The most effective enterprise sales tools are those that are meaningful and relevant to the customer target audience at “their moment in time”. Understanding this moment in time requires a vendor to understand the customer’s buying process, the personas involved in the purchase decision and their specific motivation, needs and objectives.
A vendor’s sales cycle should always align to a customer’s buying cycle. Most enterprise buying cycles include the following stages: Evaluate, Justify and Select (although these vary by organization). At each sales or buying stage (we should be able to use these terms interchangeably as they must be aligned for an efficient and effective sales cycle) it is important to understand not only the customer’s motivation, needs and objectives but the customer’s desired communication format as well.
Enterprise Sales Tools – Evaluate Stage
At the Evaluate Stage of the customer’s buying process, he or she is usually focused on the advantages and disadvantages of a solution. Customer needs at this stage tend to center around brand, quality, solution and/or price. The enterprise sales tools preferred re comparison sites, eBooks, topical blog posts, forums, testimonials, demos, feature comparison matrixes and social networks.
Enterprise Sales Tools – Justify Stage
Next, customers will attempt to justify the purchase. Fear, uncertainty and doubt can begin to creep in and if this happens, he or she will need reassurance that the solution is a good investment offering significant value with minimal risk. Customers at this stage also need to understand the risk factors such as cost, support, service and training. As such, sales tools should include FAQs, testimonials, proof of concept, benchmarking reports, case studies and analyst reports. It’s also critical during this stage to make sure not only the customer champion is convinced but that the champion is empowered to sell to the rest of the organization. This is because frequently this internal selling happens without the presence of the sales rep.
Enterprise Sales Tools – Select Stage
At the Select Stage, the customer must be able to answer the “why” question when asked by the next level of management (even the CEO has to answer to someone–the board.) The customer must be well-versed in the buying options, terms and details as well as the process for implementation and support. They must be comfortable with those details as well as their ability to sell or manage any internal resistance. Productive sales tools at this stage typically include pricing guides, ROI and TCO calculators, customer satisfaction studies, net promoter scores, in-person events and references.
Internal Sales Advocates
Because enterprise sales cycles can span many months, it is impossible for the sales rep to be part of all conversations or have strong relationships with everyone involved in the purchase decision. An enterprise sale can involve twenty people or more when the price tag exceeds six digits. As such, it is critical to for the sales rep to prepare internal advocates with the right information in the right format and at the right time so they can effectively manage the customer buying process internally. In addition, the chain itself has become rather complex – marketing and sales enablement prepare the sales rep and the sales rep prepares the internal advocate to move the deal forward. .
The Sales Cycle & Buying Cycle
In general, functions such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR and IT typically play a big role in the customer buying process. To further complicate the sales cycle, for each organizational function included in the buying process includes strategic as well as operational personas. The messages or value drivers created for each audience or persona must be specific, meaningful, relevant, defensible and delivered at the right time and in the right format—collateral, face-to-face or digital-web, image, audio, video.
It’s also critical for sales and marketing to have a well-documented target account profile of the prospect with the highest propensity to purchase. With this mutually agreed to foundational building block, demand management, product marketing and sales enablement can create effective and appropriate sales tools for each audience.
Track Sales Tools Effectiveness
Sales tools are no different than people in that both require a 360 degree view to determine and track their effectiveness:
The sales tool creators’ contact information should be provided to the reps so they can follow-up with questions and obtain responses in a timely manner.
Publish and Expiration Dates
All sales tools are perishable so it’s important to include both a publish date and an expiration date. Also, the sales tools creators should be notified before sales tools expire so that either replacements or updates can be made or the sales tool retired.
All sales people using a particular sales tool should note the deals the tools were used in, the title and role of the people presented with the tools and the stage of the sales cycle.
Feedback from the sales team and from customers should be collected to evaluate the effectiveness of each enterprise sales resource. A scoring system is useful when allocating resources and determining timelines for creating and updating sales tools.
The most effective enterprise sales tools are tailored for a specific persona at a specific stage in the customer buying process. The terms customer buying process and sales process can be used interchangeably if the two are aligned and understood. The ultimate term used will depend on whether the discussion is from the point of view of the customer or the vendor.
Enterprise sales tools should be considered “customer buying process enablers” when they are presented to an individual inside an enterprise. These enterprise sales tools or customer buying process enablers take on a life of their own inside a customer’s walls. If sales tools are constructed from this perspective they will empower internal evangelists to “sell” even when a salesperson is not present–the sales tool itself or the recipient of the piece will carry the torch forward. This scenario should be the standing construct when all sales tools are created.
The focus should be to arm internal champions with the enterprise sales tools that they need to sell internally. The format, delivery and access of sales tools is key and developing microsites to support the buying process is a great idea to distribute, manage and track resources and usage of sales tools that have been distributed to customers. The goal of an enterprise sales tool should be to advance a customer forward in the customer buying process. Granted, sales reps are the intermediary between your organization and the customer but the final result is to address a specific customer objective, motivation or need, at a specific point in time, with meaningful and relevant content that will force action.