Only 40% of sales organizations clearly understand a customer's issues before proposing a solution, according to Miller Heiman Group. Moreover, 90% of selling content is never used in selling, and 58% of the sales pipeline ends up in "no decision" or stalled deals because Sales has not presented value effectively, according to QVidian.


That's three strikes against sales effectiveness: Sales reps…

  1. Don't understand the buyer's world and associated needs
  2. Aren't using the selling content they're provided
  3. Don't know how to communicate real value to the buyer

Whose fault is it... the sellers'? They often get the blame: They don't hit their quota (only 63% of sales reps do), and they are given their marching papers.

Now, this might sound strange, but I think the blame (and opportunity) should center on the marketing function—before it's even time to go to market.

Why Does This Go-to-Market Sales Performance Problem Exist?

Why? Because marketing organizations aren't taking the time to position the solutions that they want to go to market with—to make sure that they are in tune with the value prospects want.

In fact, one of my firm's partners, Lawson Abinanti from Messages That Matter, completed a study that found 57% of technology and software marketers don't have a formal process for positioning. Fully 53% of the participants admitted that they don't think they do enough research during the positioning process, and 45% don't think they spend enough time on positioning. As a result, there's "me too" positioning, messaging around commodity benefits (instead of unconsidered needs that can drive an unexpected urgency), and talk of "transformations" that have no business value to IT buyers.

The messaging, content, and the sales conversations that sales teams should be having should be driven by the positioning. And if that's off, everything else will be out of sync: How can you expect Sales to make the value connection and have the right sales conversation if all the messaging, emails, money slides, whiteboards, "all about my company and products" PowerPoint content that Marketing provides with the go-to-market strategy miss the mark?

That's one of the key reasons 37% of sales reps are failing to hit their quota: They are not given the right positioning, content, and ROI selling tools that enable them to have high-value selling conversations—value as perceived by the buyer. It's why reps are inconsistent in being in sync with buyers' needs, communicating value, and closing more deals.

This is a persistent problem, but most organizations struggle with how to fix it.

Why Is Marketing Having a 'Value Connection" Issue?

Why? Because marketing departments are focused on leads and filling the pipeline. They feel that the quicker that they can show the C-suite "leads" to validate their own value, the better. They are measuring their success by the leads they bring in—even if the leads go nowhere (it must Sales' fault if they don't close!). So they're not focused on whether the messaging and the positioning are on target. They're focused on setting up lead generation programs and getting the solutions to market. Everything else is rushed!

They haven't figured out a way to tie messaging, and positioning their sales-enablement content to increased sales performance, to further validate their value.

Marketing is also often an insider, and disconnected from the buyer's world. Yes, marketers will do their very best outside of their 12-hour-day job to craft better content so Sales can go to market more effectively. The content finally gets launched as an email or portal alert, Sales doesn't embrace the new content, and it falls into the 90% of selling content that doesn't get used.

At least Marketing responded. But selling conversations didn't improve. Precious time, energy, and resources were lost. Sound familiar?

How to Ensure You'll Make the Value Connection When Sales and Marketing Go to Market

I'd like to suggest a much better approach. A core team is formed with the charter to solve the problem. The team is made up of members from the business, marketing, product, and sales organizations. They decide the opportunity cost is way too high, and they can't afford to go to market twice. They wisely engage with an experienced outsider to facilitate the process and "jump in" to shape a better message that connects with buyers. They shape better sales content that will get used in up-leveling sales conversations. All involved start to seek answers to fundamental questions, like these:

  • Who are the target customers for our solution?
  • What problem are these customers seeing, or more importantly not seeing, that our solution could help address?
  • Who are the key buyers for solving this problem, what are their top concerns, and how would they benefit personally from solving the problem?
  • What is the business value to their company and the cost of delay in solving the problem?
  • Why would the customers choose us over competitive alternatives to solve their problem?

The team would then move through a process with specific disciplines. For example, my firm has a process called "Outside Insight," designed to infuse external perceptive into the process of crafting a high-impact message and selling content. It has four key stages and disciplines:

  • Stage 1: Scan. You gather and review industry perspective on the solution domain, competitor messaging and positions and internal perspectives, and answers to key customer-centric questions.
  • Stage 2: Develop. You craft initial positioning and messaging, conceptual visuals that help you describe the customer problem, solution, and set of benefits; and you review and iterate to hone postioning, messaging, and visuals.
  • Stage 3: Test. You review positioning, messaging, and visuals with key stakeholders, including customers, sales leaders, and analysts.
  • Stage 4: Refine. You refine positioning and messaging, build out initial selling content, and launch and learn—including making sure sales reps are trained to use the customer-centric selling content, and refining the content once it has been fielded by reps who have been polled for areas for improvement.

The Benefits...

Following a process like this, with set disciplines, will yield much better message strategies and selling content, which put sales reps, including seasoned reps, in a much better position to map more closely to buyers' needs, express the business value proposition, and motivate individual buyers to take action. All of which lead to improved selling conversations and ultimately improved selling performance.

To follow discussions about the content, tools, and resources needed to enable more sales with go-to-market strategies, check out the Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group on LinkedIn.

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B2B Sales Reps Are Out of Sync With Buyers, But Is Marketing at Fault?

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image of Bruce Scheer

Bruce Scheer is president of FutureSight, provider of go-to-market revenue enablement services. He also heads up the Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group LinkedIn community.

LinkedIn: Bruce Scheer