No one cares about your product so stop talking about it!
Okay, I’m sure somebody cares about your product. Just not the “C” level decision makers your sales reps are talking to. They care about their business, their needs, and maybe how your product can help them. I am a business guy who loves working with high tech companies and I even enjoy reading about their technology but I am sure that I am the exception not the rule. I see many technology companies writing white papers, press releases, case studies and success stories written for consumption by other technical people.
Engineers working on a product line write volumes of technical data, either because they love writing about their technology, or to justify to management that their product group is busy creating things. Unfortunately almost no one besides that engineer, his mother, and a limited number of other technical people care enough about that product to dig deeply into the nuts and bolts contained in those papers. Okay, maybe there are a handful of really nerdy end users with extra time for reading your whitepapers, but this is a very small group and none of them are sitting in front of your sales reps while they are out meeting with decision makers.
New World Order
We all agree that the landscape has changed and that the business side of the house (CFO, CEO, CMO, CxO) are the check signers and decision makers sitting at the “big table” and unless the CIO/CTO has learned to speak the language of business in that company they are not sitting at the big table anymore. The C-suite (business-side decision makers) are the people today’s sales reps have to impress before there will be any technological discussions between your engineers and their techs downstairs.
This engagement is a different model than most high-tech companies are accustomed to, but some such as Cisco and Bull US have embraced the new world order. The problem is that it is the rare individual that has both a technological background (understands the old technology, your new technology, and what your differentiation means to them), has a business background (thinks in terms of what specific technology outcomes mean to their company’s bottom line, productivity, ability to compete, or profitability), and can translate the technological advantages of your product into business terms to determine rather or not it solves their immediate problems, then technology limited collateral does not mean a thing to them. Blah, blah, blah, engineers talking about their products. Marketers have to understand this and provide their sales reps with different tools now.
So New Marketing Methods are Necessary
You should strive to write your success stories in a voice that an executive decision maker will understand. (The reader’s digest version of an article you would find in CIO magazine about what your product has done for their peers) Most tech companies are still missing the most important elements of a good story. There needs to be an interesting corporate back story that the C-suite can relate to and that will draw them in. It has to be written at about a tenth grade technology level so you do not leave any of the decision makers behind. It has to describe favorable business outcomes that occurred as a result of your technology and it has to be in the voice of a C-level individual.
To be clear, we are talking about collateral aimed at the C-Suite, (CFO, CMO, CEO, or other decision maker) that your best field sales reps are finding themselves in front today. This C-Suite is experiencing business problems (growth, profitability, cost cutting, performance issues, and competition). They are trying to solve those problems which are why your sales reps are provided an audience with them to present. The C-Suite does not care what your engineers have to say about your products or services any more than you care what your auto mechanic has to say about your destination; they want to know what their peers have to say about your company and the value you provided them.
So How Do You Do That?
If your sales reps cannot create a business case success story told in the voice of C-Suite peers, your technical people will rarely make it back down the food chain to their technical folk to have the technical conversations most high-tech companies are accustomed to. The C-Suite does not care about (or understand) what lines of code, processes, or utilization of images means to their business…they shouldn’t have to translate your value prop into a language they can digest. That is your job!
Questions to ask yourself when revamping your sales and marketing collateral
Regarding your sales reps
- Do your sales reps maintain existing customer relationships from past sales that will be necessary to obtain the backstory, the business statistics, and the results in business terms that you will need for your future success stories and business use cases?
- Do they have permission to use that information?
- Have they been clever enough built permission to use success stories into the deal at close or anytime they offer a concession?
- Have you ever even informed your reps that they should ask those questions?
- How do you tell your reps to start?
- Do we still have access to past customers to ask them now if we have not asked the right questions?
- Is there anything you can do to help them get back into those accounts and arm them to collect the right information this time?
Start asking the right questions
- What is the back story? Why should your prospect care about this company or their problems?
- What is the business problem that caused the company to talk to you in the first place?
- Results – in a paper like this I would spend less time talking specifically about which products you sold them and have them explain how great you were to work with, how you helped them solve their problem, or even why they selected your product over the competition. Remember, you can work some product info in here, but it will be much more effective in the words of your customer (your prospect’s peer).
- Any time you write about your technology afterward ask yourself, “so what?” So why would a CEO care about this feature, benefit, solution? How does it save money, increase profit? Make them more competitive?
- How well did you help them solve their problems? These results should be stated in dollars saved, man hours saved, increased productivity, cost cut, competition outmaneuvered, or similar.
- Finally, would they do it again? Are they glad they chose you, if so why? Would they choose you again? Did your staff and product perform as promised? Were you easy to work with?
As a marketer it is your job to put yourself in the shoes of your sales rep’s prospects (spelled “future customers”). Are you providing your reps and your future customers the information they will need to successfully communicate? They want to know not only what you claim to be able to, but if your other C-suite customers will collaborate that. Did you help them look like a hero and not get them fired? These are the base things that actually drive most decisions. In summary: Make sure you provide the information that your C-Suite prospects care about in a language they understand told by someone they trust.