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Sales training and methodology guru Rick Page recently released a book called Hope is Not a Strategy. Yet, this seems to be the strategy most often employed when marketing builds its piles of collateral material, throws the stuff over the transom and hopes sales will use them effectively.

In reality, most collateral and sales messaging produced by marketing today goes unused in the actual sales cycle. The American Marketing Association's Customer Message Management Forum estimates that upward of 90% of what gets created in the name of sales support doesn't get used as intended, if at all.

At best, the materials are used early in a sales cycle to create interest and demonstrate corporate viability. But once the real selling begins, a whole new set of document types emerges to support either formal or ad hoc sales processes. These are usually the materials that drive customer conversations and ultimately do the sales heavy lifting—walking the customer's hallways representing the best selling messaging your company has to offer.

Call it clandestine collateral: one-off sales presentations and leave-behinds as well as cut-and-pasted proposals that get produced in the field by individual reps. And here are the threats they pose to companies in competitive selling environments:

  1. Lack of consistency: How do you give marketing and sales “one voice” to present to the customer when the “collateralization” of important sales conversations and follow-up is left to chance and the whims of individual sales reps?

  2. Too many inaccuracies: Who knows what bad data and bad branding get perpetuated when the field is left on its own to fabricate its customer collateral—in the name of your company?

  3. Costly inefficiencies: Corrupted selling time or non-selling time is only made worse when reps have to use valuable time preparing custom responses, presentations and proposals.

  4. Reduced effectiveness: Not every sales person is a great writer, or even has enough knowledge of the best answers or approaches to create the most compelling or persuasive messages.

Organizations looking to take greater charge over what gets said, and how messages are delivered deeper into the sales cycle, should consider Customer Message Management (CMM) as a means to help improve the sales-readiness of their collateral.

CMM is a marketing and sales approach geared to refining and advancing the way sales and marketing develop and manage customer communications by analyzing the organization's value proposition from the outside-in to facilitate development of more customer-focused messaging.

What's key to this concept is designing and delivering messaging content in a form and format that support important milestones throughout the sales cycle. It requires marketing to work with key reps and sales management to determine the specific steps in the company's sales process and identify the key conversations and collaterals required at each step.

The cultivation of a prospect into a customer requires numerous types of collateral, from prospecting letters to call preparation and coaching prompters, from follow-up letters and presentations to leave-behinds and proposals—all requiring lots of content. And content shouldn't be left to chance in the hands of individual reps; it should be systematically and methodically created and delivered by the content creators in marketing.

So, exactly how do you start building more collateral that counts? One way is to conduct a sales collateral audit. Like this:

  1. First, work with several key salespeople to help determine the precise content anatomy of the desired and “required” collaterals that will meet their demands in a successful sales cycle. Specifically, what content is required for each document and how is it used at each moment of truth?

  2. Then, identify and map your current content and collaterals to determine what you already have that sales likes, that seems to be working well, and may provide the best fit for each step in the sales cycle—or at least provide a foundation for a new and improved version.

  3. Determine the gaps in the existing content and begin updating and enhancing the messages and images to reflect the identified requirements for each sales cycle- relevant document and customer interaction.

  4. Identify and develop any new pieces of collateral to support glaring gaps in the sales cycle not covered by existing or upgraded materials.

  5. Be willing to discard extraneous collaterals that don't have a clear sense of purpose relative to the sales cycle and in the minds of salespeople.

This audit—and the effort to create collateral that counts—will result in a greater appreciation, understanding and ability to provide more useful collateral tools. And it will help ensure that the best messages developed by marketing are consistently and compellingly delivered in the field.

Continue reading "How to Move from ‘Clandestine’ to Creating Collateral that Counts" ... 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