I see so many sales people going into battle unarmed.  Not just lacking the right materials but the right value proposition and differentiators.  So they have to hack away in the Commodity Sand Trap, chasing large quantities of prospects and hosting luxury suite or Scotch tasting events.

When the Marketing Gods do hand down a carefully crafted elevator pitch, it’s usually so crammed full of generic pablum and complex jargon that the customer either drifts off to sleep or has to hire a lexicographer to decode it. So Sales dutifully tosses it and creates their own version–which is usually more connected to the target audience’s real world situations.

Let’s be clear: It is Marketing’s job to develop a razor sharp value proposition and hyper-relevant differentiators. They need to “hear through” the feedback from sales (and other sources) about why customers do and don’t buy and be able to abstract or boil the information up (or down) to its essence. Developing a great value prop and differentiators requires two things:

  • You have to actually say something: No vaporous phrases like “multi-point solution provider” are allowed. For them to stick and have any impact, the value prop and differentiators have to have some teeth. Which means you have to stand something–preferably one thing–and trim away the fat. Invariably, someone in the organization (perhaps even the CEO) will say, “You left out the fact that we are global,” to which you can reply, “I know.” If they persist, tell them, “For our investor relations and global sales messaging, we will definitely include ‘global.'” But for 95% of our sales folks, it just adds words that clutter up the main message.” If they keep pushing it, look for another job.
  • What you stand for has be incredibly relevant and valuable to your target audience: This sounds obvious, but if everyone abided by this advice, we wouldn’t be hearing all those instantly forgettable, toothless elevator pitches every time we go to an event. The challenge here is that being relevant requires someone in the company (I’m talking to you, Marketing) to actually go out and talk to real decision-makers, human to human. I usually recommend 5 – 7 conversations with each of the following: current customers, active prospects and those who haven’t engaged with your company at all. By asking the right questions, you can learn what real humans think is the sweet spot of your company / product / service (the problem you’re better than anyone else at solving); their purchase and decision drivers (so you can improve your top-of-funnel messaging); and why they decided to buy from you–or not. Bottom line: Only by engaging with customers in a non-sales context can you (ahem, Marketing) understand what the world looks like from their perspective. Which then allows you to craft a relevant an powerful value prop and differentiators.

So Sales–next time you find yourself editing an Elevator Pitch late one evening, stop. Instead send it to Marketing with a note that says, “Hey, Bob London says this is your job!” and then go have a cocktail.

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