Naked sales reps won't adopt customer reference content.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
We've completed several client engagements already this year, many of them around metrics and assessing business impact, and around aligning reference programs with sales organizations and revenue. During those, and many others, we've seen - and many of you have echoed - the reality that it's a real challenge to get sales to adopt and use the program. How many times have you heard: "We need a success story that does this" and "We need a centralized program that manages references"? Yet invariably, those stories do exist, as does a central program. So what's the problem? Awareness. Awareness is a real challenge; one that can be overcome through value-add communication and education vehicles into the sales force. What we've uncovered - and what you can affect today - is what we've internally coined Cape Fear. It's the fear that sales reps have about using customer reference content, videos and case studies. Why though? Why the fear? As we ask more sales reps, as we ask Tim Misuradze, our own senior consultant and former sales executive, and as we ask our delivery team to dig into client success story inventories, we find that sales reps don't tap into the output of customer reference programs (namely success stories) for three common reasons: 1) They don't know how to effectively leverage reference customers and content during the sales cycle. 2) They're unaware that the information and reference relationships they're looking for exist and, in many cases, that there is a formal program. 3) They don't need your help because they're superstars who can sell igloos to Eskimos. (This is rare, of course!) If you're reading this blog, you probably have a plan in place to identify and address some of these issues. If not, let's talk.... And as if those three challengers to adoption aren't enough, we continue to regularly see one more: the "lightness" of success stories due to the limitations imposed by customers' PR and legal departments. In many of our engagements and meetings with sales professionals, we're finding that reps are afraid of their lack of knowledge about a specific customer being "exposed" by questions that inevitably follow when a prospective customer reads a success story or watches a video. Imagine a successful sales meeting during which a set of ROI numbers are put "out there" on the screen, or during which a really sexy video is shown. It's all well and good - that is, until the prospective customer starts asking questions that the sales rep can't answer; until the prospective customer starts asking for information the rep doesn't know how to obtain. So consider these things when building content, delivering it to sales and evaluating its impact. We've worked with our clients to address and overcome the first three adoption challengers, but are hearing more and more sales reps talk about being "exposed" and about the lack of context and direction in how to successfully enable them to use reference materials. If you give sales reps customer content without background intelligence surrounding it, adoption will be affected. Companies in every industry are trying to find ways to reduce the sales cycle - customer reference programs and content are charged with doing so. However, if the treasures you uncover and cultivate are never used, you miss an incredible opportunity. While we're finding that awareness is a common issue, what's worse is that we're finding a reluctance among sales reps to use reference tools because they fear those tools will expose them - make them naked - and actually extend or elongate the sales cycle. Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org