Where Sales Reps Are Struggling—And What Marketing Can Do About It
A study shows that sellers are performing at only 70% of their potential in the three value conversations most important to closing profitable deals. Marketers can help turn the tide.
If your car was operating at only 70% of its capacity, you’d want to fix that pretty quick, right? And if your home Wi-Fi connection was only 70% as fast as it should be, you’d probably look to replace it with a new service, wouldn’t you?
So what would you do if the sellers in your organization were performing at only 70% of their potential? If your company is anything like mine, you’d do everything in your power to shore that up immediately.
Well, according to results from a Corporate Visions self-assessment, sellers are, in fact, performing at only 70% of their potential in the three value conversations most important to closing profitable deals. In my mind, these selling conversations are the three “moments of truth” where sellers need to:
- Create value by defeating the status quo and differentiating their solutions.
- Elevate value by building a business case that passes muster with executive-level decision makers.
- Capture value by protecting margins and expanding deal size amid tense negotiations.
The skills self-assessment, which coincided with the launch of my book, “The Three Value Conversations,” took the aggregate results of respondents and measured them against Corporate Visions’ benchmarks in each skills area. The benchmark figures were percentages defined by how often high adopters used the skills they were trained on.
To be clear, the skills gaps in the assessment are not just a sales problem; they’re a marketing problem, too. Marketers—as the stewards of your story and as the creators of the content that project that story into the market—have a huge role to play in equipping your reps for success in the field.
Below, I’ve highlighted what the assessment revealed to be the biggest challenges in each value conversation and provided a messaging tip designed to address the relevant skills gaps.
Biggest differentiation skills challenge: illustrating sharp contrast between a prospect’s current state and a desired future state.
Key skill: To distinguish your point of view, you need to message to your prospect’s “unconsidered needs”—in other words, the problems or missed opportunities that affect them, but that they aren’t fully aware of. This approach allows you to stand in sharp contrast to your competitors, who will largely be responding to the stated needs that your prospect already knows about—an approach that won’t create the urgency needed to convince the person to change. After identifying your prospect’s unconsidered needs, you can differentiate your solution by connecting the weaknesses you’ve identified to your unexpected strengths, showing how you are singularly qualified to resolve the company’s biggest challenges.
Biggest executive conversation challenge: winning access to executive buyers.
Key skill: Most sellers know how important it is to be “CXO-relevant” in their messaging, content, and skills, but what does that actually mean? It starts with making sure you’ve adopted an executive buyer’s perspective in your story, focusing on the external factors that are front and center in an executive’s mind, such as regulatory challenges, economic conditions ,and shifts in customer preferences. You can then link these issues to their strategic business initiatives (and your business value) to create a compelling executive buying vision—one that gives C-suite buyers the urgency to pursue change.
Biggest negotiations challenge: getting customers to reveal underlying motivations.
Key skill: Buyers today have the lion’s share of power, and they have it because they know there are a host of viable “alternatives” to what you’re selling. To reclaim some of that leverage and protect your margins, you need to use more creative, low-power techniques to create value-based exchanges instead of simply giving away things of value throughout the buying cycle to move the deal forward.
Sellers are struggling to navigate the most critical moments in the buying cycle, and at a time when articulating value is perceived as the biggest differentiator and driver of wins, this could spell trouble for your deals. Marketers can help turn the tide by first understanding where and why salespeople are struggling, then formulating a messaging and content program that helps reps address the biggest selling gaps.