outputs, and types of documents being used by your top sales people can be assessed.

Here's a preliminary list of possible sales tool outputs:

  • Prospecting letters. Leverage your newly created industry-specific messaging to help sales reps generate interest among related prospects.

  • Follow-up letters. Using messaging that was created in response to customer requirements enables sales reps to provide customized follow-up letters based on the prospect's specific business goals.

  • Presentations. Ensure presentation consistency among your sales reps by providing quickly customizable PowerPoint templates. These prompt reps to create a solution message that aligns your company's best capabilities to the prospect's identified business goals.

  • Custom leave-behinds. Make it possible for your sales reps to compose custom collateral pieces based on the prospect's unique business goals.

  • Value proposals. Equip your reps with the ability to proactively create proposals that help customers appreciate how your capabilities align to create a solution to their specific business goals.

  • Reference story. Provide your reps with third-party proof points, or success stories, that align to the specific target market and demonstrate how your company responded to a stated business requirement.

Once you get marketing and sales together to discuss the process and build the marketing bill of materials, it should become clear that these groups need to align their activities in order to forge a customer-centric approach, shifting the focus to how they can work together as a team to meet the customer's buying needs. Only then can your organization achieve greater sales effectiveness—and boost its bottom line.

Continue reading "A New Marketing Bill of Materials" ... Read the full article

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image of Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer