Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

The Hero's Journey and Basic Storytelling - Video

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

In my prior post, I introduced Visual Perception, which is part 1 of a three part video series from the Webinar, Your PowerPoint Sucks - and what you can do about it.

I posted part 2 in a blog on LinkedIn today with part 2 of the video, Your PowerPoint Sucks, Pt 2. Basic Storytelling.

The following video included below is part 2 of the series and it is a primer on basic storytelling. It runs for just over 8 minutes and introduces the "Hero's Journey" story structure and the need for contrast and tension in your presentation or story.

Will be of interest to sales people, sales enablement professionals and marketers wishing to improve their ability to tell stories.

If you or your sales enablement or marketing team needs help with the underlying messaging and storyline to bring your presentations to life, please contact us.
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Topics: storytelling, powerpoint, the heros journey, joseph campbell

Your PowerPoint Presentations Suck Pt. 1 Visual Perception -Video

Posted by Mark Gibson on Thu, Oct 09, 2014

Do your PowerPoint sales presentations suck? - be honest.

If they look anything like the spoof slide below, then this series of three 10-minute videos will be of interest. 

PowerPoint is ubiquitous, often maligned and most often misused... but as a presentation medium it has great utility.

We just need to get better at using PowerPoint and to improve the stories and visual elements that we use to create our presentations.

Your PowerPoint Sucks and what you can do about it

Part 1. A brief primer on visual perception with some important concepts.
Part 2. A primer on basic storytelling.
Part 3. A primer on visual storytelling.

If you or your sales enablement or marketing team needs help with the underlying messaging and storyline to bring your presentations to life, please contact us.
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Topics: storytelling, powerpoint, visual storytelling, story

I'm Blushing - I Sent a Piece of Naked Content

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Oct 01, 2014

Editors, journalists, marketers, sales operations and sales enablement professionals, who curate content for readers to share, should always give it a content header to create value for the receiver.

A content header is an explanatory summary that precedes the content body or link, to help the reader to quickly determine if the content fits their requirement, is useful in other ways, or will work for their customer use-case.

The job of content is to get shared and passed along. A content header multiplies the likelihood that a piece of content will get shared, by an order of magnitude.

A Content Header has 3 Purposes

  1. It helps the person creating or preparing the content to think clearly about the purpose of the content, the audience and the key themes so it will resonate with the content consumer.
  2. It helps when requisitioning content from marketers, agencies, and external writers.
  3. It helps people to deploy the content more effectively, so that it will get shared and read. 
When someone creates a piece of content in most businesses today, it may get used once or twice and never see the light of day again.

When content is prepared in a collaborative content ecosystem, it gets created once with a content header, and is available for consumption and reuse by marketing, demand management, sales, channels and support.

Content header enables a fast and convenient, single point of access to enterprise content, regardless of content type or where it is located.

While there are no standards for content headers, this is the one that we use... feel free to use it in your content operations.

Content Header Template: 

Thanks to Jim Burns of Avitage for this short content header.

Content Type and Title:
Target Audiences (Segments/Roles): 
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Topics: Deloitte, content header, naked content

Rules for Buyers During a B2B Sales Call

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Sep 24, 2014

This blog post is a set of behavioral rules for B2B technology buyers to follow,  so as to maximize the value and the time of the hard working, honest and ethical salesperson sitting across the desk or on the phone. 

It will also serve to minimize the inconvenience and continuing lost profits the buyer's company is making without your solutions.

