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What Marketers Need to Understand About the Sales Process

Sales Process for Marketers

If I had a dollar for every time I heard some variation of the following statement...I’d have enough for a full tank of gas easily. 

I’m a marketer, why do I need know anything about sales? 

And I’d have even more dollars if I counted the times that I’ve seen SUCH a disconnect in marketing execution that is indicative of that ^ attitude. 

If you’re the kind of marketer that is still wondering why you should give a shit about what Sales is doing and why, here are two good reasons: 

  1. Organizational alignment increases when its members have a sense of what other teams’s roles, goals, and challenges look/feel like.

    To you, that should read like this: increased organizational alignment = increased revenue = increased opportunity for everybody, including you!

  2. Being more in-tune with the buyer’s and seller’s experiences, you will be able to produce content that better supports their decision-making journey.

    And when the exec team is doling out that ^ opportunity, they’re probably going to look at those adding the most functional value first...which could be you!

Luckily, you don’t have to be able to DO sales in order to know enough to stay connected to great sales strategies. I’ve compiled several terms and categories below to give you a enough of a baseline to understand and follow along in a sales conversation. 

Common Sales Methodologies Marketers Should Know About

Depending on the type of product or service, the market, and the organization, the type of sales methodology a team adopts can vary greatly. As a marketer, you should be keenly aware of the approach your sales team follows so that you can frame your content strategy to align. Your campaigns will be much more effective if your marketing message is consistent with your sales message. 

Below are five of the most common methodologies modern sales teams are leveraging (this is not a comprehensive list by any means): 

1. SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implications, Need-Payoff)

The goal of this approach is to lead a prospect to their own realizations about the need for your product/service by asking them four kinds of strategic questions:

  • Situation questions aim to understand a prospect’s current situation (although reps should still do research before a call or meeting).
  • Problem questions get to the heart of the prospect’s issue.
  • Implication questions encourage the prospect to consider the consequences of not properly solving the problem.
  • Need-payoff questions prompt the prospect to think about how the situation would change if they solve their problem.

How marketing could help support this method: target specific need-payoffs within your “why” messaging. 

2. SNAP (Simple, iNvaluable, Align, Priorities)

SNAP is an acronym that teaches and reminds sellers of four key principles: keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, and raise Priorities. Following these directives, salespeople can more effectively reach busy prospects with valuable knowledge, connect what they’re selling with what’s most important to the potential client, and make it easy for them to buy.

Most salespeople only think there’s one decision involved in a deal -- whether the prospect buys or not. However, author Jill Konrath, actually identifies three critical decisions:

  • First, the prospect must decide to allow access to the seller 
  • Second, the prospect must make the choice to move away from the status quo 
  • Third, the prospect must decide to change resources 

With these micro decisions in mind, marketers can help create collateral that compels prospects to move forward and salespeople can more effectively keep deals on track.

How marketing could help support this method: understand what goes into each of the three micro-decisions and what stalls those decisions, and then build a workflow with the necessary assets to help prospects clear each of those decision hurdles.

3. Challenger Sales

Adoptees of this methodology follow a teach-train-take control process that positions them as more of a solutions consultant than a typical sales person. First, they teach their prospects -- not about the product or service in question, but about larger business problems, new ideas, and intuitive insights. Next, they tailor their communications to their prospect. Finally, they take control of the sale by not being afraid to push back on their customer, and focusing more on the end goal rather than being liked.

How marketing could help support this method: design some email-friendly assets that connect your offering to big picture business issues that sales can quickly leverage in their outreach; organize and host a webinar that showcases experts in those kinds of big picture business issues without promoting your offering incessantly.

4. Sandler Sales

Subscribers to this method of selling seek to maintain a balanced level of investment -- a deviation from the traditional need to convince the buyer to go all in. Instead, Sandler Salespeople almost need to be convinced that the buyer is right for the sell before a sale will be made. If a rep discovers that their offering will not truly solve for the prospect, he or she will abandon the process and move onto the next opportunity.

How marketing could help support this method: be strategic in the way you communicate calls-to-action so prospects understand that fit is critical - your organization will not sell to anybody and everybody.   

5. GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Consequences, Implications)

An expansion of the traditional BANT framework that IBM initially came up with, the GPTCBA/C&I approach is founded on the premise that modern sellers have significantly less control in the sales cycle than they did before access to information was so easy. This new three-part framework is a great roadmap for exploratory calls to determine whether or not the prospect could truly benefit from your offering. 

In this much more detailed breakdown of each of the parts, Pete Caputa explains how the sales rep almost becomes a sales sherpa for someone navigating some treacherous pain points within their organization. Digging in on things like -- What have you tried before that didn’t work? What is your plan and how sure are you that it will work? What will happen if it doesn’t work? What are the consequences of inaction? -- the salesperson can inspire careful thought and build trust in the prospect. 

How marketing could help support this method: develop customer success stories that highlight the positive implications of a properly implemented/executed product/service, share testimonials that answer specific questions prospects often come up with to preempt them and build credibility, or build playbooks that highlight follow-up responses to challenges they uncover and suggest negative consequences based on different circumstances.

Sales Objectives & Tools of the Trade

Before going into battle, soldiers take the time to prepare their arsenal properly. Their weapons are their tools for doing their job effectively and with precision. Similarly, though significantly less brutal, salespeople should have a robust selection of finely-tuned tools to do their job with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.  

Key Objective #1: Understand and meet prospect’s buying criteria

Following the disciplines of their chosen sales methodology, sales reps should be able to uncover the potential buyer’s selection criteria. Whether the buyer knows exactly what information they need in order to move forward or not, you can bet that they generally will require some variation of the following: 

  • What is it? 
  • How will it help me? 
  • What is the price? 
  • Why should I buy it from you?
  • What if it doesn’t work or I don’t like it?
  • What’s the deal?

