Tag Archives: sales messaging

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What Makes A Post Go Viral? A Lesson For Sales and Marketing

Recently, I published a post about RFP Strategies. It was my most successful post on LinkedIn based on the number of readers, likes and shares. It got me thinking; what makes a post go viral? So I did some research. I believe the lessons learned are important for sales and marketing professionals that are striving to be heard and noticed in a noisy digital world.

In a study on the subject, 7000 New York Times articles were analyzed to determine what common elements were found in those that went viral. Jonah Berger, Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School developed a model based on this research project. He breaks down the key components for creating a viral message into the following four categories:

1. Narrative: A well crafted story line that captivates attention.

2. Practical Value: Providing information that has value to the receiver.

3. Emotion: Causes strong emotional feelings including surprise and happiness.

4: Social Currency: The message makes the sharer seem cool or hip.

Many viral successes leverage more than one component. For example, you may be one of the 300 Million who viewed the “Will It Blend?” video, where Blendtec founder Tom Dickson throws a variety of objects into a blender including golf balls, lightbulbs and an iPad. This post leveraged narrative, emotion, and social currency to reach such high viewership.

In the sales and marketing profession, research by CEB indicates we should be educating our customers with practical value, while common wisdom suggests the best sellers narrate good stories about other customer successes. Perhaps there’s a correlation between sales and marketing messages that resonate and the viral components described above.

My suggestion is to first take a look at my RFP Strategies article and evaluate it against the four components of viral messaging identified above. Then look at your current sales and marketing messaging to see if you have, or could tap into any of the four components of viral messages. Perhaps you can improve the hallway buzz with a few tweaks.

The Enterprise Selling Group helps commercial organizations tune their sales and marketing disciplines to improve revenue results. Kevin Temple is the founder and President of The Enterprise Selling Group

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There Are Two Types Of Value Propositions

Have you ever heard the story about the six blind men and the elephant? The one touching the trunk thinks its a banana tree trunk, the one touching the ears thinks its a large hand fan, the one touching the legs thinks its a pillar, the one touching the stomach imagines it to be a wall and the one touching the tail said it was a snake. Value propositions depend on your viewpoint, and the best one is the one that aligns with the customer’s situation.

A few years ago, I was conducting a series of opportunity reviews for Cisco. One of the highest profile opportunities they wanted my help on was Hertz, the rental car organization. The opportunity size was significant, but internal visibility had become a negative. The forecast item had slipped from month to month for several months and senior sales leadership was pressuring the entire chain of command for closure. Needless to say, the sales team was very interested in getting this engagement off of the table.

After covering the background and the history of activities with Hertz, I peeled back the onion with questions about the value proposition. The person in charge of the account was very confident in his reply, “We have documented a significant reduction in their cost of ownership with our solution”, he explained. He went on to detail numbers that were quite impressive. When he finished, I asked, “is this your value proposition or theirs?”

The quizzical look on his face answered my question.

I put my pen down and dug in. I suggested he pretend he was the CEO of Hertz. “As the CEO of Hertz,” I continued, “tell me what the single biggest issue is that you were banging your fist on the table about during your most recent executive staff meeting.” I was trying to create a scenario that he could envision. He looked at me and nodded his head, “That’s easy, its market share.” He continued, “They want to be number one in their industry, but are stuck in the number two position.” I asked him how he developed this perspective, and he explained that he had read about it in multiple articles and verified it through conversations with different stakeholders in the Hertz organization.

I was quiet while I let his observation sink in.

I could see the revelation roll over his face. Then he shook his head and concluded, “Cost savings is our value proposition, not theirs.”  

I continued, “So what’s the risk to your sales cycle if we’re pushing one value proposition, but the decision maker is on the lookout for another?” The account manager nodded his head and replied, “it’s probably going to get pushed out until the business issue I cited is relevant, or the primary issue has been resolved.”

I followed the train of thought, “Now tell me, how does your solution help them with improving market share?” He curled his lower lip under his teeth and proceeded to rationalize the connection to their interest in providing a better Internet shopping experience, directly connecting to problems with their current network architecture.

The two different value propositions both have their place in the sales process. The selling organization should use their value proposition, in this case – reducing total cost of ownership, to establish credibility and generate interest, but they should use the buyer’s value proposition – increasing market share – to harness their motivation to change. This seller was using the selling value proposition for both. Unfortunately, if they don’t happen to align, it can result in no decisions or delayed decisions, as was the case here.

In my previous post on buyer behaviors, I revealed the six questions decision makers will want answered before they sign off on large purchase requisitions. Two of the questions, “Why change?” and “Why now?” are intended to tease out the relationship of the purchase to the current business issues demanding the decision maker’s attention. If the seller or the buying sponsor miss this connection, the decision maker tends to put the decision on hold, while they look for other recommendations to address the current business issues at hand.

The Cisco team went back to Hertz with a revised proposal highlighting market share as the key driver for the purchase. They were happy to report they closed the order later that month.

Kevin Temple guides sales teams to be more agile and improve revenue outcomes. He can be contacted at kevin@enterprise-selling.com. The Enterprise Selling Group is a leader in delivering sales training, coaching and project oversight to improve the agility of sales teams around the world.

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How To Differentiate

Years ago, I worked for a start up company that carved out a niche in the electronic design automation field with a new product. As the only player in this niche it was like shooting fish in a barrel. It seemed like all I had to do was show up and demonstrate the product, then collect purchase orders. (Ok, it was tougher than that, but it was more about need creation than competitive differentiation.)

When one of the big players in the overall design automation market decided to compete with us, our general consensus was we were three years ahead of them on development, so they couldn’t be much competition. Wow, were we wrong!

