Don’t just generate leads - enable sales

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer at Corporate Visions shares his advice on how to switch from pure lead gen to sales-based metrics on your messaging

Do you remember those carefree, simple days when your value as a marketer was measured solely by the number of leads your team generated? Back then, you may have been able to leave your messaging and content to chance and get by as long as your team reached its goal for leads.

This is no longer true. Lead quantity still matters, but it’s no longer the most important metric for companies to measure demand generation performance. Companies have shifted to evaluating demand generation performance based on hard dollar impact on sales metrics, such as pipeline and revenue.

For marketers, this shift should be seen as a point of pride. It means companies see the story you tell in your campaigns and your sales enablement content as fundamental to their business success. It also means that the days of accidentally creating your story are over. It’s now about creating messaging and content that enable sales by setting a provocative, status quo-busting tone and by equipping your salespeople with a powerful story to take out into the field.

According to research conducted by Corporate Visions, a structured, cross-functional approach to messaging and content doesn’t take place in most cases.

Are Your Campaigns and Content Enabling Sales?

According to our survey, which polled more than 500 B2B marketers and sales professionals, only 29 per cent of companies follow a well-established message development process for their campaigns and content.

Other findings from the survey reflect ongoing challenges with messaging and content efforts, including:

  • 35 per cent of companies have an established message development process but don’t apply it consistently.

  • 36 per cent of companies fall into one of three categories: They don’t have a formal message development process, they have a message development process but don’t follow it, or they aren’t sure what they do when it comes to messaging and content.

The problems range from an inability to apply marketing methodology, to complete disarray in the messaging and content processes.

Another issue identified in the survey magnifies this problem. Only 27 per cent of companies believe their marketing campaigns and sales enablement content are customer-centric as the campaigns focus on the prospect’s story rather than their own. This low figure is unfortunate because it’s out of step with another key concept that my company discovered in previous research: Only 13 per cent of sellers believe product- or company-focused presentations are most impactful.

This lack of focus on the buyer’s story can have negative consequences. Without a rigourous and cross-functional approach to messaging and content, marketers risk creating insufficient urgency around a prospect’s status quo. Marketers also risk losing leads to the “conversion gap” when they give content to their sales team that is ill-suited to the market at hand.

So how do you develop campaigns that generate interest and activate intent? How do you equip your salespeople with the messaging and tools to convince prospects to make a change and leave the status quo? Here are some ideas to lead your teams to a more structured approach to messaging and content and to prepare them to tell an inspiring story that helps your salespeople convert leads into the pipeline:

  • Avoid “voice of the customer” messaging. It might seem reasonable to survey your prospects with the goal of diagnosing their problems or to conduct market research to the same end. This approach is problematic because you won’t be the only voice. It often results in messaging that responds to needs and capabilities that are already known, placing you in the commodity box and on the same level with your competitors. This often ends deals, largely because you’ve failed to demonstrate clear contrast between yourself and your prospect’s status quo and between yourself and your competitors.

    To drive uniqueness and urgency into your customer conversations, focus on connecting your prospect’s unknown needs to your special capabilities. You can do this by shifting your focus from that of a problem solver to that of a problem finder.

  • Make your insights visionary. Provocative, insights-based messaging has the potential to create real action. This does not mean that the same old data points will do. Not all insights are created equal. To get the most out of this selling approach, you need to deliver insights that instigate action and position you as a thought leader. The best insights tend to highlight an inconsistency or a previously unidentified shortcoming in an entrenched way of thinking or doing business.

    My company’s recent findings show that among four categories of insights, visionary insights—which leverage in-house research and expertise to define what’s next for the industry—were the most effective at helping companies achieve positive selling outcomes. Ironically, insights in this category were used less than insights in the three less effective categories. To compel prospects to make a change, try delivering insights that embody more of these visionary qualities. Prospects will see you not as a conduit of established information, but as an informed prognosticator of where your industry is going next.

  • Deliver messages through the lens of decision-making science. Humans have a three-times-stronger preference for avoiding risk than for achieving gain, according to research conducted by Daniel Kahneman, a world-renowned social psychologist and behavioural economist. Marketers can tap into the hidden forces that shape the way buyers frame value and make decisions by applying principles from disciplines like neuroscience, behavioural economics and social psychology to their messaging. How might you recast your messaging and content to create more urgency around this powerful human motivation to mitigate loss? You might well find yourself telling a different and more disruptive story.

The quality of your messaging and content goes a long way in determining the quality of your story. That story is key to your selling goals; don’t allow it to lack structure or purpose at any point in the buying cycle. By implementing a well-established messaging development process, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of creating content and campaigns that fail to show prospects and customers how their current approach is unsustainable.

About the author Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations that salespeople have with prospects and customers. He is the co-author of two books on the subject: Customer Message Management and Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, with a third book due out in June. He has consulted and trained the top companies in the world.

As chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, tools and training company.

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