lost_confused_signMuch has been written about sales conversations and the need for salespeople to add more value into those conversations.  In my February post Increase Sales Productivity by Increasing Sales Competency I wrote about salespeople struggling with their “conversation conversions”.  The number of salespeople making quota has declined again this past year to 58.1%, according to Jim Dickie at CSO Insights and the number of companies achieving their revenue goals has also declined to 81.4% this past year.   We need a sales productivity increase…we need to win more business.

So here’s the question: should we invest in technologies and processes to increase the number of conversations (leads) or should we invest in increasing the conversation conversion rate? Most of us agree that salespeople need to have “effective value-add conversations” with buyers that address their specific needs over the course of their buying cycle.  But why are the salespeople so unsure, lost and perplexed about the nature of these conversations?  Having these value-add conversations is the surest way to differentiate your products and/or services, shorten the buying cycle, increase the deal size and ultimately win the business.

Well, maybe it’s not that simple.  Let’s dig a little deeper.

Critical Sales Content to Support the Conversation

In order for the salesperson to add value to the conversation, he/she needs to address:

  1. the concerns of the specific buyer,
  2. at a specific point in the buying process,
  3. for a specific product, in a specific industry,
  4. all while certain competitors are evaluated.

In order for the salesperson to add meaningful value to the buyer in these conversations, they must be prepared to communicate and discuss:

  • Key Messages – to best position the company’s unique value propositions
  • Insights – such as what other companies in their industry are doing to solve similar problems
  • Goals – each buying persona is trying to achieve
  • Questions – relevant to the buyer’s challenges and how the company’s solutions can help
  • Competition – in an intelligent, non-disparaging manner and how the company’s solutions differ\
  • Objections – typically asked by the buyer and the best responses

To fully grasp the enormity of “effective value-add conversations”, look at this example of a sales communication matrix.  If a salesperson calls on 8 industries, with 3 sub-verticals, with 6 different buying personas, 6 key conversational elements across 4 different solutions, that represents a total of 3,456 different sales conversation scenarios.

Sales_Content_Matrix

WOW, so we’re expecting a salesperson to keep 3,456 different value-add conversations in their head…. IMPOSSIBLE!!!   It’s easy to see how overwhelming it is for a salesperson to have a true value-add conversation if they don’t have the means to curate all this content in advance of the conversation.  And it’s even more daunting when the content about customers, products, industries, competitors, etc. is constantly changing.  No wonder so many salespeople abbreviate the conversation and go right to the demonstration or talking about their product and their company.

What’s Your Number?

The number of unique value-add conversation combinations will vary among companies.  Obviously if you’re a small start-up company with one product, you’ll have a smaller number of combinations.  If you’re a larger company with many products, multiple channels and international sales coverage, your number of combinations will be substantially higher.   My suggestion is to do the math. Prepare a “sales conversation matrix” for your sales team and develop an appreciation of the challenge your salespeople face when trying to add value to their conversations.  You’ll then be in a better position to formulate a strategy to increase their effectiveness. Salespeople are struggling with their “conversation conversions”. This is proven by the low lead-to-opportunity conversion rates sales teams are experiencing, the difficulty of moving opportunities from stage to stage and then converting the opportunities to wins. Investing in “efficiency” technologies to have more conversations –  the same “bad/poor” conversations that are producing low conversion rates today – isn’t going to increase your sales productivity as much as investing in strategies focused on “effectiveness”. We believe that in today’s competitive selling environment, sales leaders need to initiate and invest in an effective  sales content strategy to increase the salesperson’s ability to add value to the buyer/seller conversation. A well designed and implemented sales content strategy will result in making the salespeople more competent, confident and successful.

I’d welcome your comments and love to hear how many unique conversations you’ve mapped in your “sales conversation matrix”. To learn more about sales content to support conversations, check out our ebook Strategy for Mobile Sales Enablement.