January 29, 2014
Byline by Gavin Finn published by The Global Marketing Alliance
When was the last time your sales team applauded when your marketing team delivered materials or content for them to use?
If this is not happening frequently enough (or at all) then perhaps we should consider the reasons.
I recently asked a senior director of marketing at a very successful high-tech company how he spends his time and, after a long pause, he told me he spends the majority of his time managing the process of putting materials together for the sales team. Brochures, specifications/data sheets, white papers, presentations, etc. I then asked him what, out of all of his deliverables, was the most effective and the most valued by his marketing and sales teams? His answer was simple: Anything interactive – online AND offline. We both sat in silence pondering the ramifications of these last two (perhaps incongruent) points. A visionary global vice-president of marketing for a leading telecom equipment provider said recently: “None of my sales guys ever thank me for making brochures.”
It is axiomatic that useful and effective sales enablement solutions will be used by sales teams and ineffective tools will sit on the shelf (or in the file folder on their laptops.) Where are you spending the majority of your time? What kinds of content/tools would your sales teams really use?
Here are a few things to consider when creating sales tools:
WHERE IS YOUR CUSTOMER? Your customers participate in the buying cycle in a wide variety of venues, and your tool must function well in any situation to be truly effective. Sales enablement tools need to be able to reach prospects anywhere they seek information, from individual discovery on websites and mobile devices, to face-to-face events, to intimate sales meetings, or briefing centres.
The end goal is to provide engaging informational knowledge exchanges that enhance the sales experience regardless of whether or not a representative is present.
Geographical location and local languages are also important factors to consider when developing sales enablement content. If you have globally dispersed representatives, customers and channel partners, you will want marketing content that is easy to translate. Look for marketing platforms that have modifiable text and don’t require content to be re-created for each revision or translation. This will significantly expand the reach of your investment while keeping content relevant for even the most remote sales representatives.
HOW COMPLEX IS YOUR SOLUTION? Marketers are often challenged to educate sales teams and channel partners on the value, differentiation and positioning of their offerings. When complex physical products are being sold, this task is not trivial. Many companies are turning to virtual representations of products to improve the expertise of their sales, marketing and technical teams. The ability to quickly train internationally dispersed people gives organisations a huge advantage.
For many companies, physical products (especially ones that are newly manufactured) aren’t always readily available for training and demonstrations, due to their size, cost, and limited supply. This results in many employees not being well-versed in the features, benefits and specifications of the company’s latest innovations, which is obviously detrimental in many ways. When virtual 3D products are available, users can access these products in useful and meaningful ways. Sales personnel and customers can view your products from every angle, explore options and features (open drawers, change batteries, add components, etc.), investigate internal workings and even run animations showing processes.
Now, sales will ALWAYS have access to even the most difficult to obtain products (size, fragility, limited supply) and can use these tools during meetings to succinctly deliver the information each customer needs. This allows employees in any corner of the globe to learn about and interact with any product as if it were physically in front of them – on a variety of convenient platforms, including websites, tablets, smartphones, laptops or touch screen appliances.
HOW PERSONAL ARE YOUR SALES EXPERIENCES? Because no two prospects are exactly the same, personalisation of content is what makes sales and marketing messages fully resonate. Therefore, the goal when creating sales enablement tools is to provide all prospects with the ability to view and experience content that is targeted and relevant to them, and accessible at their own pace. By creating non-linear, user-driven content, the prospect can control their own experience, exploring the content and messages in a sequence and level of detail that they feel are most appropriate to their needs.
Cognitive research has shown that when users drive their own experience they retain significantly more information than when they are watching a presentation. Tools such as videos do the talking for you and put the sales encounter on autopilot, creating a forgettable experience and inhibiting a true conversation with your customer. Putting your customer in the driver’s seat better highlights their interests for your sales representative, enabling them to tailor the discussion to best solve the customer’s business challenges. With interactivity proven to increase product knowledge retention by 78%, it’s no wonder that companies are turning to digital engagement marketing strategies that put the customer in control.
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive.