Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Tips for Crafting Provocative E-Mails That Work!

Did you know that:
  • Your prospects receive 32% more marketing campaigns and emails than just two years ago.
  • 94% of customers have disengaged w/ a vendor because they received irrelevant or poorly crafted email messages / marketing campaigns.
You want to connect and engage with new prospects, especially earlier in their decision making process, so you are using emails /  LinkedIn in-mails to reach out...But as the research indicates, its harder than ever to break through the noise, and vital that you get your messages right to avoid permanent turn-off / disengagement.

So how do you craft provocative “challenger” sales emails that will help you better connect, and importantly, get your prospects to take positive action?

Here’s our top five tips for getting your emails just right: 

#1 - You had me at hello

I received three sales emails today that had all too common openers.

The first: “Are you available this week for a meeting”? .  My immediate reaction – Heck no, I can’t keep up with my current meetings much less add a new one. Delete.

How about this one: “I’ve sent you four e-mails and left you a voice-mail, but I haven’t gotten a response” I likely ignored the emails and voice mails for a reason, and my impression, this rep’s a relentless stalker! Delete.

What about this one, “We’ve just released our latest version of PRODUCT XYZ, and are so excited about improvements in reliability and performance.“  Glad to see you’re exctied about your own company and products, but frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about are my own issues and the 20 other emails I haven’t gotten to yet. Delete.

You only have three seconds to get someones attention, and all three of these did, but not in a positive way. So how do you break through all the inbox noise and gain your prospect’s positive attention?

The key: You have to given your prospect a reason to want to keep reading. Research from IDC says that your buyers are always willing to engage with a sales rep who can help them:
  • Understand more about their industry landscape
  • Gain insights on potential challenges that should be addressed
  • Learn about innovative strategies that have worked well at similar companies
  • Detail and quantify specific revenue growth, competitive advantage, or bottom line improvements you can deliver.
You are not there to sell, but to educate and faciliate the buyer’s purchase journey. In the opener, you have to convey one of these key value-centric elements to the prospect immediately - adding value right from the start.


#2 - Short attention span theater!

The other day I received an email from a sales rep that was six paragraphs long, telling me everything I wanted to know, or moreover didn’t want to know, about this reps company and products.

With more demands and distractions than ever, your prospects have less time to process their in-box and pay attention to any email, much less another one from a vendor. You have to get to the point faster than ever.

Don’t include too much content, and for goodness sake, don’t throw every piece of information in hopes of it sticking.

The key: Keep the email short – no more than five sentences, with each sentence in a line by itself.


#3 - Once upon a time … tell your value story versus pitching your products

Did you know that:
  • 71% of business execs say content from companies turns them off when it seems more like a sales pitch than valuable information.
  • 93% of marketers and sellers continue to tie their messaging and content directly to products and services
Unfortunately, most of the prospecting e-mails I get from sales reps are all about their products / services, and little is educational or about me and how they can help.

Prospects don’t buy your product, they buy a solution to a priority issue.

You have to begin telling a story about the prospect’s issue, about its costs and how you can potentially solve it.

The key: Leverage the CLOSE™ storytelling method, starting with a discussion of the buyer and their potential issues, making it all about them, versus opening about your products and company, all about you.

In sequential order, your email should tell the story as follows:
  • Challenge (Did you know…) – research / commercial insights about challenges the buyer is likely facing with the status quo / business-as-usual
  • Loss (This is costing you …) – a description and quantification of what doing things the same old way could be costing if the issue is not addressed (cost of “do nothing”)
  • Opportunity (What if…) – a vision of how the business could be improved, contrasting this versus business as usual
  • Solution – (We can help …) - a quick mention (sentence at most) on how you could potentially deliver on this vision
  • Evidence (We have done this for …) – relevant success stories on how you’ve delivered on this promise for others in similar industries and with similar issues to your prospect. 
For more information on the CLOSE storytelling method:  How can you CLOSE the Value Gap? - http://blog.alinean.com/2014/08/how-can-you-close-value-gap.html


#4 - Once size doesn’t fit all

If you are lucky, some of your prospects are actively looking for a solution, and your email couldn’t have better timing. More often than not,  your prospect is not even aware they should be paying attention to the issues you are addressing, while others may know they have an issue, but are unclear with regards to why their legacy solutions don’t work or that there are viable solutions available.