The Rules

  1. When a salesperson calls you on the phone, you will stop what you are doing, pick up the phone and smile when you say, "Hello, this is (Your Name), how are you?"
  2. You will be amused with the variety blurting-out, fumbling, 90-second introductions without breathing, awkward silences and obvious lack of preparation, professionalism and nervousness of the salesperson. 
  3. After they have finished their intro, you will ask, "how can I help you"? 
  4. You will refrain from hanging up, giving excuses about being in a meeting, or chastising your administrator, who let this call slip through.
  5. If the salesperson is planning a trip to your location in the near future, you will consider it a stroke-of-luck and make space on your calendar to accommodate an in-person call.
  6. You will hear the salesperson out and never ask them to send more information in an email or to call back at a more convenient time for them, because what they have to say could save you and your company serious money.... even get you promoted!
  7. You will answer all questions the salesperson asks to the best of your ability, regardless of their nature, how many they ask or the irrelevance to your role and business.
  8. You will disclose any pain or discomfort in your physical condition, even a minor back-ache, because salespeople ar looking for pain and may have something in their bag that can help.
  9. You will inquire about the features of their products and be curious about who else is using them and the benefits they are getting and welcome any opportunity to see the product in action in a live demo.
  10. You will smile knowingly as the sales rep plugs in the Lap-top, fumbles with the LCD technology, or these days, more coolly passes you the iPad and brings up the PowerPoint presentation or video clip. 
  11. Most importantly, during the presentation you will refrain from playing with your smart-phone and stay focused on the bullets and message, because there is infinite wisdom, somewhere in the presentation.
  12. You will wait until the salesperson has emptied your bucket of potential objections and enjoy the festival of the salesperson digging holes for themselves while trying to counter them.
  13. You will never promise to get back to the salesperson unless you truly mean it.
  14. You will nod and promise not to smirk when the salesperson asks any question beginning with "If we could show you a way...." 
  15. You will be grateful when the salesperson interrupts you before you have finished your sentence (while you are discussing the issues that are important to you) and then tells you what you need to do (use their product), because the sooner you find out, the better.
  16. You promise to engage any salesperson with an earnest and professorial look on their face; possibly wearing a chalk-dusted sports coat with leather elbow-pads, carrying a pipe, wearing a sword on their hip or carrying a lance, or even wearing a measuring tape and carrying a pair of scissors. They are Challengers and are going to challenge your assumptions and to teach you about the hidden jewels in your business, that only they can help you discover.
  17. This is the biggie - never lie to a salesperson- we can tell!
If you are a sales professional or manager and find this slightly amusing and would like to up-level the conversations you or your sales team is having with buyers, we can help.

Content to Support Sales Conversations

We can help sales, marketing and sales enablement leaders with content deployment, content strategy and to create the conversational content that your team needs to avoid the above, including:
  • Ideal customer profiles, including persona's, problems and causes,
  • Relevant capabilities and competitive positioning,
  • Call preparation guides,
  • Why Change and Point of View conversations,
  • Inventories of emails and customer stories,
  • Key questions to ask and key objections and counters,
  • Facts, data, analyst reports, insights,
  • Visual support, video, webinars and ebooks,
  • Curated 3rd party content to nurture opportunities.
If you believe that content is an important enabler of sales success, you are invited to find out more.  

If you found this amusing or have committed any of the sins above, or know someone who needs to read the rules, please pass it on.

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Topics: sales enablement, sales conversations, conversational content

The Role of Content in Ramping New Sales Hires

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

Onboarding and Ramping New Hires  

Executives responsible for hiring and ramping new marketing and sales hires have a whole host of challenges in finding and hiring good candidates and in getting them productive. For new marketers it's usually a brief, sink or swim induction that starts with a content immersion and then the writing begins. 

Onboarding new sales hires is a longer process, commencing with indoctrination in the product; demo, presentation, pricing, followed by CRM and sales process training.

After meetings with the sales manager to discuss territory and key accounts, the sales rep is off-and-running.
Unfortunately for sales reps in many companies, from this point on, they are on their own. They have to source their own leads, figure out how their customers buy their product and through trial and error, how to sell the product.  

Sound familiar? 

It should, this is pretty standard stuff in mainstream technology companies.  

For a straightforward product with a 1-month sales cycle time, it might take 3-4 months for a rep to become fully productive. For a complex enterprise solution with a 6-month sales cycle, it will likely take a year or more.  

Dave Kurlan’s formula for Ramp up time = the length of your sales cycle + the length of your learning curve + 30 days. Dave adds a couple of months to ramp time for either lack of industry knowledge or lack of sales experience.  

The only variable in Dave’s formula is the length of your learning curve.
CSO Insights suggests that the factors causing long ramp-times are:
  • Higher customer expectations (What do you know about me and my business?),
  • Increasing product complexity,
  • Complexity of the selling environment and more product offerings,
  • Entry into new markets,
  • Global competition (via the Internet) introducing new competitors
  • Bad hires, read the Bad Breath vs No Breath article.
From the same CSO Insights 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Study, only 36.6% of companies are able to ramp salespeople to full productivity inside 6 months. 59.7% of respondents take 6 or more months to ramp salespeople to full productivity. 

