Imagine this: Your marketing team has created new value messages for a product launch or update to support marketing’s online content and demand-and-lead-generation campaigns. Marketing will incorporate the new value messages in all customer-facing content assets they are creating for the sales force.

In parallel, the product management team prepares product-training services for the same product launch. As you can imagine, their training approach is based more on the product rather than the business problems the new product can solve or the business results that can be achieved. Furthermore, and this is the crucial point in this context, the value messages they use (if they use any) are old ones from a similar product.

Additionally, the recently established sales enablement initiative wants to justify its existence and has created interactive playbooks for all major product lines, based on, yes, the previous value messaging approach they had access to. Sound familiar?

What does such a misaligned approach mean for the sales force? It means confusion, inconsistency, zero adoption and, of course, ineffectiveness.

How should salespeople get their heads around all these different, inconsistent enablement services that are pushed to them from different directions? Actually, it often feels like enablement services are thrown at them. What would you do in this situation if you were a salesperson? You would probably merely switch off the noise, decide you can only trust yourself, and do what you think you should be doing. And that’s using what’s on your laptop and what your colleagues used last week in a similar prospect or client situation. Now, let’s look at some data:

The majority of organizations (64.7%) lives with enablement inconsistency. Their sales content and their product training services are not purposefully aligned with each other.

A bit more than one quarter are not directly aligned (26.8%), and more than one-third are only aligned at a high level (37.9%). The latter means that in most cases, the different teams may be aware of the other teams’ activities, but without co-creating enablement services. And not being aligned at all is a classic silo scenario. This lack of enablement consistency should be considered as what it is: enablement chaos. And the cause can be easily identified. It’s not having a consistent, overarching value messaging approach covering the entire customer’s path that all contributing teams are required to use.

Aligned enablement services are worth it: If sales content and product training are aligned at least on the value message level, the win rates for forecasted deals are 7.5% better. The costs of misalignment, the costs of doing nothing, are worse: 22.6% decline in win rates.

Win rates for forecasted deals are remarkably better (55.7%) if content and training services are aligned at least on the value messaging level. Enablement services that are not aligned, or are only aligned at a high level, lead to win rate performance way below average (40.1%). Based on the 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study’s average win rate of 51.8%, the improvement is 7.5% or 3.9 percentage points, but the decline or the cost of doing nothing is much more substantial: 22.6% decline or 11.7 percentage points.

Four ideas to improve your value messaging approach:

  1. Establish clarity – Who owns value messaging
    Value messaging is often considered to be owned by marketing. But in the age of the customer, an approach that is only focused on the early stages of the customer’s path doesn’t work any longer. In the absence of a chief CX officer, a strategic sales enablement function that orchestrates all enablement efforts from content to training to coaching along the entire customer’s path is in a great position to own the value messaging approach along those lines. That doesn’t mean at all that marketing has nothing to do with value messaging any longer. In fact, marketing’s role is growing because of the broader scope along the entire customer’s path.
  2. Establish a standardized value messaging framework:
    Orchestrating value messaging across various functions requires a solid foundation for all teams involved, ideally designed with the customer’s path at the center. CSO Insights has developed a dynamic value messaging framework that defines the different value messaging types for each phase of the customer’s path. Also, the framework shows how these different value messages impact your enablement content, training and coaching services. Without a standardized framework, you will never achieve enablement scalability and efficiency in the messaging space.
  3. Establish clarity on the criteria that impact different value messages:
    These criteria can cover a broad range. Think about the business challenges your products and service solve, the business results they can help to achieve. Also, consider the relevant buyer roles and the different phases of the customer’s path. Additionally, don’t forget the impact of varying buying situations and their particular risks (renewal versus new problem to be solved), and also factor in your own position as a vendor (start-up vs. established vendor).
  4. Orchestrate the required cross-functional collaboration:
    Initially, workshops with all teams involved (marketing, sales, product management, industries, enablement, etc.) are ideal so that this group can actually create the new value messages. But to ensure that you will end up with value messages that cover the criteria defined above, have a moderator who is familiar with your approach. Capture the rough value messages, structured by your specified criteria.

Sales enablement should orchestrate all value messaging efforts along the customer’s path to ensure that all enablement services are consistent, valuable and effective. These efforts pay off, with 7.5% better win rates. The cost of doing nothing is worse: a 22.6% decline in win rates.

 This article was initially written for Top Sales Magazine, May edition.
Photograph: Unsplash, Elija O’Donell

Check out Sales Enablement A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force!
There is an entire chapter on value messaging, its relevance for sales enablement including a phased approach how to get started.