There are some common tools reps can lean on to improve their chances of getting through to the prospective buyer and increase their overall sales performance:

  • Positioning statement - crafted carefully to clearly convey exactly what you have to offer and to whom, your positioning statement should serve as your brand’s true north. If salesfolks can successfully weave this messaging into their earliest conversations, they should be able to check off a lot of those questions prospects have. 

I found this helpful formula that deconstructs a good positioning statement into its simplest parts: 

For [your audience], [your brand] is the [your market] that best delivers on [your brand promise] because [your brand], and only [your brand], is [your evidence]

  • Sound bites - a conversational snippet that is meant to capture the interest and attention of an engaged prospect. The most effective sound bites are basically compressed arguments that stick with the prospect in a nearly irrefutable way. These can support solid sales strategies through continual testing and refining to determine what resonates with buyers.

    Marketers could help feed these to the sales team or, conversely, sales could share their most successful sound bites with marketing to begin communicating a consistent message early and often. 
Key Objective #2: Overcome decision obstacles and/or objections

Prospects often have a lot on their plate and purchasing something may not always be the top priority. They frequently have to deal with internal fires, battle for additional resources, and keep up on their dedicated responsibilities. Top performing sales reps find new creative ways to make the buying process as easy and painless as possible on their prospective buyers. Marketers are generally very clever and can absolutely help to that end. 

Here are a couple tools sales reps rely on that could be supported or influenced by Marketing: 

  • Playbooks: these assets are intended to help salespeople navigate the conversations they’re having with prospects. They can include, but are not limited to: reminders about the types of information a rep needs to be uncovering (per the sales methodology), if/then responses to any one of many different scenarios a prospect could be coming from, follow-up statements to objections a prospect may present, references to specific success stories that could be from a similar industry or market position, etc.

  • Battle cards: a staple of most sales teams, competitive battle cards serve just one purpose: To help sales reps convince prospects to pick you over the competition. The competitive battle card is a popular resource that sales reps use to show prospects how and where your product wins.

    To create a battle card resource that sales will actually use, follow these steps:

    • Step 1: pick the competitors
    • Step 2: research them thoroughly (and as inconspicuously as possible)
    • Step 3: review with the Sales team
    • Step 4: design away!
      • Don’t stuff with fluff
      • Keep the design clean
    • Step 5: leverage them
      • Establish expectations (using them is not optional)
      • Centralize access to them and track usage
      • Keep them updated
      • Include them in training
Key Objective #3: Looking and listening for buying signals

Buying signals are the verbal, non-verbal, and/or digital indications of likelihood to purchase. It is important for salespeople to be insanely tuned into the prospect’s behavior so that when they’re ready to buy, the sales rep is ready to sell. These indicators could look something like:

  • Asking a question like “when can it be delivered?”
  • Returning to the pricing page several times
  • Forwarding a proposal to internal decision-makers

Help your sales team out by setting up any mechanisms to track these indicators or framing CTAs in a way that is consistent with the buying signals sales is looking for. 

The 6 Most Common Sales Roles You’ll Come Across

More sophisticated organizations may have some combination of various dedicated sales roles. Smaller organizations may have folks in hybrid roles wearing a lot of hats. Generally speaking, many of the functions will be similar in nature. To align yourself effectively as a Marketer, it’ll be important to understand who you’re working with in order to “go where they are.”

Inside Sales Rep: somewhat ambiguous and synonomous with "remote sales rep," inside reps work with very engaged prospects to find what they want, create solutions, and ensure a smooth sales transition from prospect to customer. They aren't typically responsible for closing enterprise-level deals since larger deals tend to close after a series of face-to-face meetings. Inside sales reps might cover the whole gamut of sales activity, working to find new sales leads, nurture those leads, and ultimately close them into customers. 

Sales Development Rep (SDR): a type of inside sales rep that solely focuses on outbound prospecting. A bit of a misnomer, an SDR is not actually selling anything; rather, they are generating leads. They are often given lead lists by marketing and then they are expected to email/call prospects in order to qualify which leads quota-carrying sales reps should spend their time with. This enables closers to spend more time selling to qualified leads and unburdens sales executives from having to engage in prospecting.

Business Development Rep (BDR): traditionally, these reps are responsible for creating high-level strategic alliances with other organizations who can cross-sell and cross promote. They don’t necessarily close business, but are good at building long-term relationships.

Fields Sales Rep: this is typically a client-facing role which involves traveling around to hold meetings with clients and prospects as the representative of a company, its products, and services. And while there is a tremendous amount of paperwork and administrative activity that generally accompanies a field sales role, the focus is always on the client-facing aspect of the job.

Sales Engineer: the role of sales engineers generally is technical in nature; it typically involves translating and communicating highly complex technical information to prospects and customers, often focusing on revealing how a product or piece of equipment can solve specific problems. In the current marketplace, they play a critical role in the modern sales process.

Account Executive: this person typically serves as the main point of contact for the client through the servicing process once a sale has been made. They are responsible for maintaining the relationship and coordinating any kind of fulfillment relevant to the contract.

Again, if you plan to successfully create content your sales reps will actually use, it will be critical for you to understand their role and how they fit into the buyer's journey. That way, you'll be able to better connect their message to their particular part of the decision-making process prospects must go through.

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Our Sales Enablement team has been working closely with both sales reps and marketers to develop revenue-generating engines. To do that, they combine powerful tools with valuable content to engage prospective buyers in a process where decision-making is easy. We would love to learn more about the challenges you face as a marketer trying to generate sales-ready content. 


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