Sales Ramp and Productivity Issues

In sales there is no hiding a slow start, but it takes several months before problems are visible.
But there are other telltale signs that indicate problems in ramping salespeople;
  • Sales reps complain of poor quality marketing leads.
  • Despite making lots of calls (activity), forecasts and revenue are weak.
  • Salespeople will try to sell lower cost, point-products to departmental users, instead of going for the enterprise platform sale, (except it takes 10 times as many deals to make up for an enterprise sale).
  • A small handful of senior sales exec’s. are “knocking it out of the park”, but the rest of the team is struggling.
  • New hires become frustrated at their lack of success and quit.
Once a new rep has been hired, the only levers you have to increase the speed of ramping salespeople are through more effective transfer of selling knowledge, increasing the effectiveness of selling tools provided, and on-the-job coaching from sales managers.  

If you are a product-marketing manager or sales-enablement leader, what can you do to help new hires, and established salespeople to become more successful, faster?  

It Starts with the Message  

Weak and ineffective product-focused content is a primary cause of long sales ramp-times. Salespeople take many months to synthesize and translate the product messages in their own mind, into something that will actually connect with buyers.

In 9 out of 10 meetings with buyers, B2B salespeople fail to contribute value, beyond product features and pricing, (Sirius Decisions).

Buyers don’t need more product information from salespeople; they can get all that in a couple of mouse-clicks. Buyers need more insight from salespeople. They expect salespeople to have some knowledge of their business, their competitive environment and their likely challenges, in order to contribute value.  

Plus buyers need to hear how others have succeeded in overcoming similar challenges.  

When contemplating the above scenarios, a couple of questions come to mind;
  • How effective is your existing value-messaging in relating to the problems your ideal customers really care about?
  • How long does it take for salespeople to develop a point-of-view that resonates with buyers?
  • We all want salespeople having conversations and telling stories, - do you arm them with an inventory of conversation points and stories?
  • Are those stories mapped to buyer problems, roles, buying stage, competitive context, so they don’t have to figure them out?
  • Are they ready to be delivered and in a form that is immediately useful?
  • How well do your salespeople create solicitation and follow-up emails, - how long does it take them?
  • How many times do your salespeople tell buyers, “I’m going to have to get back to you on that”?
How much more effective would your salespeople be - and how much faster could they become fully productive, if they had everything they needed, right at their finger-tips?

How much faster could they learn, if they had the content they need and an ecosystem where they could share knowledge and learn from others, and all they had to do is use it?  

Structure Drives Behavior  

What if from day-1 in the company, a new sales hire could tap the experience of the most successful sales reps?  

What if you could provide new hires with content structured in a logical way that salespeople want to use it, including:
  • Ideal customer profiles, including buyer problems and likely causes,
  • Relevant capabilities and positioning,
  • Call preparation guides,
  • Why Change and Point of View conversations,
  • An inventory of customer stories,
  • An inventory of emails, with tested subject lines and calls to action that work,
  • Key questions to ask and key objections and counters?

Coaching Sales Managers to Coach Salespeople

The real secret to reducing sales ramp times and unlocking sales performance, lies with sales managers.  

Sales managers must be fully committed to the onboarding and behavior change program… isn’t effective onboarding a behavior change program?  

Sales managers must fully understand the messaging and frameworks provided and how to use them and be capable of coaching salespeople in using the tools provided. 

Where to From Here?

Much of the above knowledge exists as tacit knowledge inside the heads of the top-performing sales reps and sales managers.
The reason new hires fail, isn’t because they were bad hires, are dumb or lack motivation, most of the time it’s because they cannot tap the pool of existing knowledge and must learn it all for themselves through trial and error.  

My colleague Jim Burns likes to say, “If it’s not written down, it does not exist”.  
To move from “random acts of content” to a disciplined approach to capture and maintain content to support acustomer conversations that everyone can use, is a major 5-step undertaking.
  1. Top-down commitment from executive management is required to create the sales support infrastructure to reduce sales ramp times. 
  2. It requires new people (sales enablement and sales operations), executing new processes with the right enabling technology.
  3. Customer, content and conversation frameworks are required, along with process to capture and synthesize knowledge in a useful form. 
  4. A content delivery platform that enables salespeople to quickly locate, personalize and use information is required. 
  5. Collaborative sharing of knowledge and best practices and a process of tracking and continuously improving content and sales performance.
If you would like more information or help with developing customer, content and conversation frameworks or migrating your current marketing and sales enablement content to a more effective content delivery platform, please contact us.

