Opinion

Multiple buyers, multiple messages

Why a role-based sales approach is required for complex IT sales

The message coming from technology buyers is clear — they want more from sales engagements than a product discussion. There has been a shift in the way vendors must sell in complex sales environments – it is no longer purely a technical sell to a technical audience, but increasingly involves business and functional executives.

Where multiple decision makers and influencers are involved, marketing and sales content often does not resonate. Marketing messaging typically lacks sufficient granularity to be useful to sales, leaving salespeople to create their own versions with potential disconnects and inconsistencies with corporate messaging.

Buyers are telling Gartner that they are having difficulty understanding the relevance of a solution or its impact and value. Value, relevance and impact depend largely on how they are measured and what the buyer is responsible for — in other words, the buyer’s role is a key issue.

Role-based messaging helps address this problem and can be an effective first step toward building a strong sales enablement function. It considers the buyer’s organisational role — job title, description, responsibilities, authority, and crafts a story specifically for them. This improves relevance by connecting the offering to issues specific to each role.

It is not separate from corporate positioning, messaging or value propositions, but takes these factors and adapts them for use with individual decision makers during a sales interaction.

Role-based messaging provides a means of significantly improving sales performance. Two consistent themes characterise buyers’ basis of differentiation of vendors in increasingly undifferentiated product markets: “The winning provider understands my issues and challenges, and translates its offering in terms relevant to me and shows the value in my terms.”

When sales people cannot articulate tangible business value or lead a business conversation, buyers tune out. When salespeople cannot move past these hurdles, sales cycles become longer and conversion rates fall. Your brand suffers from a lack of credibility on the part of sales representatives; selling expenses increase and you are left with frustrated salespeople.

Role-based messaging and positioning does not replace existing investments in strategic or solution-selling frameworks or other investments in sales training. It actually supports these as it provides company specific information and enables sales reps to spend less time tracking down information and more time selling.

Role-based messaging is a very effective first or early sales enablement initiative that can drive significant and fast impact across the sales organisation, enabling them to better differentiate your solution, close more business faster and build credibility and rapport with customers.

Vendors that are considering developing and deploying this approach need to understand and address the factors and issues before proceeding to commit further resources. The benefits of role-based messaging in improving sales effectiveness can be significant, but providers should not underestimate the resources required or the behavioural changes needed to achieve those benefits.

Neil McMurchy is a Research Vice President with Gartner in the IT marketing and channel strategies group. He is based in Sydney.

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