You Aren’t Preparing Your Reps to Make Sales Calls!

Recently Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power, gave a presentation for an audience of Ohio-based sales leaders in the technology industry. Here are some of the key facts from his presentation that struck me as particularly interesting.

  • 45% of salespeople frequently feel ill-prepared to have an initial conversation with a prospect (Selling Power research)
  • Only 13% of customers believe salespeople can demonstrate an understanding of their business challenges and how to solve them (Forrester research)
  • 65% of a salesperson’s time is spent not selling (Forrester research)

If these statistics apply to your sales team, then it should send a clear message to your product marketing teams: there is a disconnect between what you are doing and what you should be doing. It is clearly one of the roles of product marketing to ensure that sales is trained and given the tools and information to have a conversation with a prospect and demonstrate how your offerings can address the prospect’s business challenges.  Marketing should arm salespeople with a business case and equip them to cost justify your solution and talk economics with the customer or prospect.

If sales teams don’t feel prepared, everyone should be concerned — and that’s not limited to marketing. If 45% of salespeople never feel prepared, then sales management is probably not doing enough support as well (which could include coaching and/or training). In addition, salespeople should take personal responsibility for their own performance.  If you’re not getting proper support to do your job well, it’s up to you to ask for or find those resources.

I would also argue that it’s the job of both sales and marketing to have an open dialogue about how to help and support each other. According to data from IDC, 40% of marketing assets are never used by sales. Why? The assets are either difficult or impossible to customize, hard to find, or in the wrong format. If you’re in marketing and sales is not using your collateral, it’s in your best interest to be curious about that and dig for more information.

To win, salespeople need to be able to explain to a prospect they understand his or her business challenges. They also need to be able to prove, in clear financial terms, how they can help solve those business challenges. In most cases, strong assets from product marketing can help bridge that gap.

Does your sales team feel prepared to make sales calls? Do you feel your marketing team adequately supports your sales reps? Share your feedback in the comments section. 

Strengthen Your Sales Pitch with a Business Case

During my conversation with Kevin Purcell of Hewlett Packard some weeks ago, we discussed the idea that a business case has become a staple of success in sales. Not only has it become a staple, but we also agreed that this is a permanent condition.

Here’s more context. When the economy was good, sales and marketing would generally expect to rely on deeper pockets and looser budgets. CFOs or other budget-minded decision makers were not necessarily as likely to be involved in every purchasing decision, unless it was a major investment. However, in a slow economy, a strong business case was necessary to get budget allocated even for smaller investments. Without solid numbers to support their position, sales and marketing didn’t have a lot of leverage to close deals.

What I see happening now is a permanent shift toward needing a business case. Whether the economy is soft or strong, everyone is thinking like CFOs and scrutinizing projects for indication of a measurable ROI. For example, this recent blog post, “Six Steps to Building a Better Business Case,” on takes for granted that a business case is a necessary component of a successful sales pitch. The very first question they advise asking when assembling a business case is “What is the potential value in this situation?”

“A strong business case begins with a logical financial and strategic foundation for value creation.  If you are selling a product, this is as simple as explaining why the product creates more value for the customer than any alternative. If you are selling the idea of a business partnership, you’ll want to focus on why the partnership will create a high return on investment.”

The days of being able to “wing it” and close deals without a compelling economic business case and cost justification are over.  The new normal requires that we all help customers to cost justify our solution to be included in the business case portion of their budget authorization.  If you aren’t doing that, then chances are you aren’t closing as you should be.

What are you doing to help customers cost justify the investment in your solution?

Three Ways to Rev Up Your B2B Demand Gen Results with Online Calculators

Most marketers would agree—effective business-to-business demand generation revolves around three tenets:

  • Customize the message,
  • Encourage involvement,
  • Demonstrate financial benefits.

Fortunately, online value calculators meet all three of these masters. In fact, every day, sales reps use these calculators to successfully shorten the sales cycle and close deals. And many (if not most) B2B marketers have a calculator or two parked on their corporate websites.

But imagine the power of online value calculators when they are put directly in front of a larger group of prospects. Easy-to-use calculators that ask a few simple questions are a great way to help your prospects take the first step in understanding the value your solution can bring to their business. They can help you:

1. Spark an immediate reaction that generates more leads. As offers go, online calculators are uniquely engaging; prospects often find themselves interacting with the tool before they know it. Whether you ask your respondent to profile before using the calculator to maximize lead collection, or require them to profile to download a summary report to optimize lead quality, calculators are a proven way to generate stronger click-through and response rates than other, more traditional offers.

2. Engage prospects in ways that improve lead quality and conversion. A prospect who has used your online value calculator now understands your solution and its potential value to his or her business. Although other forms of online content (such as white papers, videos and infographics, for example) can be effective offers, they don’t have the power to provide a custom assessment of your solution’s financial benefits.

Engaging email featuring an online calculator.

Engaging email featuring an online calculator.

3. Cultivate existing leads and thus shorten the sales cycle.
In addition to lead generation, online value calculators are ideal for use as part of lead nurturing. Exposure to one of these tools can take top-of-funnel leads and move them along the lead qualification spectrum by demonstrating to them the specific financial upside of your solution.

Ultimately, the best way to make the most of your online value calculator is to build a demand generation campaign around the tool. First, create a microsite to host the calculator and tell your marketing story. Drive prospects to the microsite by promoting it on your corporate website, promotional microsites, or in third-party media buys. Showcase the online calculator in email to cross-sell and up-sell current customers and prospects, or feature it in lead nurture streams. Plus, include links to your online calculator in your online user communities and social media properties.

No matter how you target your customers and prospects, a demand generation program built around an online calculator is an ideal way to ensure a wider audience has every opportunity to understand the true value of your solution.

Is it your experience that online calculators are more successful than other offers? Have demand generation campaigns focused around the tool provided a boost to your results. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

This article was written by Linda Lucido, Partner and Planning Director of Integrated Marketing Partners (

Overcoming Objections in a Complex Sales Cycle

Learning how to overcome objections is an essential selling skill. It also takes time and experience. This is particularly true for sales teams with a long and complex sales cycle.

With that in mind, here are links to four of our most popular blog posts related to overcoming different kinds of customer objections during a complex sales cycle.

Make labor savings believable with customers

Prevent objections in the first place

Persuading the CFO

What to do customer asks for a revised report/business case

What’s the biggest objection you hear from customers, and what is your response?