Here are 5 key things that have to be top of mind when you’re developing a sales motion.
Being called a ‘nice-to-have’ solution feels like a gut punch, especially when you know it’s not true. And it’s tough to shift that thinking once it’s in a prospect’s head. If they think of you that way, it means you haven’t created enough value in your sales conversations.
Not long ago, that was exactly our problem at Ceros, where we sell a collaborative, real-time digital canvas. Our designers create animated, interactive content without developers.
We knew we had to reframe our sales conversations if we were going to make the leap from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” product.
Luckily, we pulled it off. Here’s how we did it.
- Step 1: Change The Story
- Step 2: Rethink Your Discovery Approach
- Step 3: Incorporate these Changes in Your Sales Training
- Step 4: Continually Assess And Monitor
- Step 5: Coach For Consistency
Step 1: Change The Story
First, we built a completely new story for our sales deck. We stopped using our long-standing narrative that focused on our product and its features. Instead, we switched to one about changes that were happening in the customers’ industry.
We highlighted the strategic importance of the problems and opportunities Ceros addresses rather than resorting to our features.
Our new sales story was modeled based on Andy Raskin’s take on the Zuora sales deck. His advice was a great fit, given that our product is visual. Getting this story right elevated how important the problem we solve is in our customer’s eyes.
We went back to why we started out in the first place
We started by taking a big step back and realizing why we exist. This forced us to stop focusing on our product, and start telling a story around the shift in how marketers think about content creation.
This big picture idea then fit perfectly into the more tangible and actionable stories that any marketer can relate to. As soon as prospects were agreeing with everything we were showing. Gaps in the market, new technology the industry is adopting, etc.
It was much easier to get them to drink our Kool-Aid.
Our narrative described exactly why the user should care
Throughout this process, we also made our sales decks more dynamic and interactive. We incorporated feature-based anecdotes that reinforce why the buyer should care. Changing the content based on who the rep was talking to was also helpful.
It’s an easy story for prospects to understand — there’s an undeniable change happening, and there will be winners and losers.
Once we had the main idea, we spent some time getting the nuances right for our audience.
Step 2: Rethink Your Discovery Approach
We were asking all the wrong questions
The next shift was moving from ‘content-centric’ discovery to ‘strategic’ discovery. This was arguably the most important change we made.
In the past, our sales discovery calls had focused heavily on the buyer’s content marketing.
This is only a pillar of their greater marketing strategy. We asked the prospect questions like,
- What kind of content do you create?
- How often do you create it?
- Would creating more visual content be good for your business?
These types of questions automatically got us pigeon-holed into being a low-level tool for a content marketer rather than a strategic linchpin for a VP Marketing.
They didn’t pack a punch in a sector with more than 5,000 MarTech vendors. Our questions didn’t make Ceros sound more valuable tool than any other tool.
Probing questions about real business goals matter more
We had a lot of discussions about what Marketing VPs are looking for.
Quickly, we realized that most of them don’t think about experiential brand content like the big brands do. Instead, they’re focused on generating revenue and are always looking for ways to plug holes in their marketing funnel.
When we focused on content creation in our discovery sessions, our prospects weren’t exactly sure how we would help their bottom line. So we stopped asking generic, content-related questions and began asking probing questions about their business targets.
- What are your marketing goals for the next 6 to 12 months?
- So far, what have you tried?
- Are there any gaps you’ve identified?
Now that we’re telling them an undeniable story about how changing the content experience can impact their revenue, they’re listening.
It has turned our discovery sessions on their heads.
Step 3: Incorporate these Changes in Your Sales Training
We didn’t transform our approach overnight. Once we piloted some changes and saw them working, our next big hurdle was change management.
How could we get more than 50 salespeople and customer success reps to tell the same story with consistent messaging, from sales through renewals?
It was one thing that we as sales leaders knew what our reps should be doing. Ensuring they were actually doing it when “facing off” with customers was another.
Let your reps create their unique version of your story
Everyone needed training on the new messaging. Then, we’d be able to look at who was crushing it and who needed support.
Sales leaders kicked things off by introducing a new deck and messaging to Account Executives, Customer Success Managers, and SDRs. Instead of talking just about the product, they focused heavily on the problems our product solves, and the stories we can tell around them.
Since this was such a big shift from what we were doing, we went around the room and had each person tell a “story” in their own words. This exercise ended up being more helpful than we anticipated, as it helped the new messaging click faster.
Step 4: Continually Assess And Monitor
Once the new messaging was rolled out, we wanted to know how our new story and discovery process was landing. That’s where Gong.io came in.
We recorded every sales meeting in Gong.io and reviewed them quickly to assess whether our messaging was a hit or miss.
Without visibility into how our new changes were landing, we wouldn’t have been able to tweak it.
Step 5: Coach For Consistency
As a last step — and again, with the help of Gong.io — we identified which reps were telling the story well and which ones weren’t. It was easier than ever to make sure everyone told the right story at the right time, stayed on message, etc.
Anecdotes and hearsay from reps don’t provide enough context to coach for sales success.
Gong.io has been instrumental in rolling out our new sales story and discovery. It helps us keep a finger on the pulse of our messaging over time to ensure it’s landing.
Your Next Steps
If I can offer you some advice based on our experience at Ceros, know that if you’re facing the same objection over and over again, you can turn it around.
Learn how to tell the right story. Focus on business questions rather than product-related ones. And get visibility into frontline conversations to take the pulse of how you’re doing every day.
Also published on Medium.