By Michael Cannon
It’s common-sensical – your messaging must support your sales cycle. Yet, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the majority of companies, and the Sales and Marketing executives that run them, don’t follow this “common sense” principle. They don’t align their messaging with the phases in their sales cycle.
The good news is that this is changing rapidly. Thought leaders in Sales and Marketing are finding that this shift improves their competitiveness and market share. Unfortunately, those who fail to change are leading their firms into decline – and are destined to be replaced. The logic of the idea and results it produces are just too compelling to ignore.
What You Need to Know
There are four things that you need to do to align your messaging with the phases in your sales cycle. They are:
- Get clear on how persuasive messaging is different from descriptive messaging
- Understand the phases of the sales cycle for each of your products and services
- Appreciate what the primary goal is for each phase in the sales cycle
- Know the buyer’s primary buying question in each phase of the sales cycle
Persuasive messaging is defined as providing a clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable answer to your buyer’s primary buying question. As the product or service moves through the sales cycle, the primary buying question can or will change – and your answer must shift to accommodate it, so that the right message is delivered at the right point in the sales cycle. Defining persuasive messaging in this way differentiates it from all other messaging categories, styles, and types.
Use the table below to help you gain clarity on the typical sales cycle phases, as well as the primary goals and buying questions that must be answered to achieve each goal.
Buyer Questions in the Sales Cycle for an Early Stage Product or Service
Primary Buyer Question
Create a Meeting
Why should I meet with you?
Create Demand for Your Company’s Offering
Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?
Create an Order for Your Company
Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?
As you can see, the sales cycle has distinct phases, each with its own goal and buying question that must be persuasively answered to achieve the goal. For an emerging-market product, the first-phase goal is to create a meeting. This is achieved by providing a compelling answer to the buying question, “Why should I meet with you?” Clearly, this is a critically important question – as most sales cannot occur without a meeting or conversation. Yet, most companies do a terrible job of answering this question. They try to create meetings by saying something like:
“Hi, this is Michael Cannon with the Silver Bullet Group. We help companies dramatically improve sales and marketing effectiveness by implementing persuasive messaging. I’d like to schedule a meeting to talk with you about this innovative service. When would be a good time to meet?”
Sound familiar? Let’s look at this from the buyer’s perspective. What they hear is: “I’d like to take an hour of your time to tell you all about what we do and ask you a bunch of questions to determine if you’re a good prospect for me.”
This is not a compelling answer to “Why should I meet with you?” But, when we understand what the key buying question is, we might say something like:
“Hi, this is Michael Cannon with the Silver Bullet Group. We have helped hundreds of companies engage customers with much more influential communications, like marketing content and sales conversations. The typical result is a 15% increase in win rates and revenue. So, I’m calling because I thought you might want to evaluate this idea and determine for yourself if you could use it to create similar results for your company. When would be a good time to meet?”
Do you see the difference? The buyer learns exactly what they will get for their time – an opportunity to evaluate an idea which has produced quantifiable results. The point of view shifts from “What Can the Buyer Do for You?” to “What Can You Do for the Buyer?”
Persuasive messaging is strategic when it supports the phases in the sales cycle
Once you’ve created a meeting, the next phase in the sales cycle is to create demand for your offering by answering the buyer question, “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?” The answer to this question has very little to do with your company. The primary goal, at this early phase, is to create a market opportunity by articulating a compelling reason to change from the current solution to a new or better solution.
With the opportunity created, the final phase of the sales cycle is to create an order for your company by answering the buyer question, “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?” The answer to this question must focus on competitive differentiation. The primary goal, at this later phase, is to create a compelling reason to buy the solution from your company, rather than from the competition.
A Real World Example
Let’s contrast the principle that persuasive messaging must support the phases in the sales cycle with the messaging in much of today’s marketing collateral. The example below is a product description of McNetwork’s Gallant, which says:
Today’s growing enterprise needs to reduce costs and make the best use of storage equipment—and they must find new solutions to simplify diverse storage networking environments. The Gallant delivers the solution. The Gallant acts as the “backbone” of the enterprise data center—it delivers the unmatched availability, performance and scalability you need to support your most important data and carry the highest data traffic. With Gallant’s MaxPar™ technology (hard partitioning), you can consolidate your multi-vendor fabrics while maintaining secure separation by data, management and Fibre Channel Services. With “carrier-class” availability, dynamic port allocation and intelligent fabric services, it’s the ideal backbone for your enterprise.
What buying questions is this paragraph trying to answer? Below, this product messaging blurb is parsed into its component parts:
Some of the messaging seems to be answering the question “Why Buy a New Network Storage Device?”
- Reduce costs
- Make the best use of storage equipment
- Simplify diverse storage networking environments
- Consolidate your multi-vendor fabrics
- Maintain secure separation
And some of the messaging seems to be answering the question “Why Buy a New Network Storage Device from McNetwork?”
- Unmatched availability, performance and scalability
- The highest data traffic
Then there are more messaging statements that don’t seem to answer either question. They seem to fit best as features in a Product Description, such as:
- “Backbone” of the enterprise data center
- “Carrier-class” availability
- Dynamic port allocation
- Intelligent fabric services
As descriptive product messaging, it’s pretty good. It includes a feature and benefit overview of what the product does and how it works, and contains some decent statements about the value the buyer might get by buying.
From a persuasive messaging perspective, it’s not so good. The answers to the buyer’s key buying questions are scattered across the paragraph, making it hard to follow and comprehend. And, when you gather up all the answers to the buying questions, you can see that the answers are not compelling.
This is a representative example of what most companies produce today, and why customers and sales teams consider less than 50% of collateral produced by Marketing to be useful. As Sales and Marketing executives, we MUST make sure our staffs are creating compelling answers to the buyer’s primary buying questions, and then aligning these messages with the key phases in the sales cycle. The results are better alignment of the buy/sell cycle, better communication with the buyer, and dramatic improvements in sales and marketing effectiveness.
Resources to Implement the Most Influential Customer Communications
Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned marketing and sales effectiveness expert, best-selling author, speaker and an authority on enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications. For more information visit www.silverbulletgroup.com