Simple answer: Buyers appreciate sellers who address their business problems with results-based success stories in their FIRST meeting!
I passionately explain to Sales and Marketing leaders that reps are losing 80% of potential qualified sales opportunities by presenting the standard 30-40 slide PowerPoint Corporate Overview in initial buyer meetings. So, what are the top 10% of B2B sales reps selling complex solutions, involving lengthy sales cycles, doing different to consistently beat their competitors? (See simple answer above.)
Let’s start with understanding (or denying) the issues by reviewing some proven research from industry experts about today’s B2B competitive landscape and challenges sales reps face every day:
#1. Buyers are well educated about potential sellers’ solutions, more stakeholders are involved in the decision process, and sales presentations are overwhelming our buyers early in the sales cycle.
At the 2016 Corporate Executive Board (CEB) Sales & Marketing Summit three numbers got the early conference attention of attendees:
- 57% – Percent of research and learning time spent by buyers BEFORE engaging seller sales teams starting the due diligence through customer purchase decision sales process. More empowered buyers set minimum acceptable threshold of performance by sales teams in the early stage critical meetings with sales teams. More buyers eliminate sellers after a single meeting!
- 6.8 – Number of key stakeholders in a large diverse buying group; an increase from 5.4 in 2015. Drives decision process to “lowest common denominator” consensus setting expectations for sales teams showing relevant content early and often.
- 39% – Percent of buyers that are overwhelmed during the sales process. Sales teams experience more difficult purchasing experience driving buyer abandonment (silence) and regret (adoption). Sellers revert to pushing content to buyer’s already crowded inbox!
#2. Forrester Research found close to 80% of sales meetings accepted by executive decision makers failed to address their business issues, and sales teams did not come prepared to share relevant examples of case studies. As a result, 4 of 5 potential qualified opportunities (i.e. MQLs and SQLs) were silently (not found in CRM) lost early. If your average solution drives $250,000 in revenue and you have 20, 200, or 2000+ reps…you do the math…calculate the increased revenue by adding only 1 additional qualified opportunity per rep in a fiscal year at current close rates! Plus, Forrester did another eye-opening study showing the critical importance of being the “…first vendor to show a clear path to value…” citing the critical importance of sales teams coming prepared to early buyer meetings.
#3. Richardson Sales Training directly states, “Sellers must bring relevant insights and ideas to create value in the buying process.” Marketing-developed content must be created with insights and ideas for key sales meetings with better educated and more empowered buyers early in sales process. A simple depiction of the early qualification stage (MQL) leading to a sales presentation (SQL) is:
These early sales meetings are not exhibition games for pushing 30-40 standard PPT slides to hope something connects with the audience. These critical meetings must be treated as “win-lose” events; sales teams must come prepared with the right content and consistent messaging specific to the prospect’s industry. The industry leader in B2B sales training, Richardson, summarizes it best, “Sales Professionals who prepare and deliver meetings of high value to a buyer win deals 3.6 times more than their peers.”
The Sales and Marketing Dilemma
The selling environment with access to marketing resources through digital channels has never been both more exciting and more frustrating for sales reps. Why with today’s major investments in sales training, marketing collateral, sales asset management solutions etc. did a CSO Insights study conclude, “59% of a sales person’s time is not spent selling as they are burdened with other activities hunting for the right selling content and resources.”? The answer is common sense. There are too many choices to make for sales reps preparing for customer meetings (i.e. sales presentation, industry, case study, Video? etc.). Most busy reps defer to, you guessed it, the Corporate Overview. Our buyers have adapted to the digital transformation for research, social media due diligence and seller review process (seller websites are great today!), so sending sales teams into a customer meeting with a 30-40 static PowerPoint deck is a sure recipe to be in the Forrester 80% category of failed meetings.
Digital Value Propositions with Interactive Content is what Buyers Expect from Sales Teams
The best value propositions in sales presentations package existing content already available on your website (i.e. whitepapers, research studies, case studies, videos), and deliver it in a digital, sales-ready, customer-appealing format (charts, graphics, key points) that includes flexibility to address buyer inquiries about data, plus quantified and financial results your solution delivers (i.e. calculator-driven TCO or ROI results).
Here’s an example of how a 40-page PPT sales presentation for a high tech software solution has been enhanced with digital and interactive content presented in only five views designed to interact and engage buyers early in a business conversation:
- The meeting starts by establishing credibility with 1-3 introductory slides addressing meeting objectives, a brief company overview, and relevant content about their expertise in the customer’s industry (i.e. securities trading compliance) “We have many satisfied customers achieving outstanding results in your industry.”
- The rep presents a typical industry-related Value Proposition crisply articulating “What we do for our customers” and encourages a business conversation with attendees to secure agreement, disagreement or review questions relative to the key industry business drivers.
- Sales team shares typical business results (case study content) derived from successful customers, based on specific data assumptions, showing improvement in achieved results, such as, cost reductions, increase revenue, lower discount levels, risk avoidance, etc., plus, relevant TCO and ROI outcomes. “Based on these qualitative and quantitative results, which areas interest you most based on your specific challenges you’re facing today?” If stakeholders want to dig deeper into the numbers or change some business data assumptions to make them closer to their data (i.e. increase the assumed 10,000 employees to 15,000) the sales team can use the calculator functionality to insert customer data and show new results.
Most good sales opportunities are LOST in early customer meetings by field and inside sales teams that do not present the customer value of your offerings. Best-in-class marketing teams create Digital Value Proposition sales presentations that are easy to find by reps, fit the specific solution for their meeting in the customer’s industry, and are “sales-ready”. Sales will experience faster engagement and collaboration from buyers by proactively presenting typical case study business drivers and results achieved by your typical customers driving up to 25% more competitive wins.