Founder sells — but no one else measures up

Dear Reader, this week I had the pleasure of meeting senior executives in three small firms. What was really interesting was the fact that all three men complained about the identical problem.

The Problem: Sales = Founder only (VP of Sales, Managing Director, etc.).
Only does the Founder or other senior exec offer the expertise and knowledge to sell successfully. Prospects trust them implicitly.

New salespeople, regardless of industry experience, are not successful. What is a company to do?

What is the effect of the problem? Our founder (VP, Sales, etc.) have limited bandwidth. Our business won’t scale. We’re in a rut.

Two of the the three companies were completely rethinking and reorganizing their sales organization. However, these executives were confused and groping for answers.

What will fix the problem once and for all — so that we can scale our business, build out sales teams and grow operating profits?

My good friend and mentor, Ms. Jill Konrath, recently penned an excellent article on identifying sales personas and addressing the needs of each. But I’d like to take a simpler and actionable approach.

Here is the step by step action I recommend you think over and consider launching in your firm:

  1. Collect all the prosposals and customer interactions from the last 2 or 3 years. Read through these to learn how the company is addressing the needs of its target market.
  2. Get your most senior sales and marketing people in a room with a whiteboard (They can bring their staffs if desired) On the whiteboard, sketch out answers to these questions:
  3. Identify your ideal target profile.
    What does an ideal customer look like?
  4. Identify target excutives, such as a Chief Marketing Officer.
    How does the absence of our offering impact him or her?
  5. Agree on a common definition of a lead. What does a lead look like?
  6. Hammer out a sales process that matches a customer buying process.
    Make sure you identify the stages and actions that both you and your firm take. For instance, we may have a discovery session, while the prospect forms a team and documents needs.
  7. Figure out how the founder or most senior sales leader would talk to prospects in each stage. Document these conversations.
  8. Develop the content for salespeople — emails, voicemails, case studies, white papers, podcasts, webinars, etc. Salespeople need to be empowered.
  9. Figure out a delivery mechanism. For instance, he could click on the industry, title and buying process step and the portal will recommend key challenges to look for and key things to say.

    Your goal is to empower each salesperson to say the right thing to the right person at right moment. Harness technology to deliver this.

Please review the article below by marketing expert, Tim Riesterer. He provides even more detail.

By Tim Riesterer, CEO CMM Forum (

In today’s rapidly commoditizing marketplace, the customer conversation is fast-becoming the last bastion of competitive differentiation. A company’s ability to create a solution and communicate value is literally in the hands of, and on the lips of, our sales people.

So, how does a company make sure the right conversations are taking place across a disparate sales force with varying skill levels?

This article will provide a quick look at six (6) steps for aligning marketing strategy with sales execution—to maximize impact at the all important point of customer conversation. The process outlined is based on the concepts presented in a recently released book called Customer Message Management.

1. Create a Customer Message Map
Every organization should document the key conversations their salespeople need to have with your targeted customer decision makers at each step of an identified customer buying process—this is called your Customer Message Map:

  • Determine target market segment
  • Name the buyer roles that will be part of the decision-making process
  • Map their buying cycle from “untroubled” to “purchase decision”
  • Identify the key conversations that must take place at each step

2. Conduct a Cross-Functional Messaging Workshop
To populate your Customer Message Map, you need to gather your top sales people with your best marketing subject matter experts in a facilitated workshop to determine the most pressing customer business objectives, relevant challenges and appropriate responses—this is called the Cross-Functional Messaging Workshop:

  • Identify the top 5 business objectives that each decision maker wants help with
  • Uncover the top 3 challenges/problems keeping them from meeting each objective
  • Align our 3 best capabilities that directly address and overcome these challenges
  • Articulate the value customers can expect if we help them in this way
  • Link our best customer testimonial that proves we’ve done this successfully

3. Create a Conversational Roadmap
Based on the inputs from the Cross-Functional Messaging Workshop, you can now build out your company’s best story, taking care to create all of the messaging components needed to help guide sales people through a consistent, high-quality consultative dialogue:

  • Opportunity Development messages including probing questions and relevant insights and provocative proof point statements
  • Solution Mapping messages including diagnostic questions, what-if scenarios and relevant capabilities
  • Value Creation messages including contextual value propositions, key differentiators and solution summaries
  • Messaging validation with sales, marketing and customer decision makers

4. Customer Buying Cycle (Sales Cycle)-Relevant Tools
The Conversational Roadmap serves as a core content library that can be leveraged to build and populate sales tool templates and outputs that align with the identified customer buying cycle and help ensure consistent messaging throughout the customer conversation:

  • Appointment Getting tools such as one-minute messages, call prompters, email templates that grab attention and convince key decision makers to meet
  • First Call tools such as talk tracks, discovery prompters and proof points to help identify and confirm problems and needs and establish credibility
  • Follow-Up tools such as confirmation of needs letters and solution brief leave-behinds that establish an opportunity and gain customer commitment to next steps
  • Solution Development tools such as presentations and value summary proposals that present capabilities and potential business value in the customer’s context

5. Certify Conversational Competency
Ensure the successful application of this new messaging and sales tools by training, practicing and coaching sales reps on how to have the best possible conversation with customers:

  • Establish sales training sessions
  • Review customer buying process
  • Demonstrate new messaging and tool alignment
  • Role play sales calls (appointment calls, discovery calls, solution presentations)

6. Provide Just-in-Time, Opportunity-Specific Access
Once sales people are back in the field they need quick, easy access to a single, online content repository with an intuitive interface to help them find and use the right messaging and tools they need at the right point in a customer conversation:

  • “Situational interview” interface asks questions about the customer opportunity
    This filters and “pushes” the right messaging and tools at the right time
  • “What do you need to do today” questions guide them most appropriate choices

Dynamic assembly allows sales people to personalize and customize outputs

These six steps will help your marketing and sales teams rally around a common approach to creating messages and tools that
1) reflect the conversations sales people should have with customers and
2) provide support that works the way customers want to engage in—and sales people should conduct—a consultative dialogue.

“The Customer Message Management process gives our company the ability to focus on the client in order to create compelling messages that can be leveraged in sales conversations, presentations and proposals in a way that we’ve been unable to achieve before.” ~ Kelli Stephenson, Director of Sales Support, Experian

Join the free Customer Message Management community dialogue at
Good Luck and Good Selling,

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