When I first started selling, I had a lot to learn. My first sales role was for a growing MSP, and I was making 400 cold calls a week. If I had been smarter about testing different approaches, I would have found success a lot faster. This is why I eventually got into the business of sales training — in order to help others learn the lessons I wish I had learned earlier.
One of the first things I learned was the difference between sales-ready messaging and marketing messaging. I left voicemails that said, “Hi, this is John Barrows. We’re the leading provider of managed IT… blah, blah, blah.” My calls were so bad. I then realized that I saw more success when I messed up the script and said “We fix computers.”
What I learned from those mistakes was that, while being a leading provider is an accomplishment to boast about, it’s not what your prospects care most about. Instead, we had to find a true pain point, which was usually their IT infrastructure.
There’s a difference between sales-ready messaging and marketing messaging. Unfortunately, too many MSPs and VARs still don’t understand the distinction. The unintended consequence is that they hurt their sales team’s prospecting efforts.
Marketing Messaging vs. Sales Messaging
Marketing messaging typically focuses on the overall features and benefits of a solution, including requisite buzzwords like “transparency,” “synergy,” and “leading provider of.” Sales teams then take this messaging and put it into their emails and call scripts. As a result, sales communications often sound like regurgitated marketing speak.
The easiest way to explain the difference between marketing and sales messaging is that marketing messaging usually says stuff like, “On average our clients see a 32 percent decrease in downtime on their co-located servers.” Sales messaging should be more specific. It should convey something like, “We showed other offices in your building how to have a truly diverse colocation set-up, providing greater security.” See the difference?
Marketing communicates a broader message. Sales-ready messaging should be specific and focused. Think of a direct mail campaign versus a personalized thank-you note to a prospect.
To break through the noise, sales reps need to be as precise and targeted with their messaging as possible. This doesn’t mean templated communications aren’t useful, but a little personalization goes a long way. SalesLoft — a SaaS company focused on sales engagement — did a great study on this (SalesLoft.com — Sales Email Personalization Research Reveals Key to 2x Reply Rates).
For the sake of effectiveness, sales teams must find the right balance between effort and reward. SalesLoft’s data science team found that 20% is the optimal amount of personalization in an email to maximize performance. Outside of that 20% personalization, the rest of the content (template or not) needs to be targeted to ensure relevance to the person you’re sending to. Sales messaging is important to get right so that your team’s efforts aren’t wasted.
To develop sales-ready messaging, begin by breaking down your addressable market by the target industries. Then, section out the personas within those industries. Finally, research the top three challenges and priorities these people face in the current year.
How to Develop Sales Messaging
- Break down your addressable market by target industries.
- Section out specific personas within those industries.
- Research the current top three challenges and priorities these people face.
For example, CIOs in the health care industry have different priorities than CIOs in the manufacturing industry. Also, CIOs in the health care industry have different challenges in 2019 compared to 2018. Only after you understand the details of each persona’s particular challenges and priorities can you map the specific components of your solution to each need they help address. Then, you can tie in an expected result.
Most MSPs/VARs have multiple products and/or components of their solution that can add value to customers. However, too many organizations make the mistake of combining them into one overall value prop or elevator pitch. That is the job of marketing. Sales should carve up the overarching value prop and segment it to address a prospect’s specific needs.
A Real-World Example
Let’s use my time at an MSP as an example. The typical value prop or elevator pitch is “We provide outsourced managed IT solutions from last mile to switch.” That’s great, but what if I send that email or make that call and you don’t respond? What’s the next thing I’m going to say?
“Hi, it’s me again, touching base, checking in …”
“… Did you get a chance to see my first email?”
“… Bubbling this one up to the top.”
Instead, we should section out the value prop to tell a story. The story we communicate aligns different components of our solution with specific challenges and priorities a certain persona is facing.
The result of this process is multiple messages the sales team can use to tell their story. These serve as templates, personalized to specific personas. Once the messages are constructed, split test them to determine which ones work the best. They should sound something like this:
“CIOs in the health care industry leverage (insert targeted solution component) to see (desired result).”
Pro tip: Tie the results to a case study in a similar industry, if possible.
Here’s a closing thought on usage: You can have the most targeted, persona-specific sales-ready messaging in the world, but it won’t do you any good if your sales team doesn’t use it. Making content easily accessible across the sales organization is necessary to enable personalization at scale.
Make It Happen!
John Barrows is a world-renowned sales training expert and CEO of JBarrows Sales Training. John has provided sales training and consulting services to some of the world’s leading tech companies such as Salesforce, Slack, Box, and LinkedIn – with a focus on driving results with proven techniques that impact adoption and behavior change.