One by one, all of my largest target customers started talking about the offering of this particular competitor. Not one to stand around, I did my homework on their product. “But…” I would say in my defense, “they don’t have this capability, or that capability.” Unfortunately for me, it seemed like no one was listening. I started losing orders and growing in frustration.

Then one potential buyer helped me out by accident. When he brought up the competitor’s name, I listed a number of important capabilities they were lacking. His response, “So what, why would I care about those capabilities? Their base product does everything I need, and it’s less expensive than yours.” I pointed out several problems he had identified in his current development process, then I connected those problems to my unique capabilities, challenging him to decide if he could do without solving those problems. Long story short, he bought my solution at a 50% premium over the new contender.

His basic question of why should he care, helped steer me to the most important part of the conversation; his problem set. Then it dawned on me, the key to differentiation is identifying the problem, not the capability.  I repeated this process with every new prospect and turned my win ratio dramatically in the right direction.

Coincidentally, during the same time frame, I witnessed this connection from a buyer’s perspective for myself.

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I took my (then) four year old son along with me to run some errands. I had recently purchased a new television, and now my focus was on a surround sound system to compliment it. We stopped in the local Best Buy store, only to find too many choices. There were probably 15 different models on display. I was trying to make heads or tails of the differences by reading the summary spec sheet listed next to each one, while my son was getting antsy to leave. They had the less expensive models close the floor, with the more expensive models placed at eye level. I was bobbing up and down making notes on a piece of scratch paper, but it was too much information to process especially with my impatient son in tow.

The sales attendant stepped up to me and asked, “trying to figure out which one is the best value?” I sheepishly nodded my head, and he added, “I can help you with onequestion.”  He looked down at my son, then looked back at me. “Do you ever envision yourself entertaining guests on the patio with some nice background music, while the kids are in the family room watching TV?” I nodded in light of the obvious answer. He pointed to one system on the rack and said, “there’s only one system that will let you do both at the same time.” He got me. I walked out with the most expensive system in the store.

The lesson I learned from these two experiences is that no matter how many differentiators you have, the only ones that count are those that can be tied to problems the buyer is, or can anticipate, dealing with in their environment.

If you are a new salesperson, or you’re dealing with some formidable competition, here’s a simple exercise you can run on your own, or even better, with your whole team. Make a list of your top five differentiators for a particular product or solution. Then make a list of the customer problems each differentiated capability can address. Try to word the problems with problem sounding adjectives. Words like, “difficulty with”,  “lacking”, “frustrated by”, and the like. This will insure that you are articulating the problem and not just rephrasing the capability.

For example,

(Capability) I teach sales teams how to differentiate more effectively.

(Problems to surface) Are you having difficulty winning against lower priced competitors? Are you frustrated by your win/loss ratio in a crowded market? Are your new product introductions taking too long?

In your next discovery meeting, if the buyer doesn’t bring up the problems you’ve identified, try to surface them yourself, just like the Best Buy sales person did for me. When you get to the capabilities part of the discussion, connect each important differentiator back to a problem you discussed earlier.  I’m confident you’ll find more buyers who resonate with your differentiators.

Kevin Temple guides sales teams to be more agile and improve revenue outcomes. He can be contacted at kevin@enterprise-selling.com. The Enterprise Selling Group is a leader in delivering sales training, coaching and project oversight to improve the agility of sales teams around the world.

Blog

What Makes A Post Go Viral? A Lesson For Sales And Marketing Professionals.

viral-marketing

Recently, 7000 New York Times articles were analyzed to determine what common elements were found in those that went viral. The results can be a great instructional guide for sales and marketing professionals that are striving to have their message heard above the cacophony of Internet noise.

Jonah Berger, Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School developed a model based on this research project. He breaks down the key components for creating a viral message into the following four categories:

1. Narrative: A well crafted story line that captivates attention.

2. Practical Value: Providing information that has value to the receiver.

3. Emotion: Causes strong emotional feelings including surprise and happiness.

4: Social Currency: The message makes the sharer seem cool or hip.

Many viral successes leverage more than one component. You may be one of the 300 Million who viewed the “Will It Blend?” video, where Blendtec founder Tom Dickson throws a variety of objects into a blender including golf balls, lightbulbs and an iPad. This post leveraged narrative, emotion, and social currency to reach such high viewership.

In the sales and marketing profession, recent research by CEB indicates we should be educating our customers with practical value while common wisdom suggests the best sellers narrate good stories about other customer successes. Perhaps there’s a correlation between sales and marketing messages that resonate and the viral components described above.

What’s your current sales or marketing message? And what components of viral propensity does it contain?

Help make this article viral by forwarding a copy to your colleagues! All of them.

The Enterprise Selling Group helps commercial organizations tune their sales and marketing disciplines to improve revenue results. Kevin Temple is the founder and President of The Enterprise Selling Group.  

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Is your sales messaging more like a “selfie”?

Image result for business person selfie I’m often asked to comment on a corporate presentation or customer specific presentation, and the most common mistake I find is the “selfie”. They start out with a description of their company, a list of impressive logos, perhaps an industry analyst quote. That’s the selfie. It’s all about them, not the customer. Unfortunately, its not in the proper sequence. Your prospect doesn’t care about this information until they conclude you have something that might help them. Using a selfie too soon lowers your chances of making this connection. As a more effective alternative, start by confirming the market trends in your customer’s business, and more importantly, the problems or challenges you help other customers solve as a result of these trends. Some or most of these problems should be selected to resonate with your intended audience. When your prospect identifies one or more problems from your list, now you have their attention. Then they will want to hear how you have solved these problems, where (logos), and who else can attest to it (analyst). Put your selfie in the proper place, at the end of your presentation. The Enterprise Selling Group helps commercial organizations tune their sales and marketing disciplines to improve revenue results. Kevin Temple is the founder and President of The Enterprise Selling Group.