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Topics: sales productivity, sales ramp, new hire

HubSpot Redefines CRM in an Integrated Sales & Marketing Platform

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Sep 17, 2014

This is not an objective view of the new HubSpot CRM product, as I am a HubSpot customer and a HubSpot reseller and have not yet had the opportunity of using it. 

It is a first impression from watching the demo video. 
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Topics: hubspot, CRM

The Half Life of a Learned Skill is 5 years - Toward a New Culture of Learning

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Sep 10, 2014

I was in the audience when John Seely Brown and Prof. Peter Denning took the stage at the SRII conference in San Jose, CA earlier this year - what a privilege
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Topics: sales training, sales, learning, knowledge, john seely brown, peter denning

Chris Anderson: Makers - The New Industrial Revolution (Video)

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Sep 08, 2014

I read an article today that mentioned Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired Magazine) and his presentation on Vimeo entitled, Makers: the New Industrial Revolution. I was so enthralled with his talk I wanted to share it.

"The idea of a factory is in a word, changing. Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of rapid prototyping technologies, from 3D printers to laser cutters, is democratizing innovation in atoms. You think the last two decades were amazing? Just Wait." Chris Anderson.

The stories are personal and compelling and the examples of his own and his familes use of these now almost free technologies are a lesson for parents, grandparents and our children.

This video was made in Feb 2013 at the Confluence Maker event in Rome Georgia, USA. It runs for one hour, but you will not want to turn it off once you get going.
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Topics: makers, chris anderson, 3d printing

Turn Marketing Messaging & Sales Content into Sales Conversations

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

Ask any marketer or sales enablement professional how many marketing/sales messaging projects they have completed or participated in the past 10 years and you will hear anywhere from none to over a dozen.

Ask those same professionals, how many of those projects actually paid a dividend on the investment and effort to create them and you will get a lot of head shaking.

Who needs more messaging that fails to deliver?

There are many reasons why messaging fails to deliver value, but these three are top of my list:
  • Messages are internally focused and product-centric, and not relevant to stakeholders,
  • Messaging is not in from that is immediately usable by salespeople (trapped in document containers, in portals),
  • Salespeople don’t have the right skills to use it.
Once a messaging project is completed and delivered, usually in Word documents, or PowerPoint, the messaging is emailed to the sales team, uploaded into a Portal somewhere and then it becomes invisible. 

The problem with this traditional approach is that the core messaging is not converted into content that can be easily used and shared in the different forms required by salespeople, sales enablement professionals and marketers who need it.

Think of messaging as source material, to be mined and reworked to create content to bring it to life.

Jim Burns of Avitage, published a great article in the Selling Power blog yesterday, entitled, "Turn Content into Sales Currency" and I excerpted some of following text to illustrate my point on content.

Why Salespeople Need Unstructured Content

Messaging must be enriched and freed from its container to become useful as content.

Once text is freed from container, it becomes unstructured content.
But unstructured content can be more than just text and includes images, video, graphics, audio and hyperlinks.

Salespeople need inventories of unstructured content that is buyer-relevant and sales-ready for the top 3 customer problems, selling purpose, buyer’s role, buying stage and even industry context. 

Specific examples of inventories include the following:
  • Emails & LinkedIn messages (for all key selling scenarios and versions)
  • Customer stories and proof points
  • Facts, trends, and research findings
  • Answers to customer questions and objections
  • Tweetables and LinkedIn and Google+ short posts
  • Curated articles (company and third party) with summary explanations
  • Key messages – recommended language and phrases
  • Links to key blog posts and landing pages
Recently I completed the initial phase a joint project for a global technology company with Jim Burns of Avitage. We collaborated on a sales and marketing message and content development, which included creating much of the above unstructured content.

This project was a learning experience for me in creating a new library of unstructured, sales-ready content assets using the Avitage content creation methodology. 
These assets are built from foundational messaging templates, but created in an unstructured form that can be easily accessed and immediately used by salespeople. They are delivered in the WittyParrot content delivery platform and are easily maintained, curated, shared and enriched on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to take your company's sales and marketing content to a higher level, I invite you to use my schedule link to set a convenient time for us to talk. 

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Topics: sales enablement, marketing messaging

Mark Gibson's Guide to Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula

Posted by Mark Gibson on Thu, Jul 17, 2014

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Topics: carmel, pebble beach, monterey, vacation

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