Different buyer’s are at different parts of their journey – so leveraging one type of email for all your prospecting is not the best approach.

The key: Craft at least three different types of prospecting emails , one for each stage of the buyer’s journey:
  • Why change? – Your buyer is not sure they have a challenge worth addressing. Connect with provocative / challenger e-mails highlighting research on the issue and the cost of “do nothing”
  • Why now?  - The buyer is convinced they have an issue worth addressing, but they have a lot on their plate and may not be sure of the priority compared to other issues / projects, how the current solution couldn’t be made to work for a little while longer. Contrast your solution versus the current business as usual / legacy solutions. Quantify the low risk / fast payback and high ROI from the proposed solution.
  • Why you? – Your buyer wants information on your solution, but don’t inundate them with features and solution mumbo-jumbo. Instead, open with and focus on the business reason for your solution as the best choice – lowest risk and highest reward.

#5 – Take action –

I received an email this past week that stood out, and not in a good way, because of how many call to actions were included.

Besides the normal – call or email me to schedule an appointment, the email included three attached white papers, and at least eight  links to additional information.  Guess how many of the these I clicked on?

The key:  Don’t attach mutliple documents and don’t list link after link that you think I will click on. More is not more.  Include no more than one document or link specifically related to the email content.  Your call to action should be specific, outlining a defintiive time / date that you want to connect.

The Bottom-Line

You rely on e-mail messages to reach out to new prospects, but you have to craft your messages right in order to successfully connect and engage.

To be successful it is key to follow these five steps:
  1. Open the email focused not on your own solutions, but on the prospect’s challenges.
  2. Keep the email to no more than five sentences, each an easy to read / separate line.
  3. Tell a story about your value using the CLOSE storytelling method.
  4. Don’t rely on just one type of e-mail message, instead develop three different messages focused on each of the three major journey steps: “Why Change?”, “Why Now?” and “Why You?”.
  5. Include a focused, strong call to action with no more than one resource link / document / video and a definitive option for a meeting time / date.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Interactive Marketing Tool Platform to Better Articulate and Quantify Value to Prospects

Alinean ValueStory® Cloud enhanced to create and deliver interactive online value marketing tools
Alinean is happy to announce a significant update to our ValueStory® Cloud, adding point-and-click creation and delivery of online value marketing tools, including personalized value storybooks, provocative interactive infographics, insightful diagnostic assessments and engaging ROI calculators.
According to SiriusDecisions, the average B2B buyer receives 32% more marketing campaigns than just 2 years ago.  As a result of this overload, traditional marketing campaigns using content such as static white papers are becoming less effective.
"Research shows that in order to capture more leads and meet revenue growth goals, marketers must stand out from the crowd," says Tom Pisello, CEO / Founder of Alinean and well known as the ROI Guy. "ValueStory provides the first Cloud platform for marketers to easily create and deliver more interactivity, personalized insights and customized value articulation, improving the number and quality of captured leads, and accelerated nurturing."
"In a recent survey, 71% of B2B organizations report an inability to connect their solutions with the business issues of their buyers as the number one challenge to achieving growth," says Jim Ninivaggi, Sales Enablement Practice Director with SiriusDecisions. "It is now vital for sales and marketing to evolve each unique prospect engagement from one-way product-pitches to personalized value-focused engagements, and tools like ValueStory can help sellers and marketers do just that."
This latest release of ValueStory Cloud includes the following enhancements:
  1. Creating on-line HTML5 sales and marketing tools, advancing from the native iPad only application of the prior ValueStory release.
  2. Enhanced interactive value storytelling, surveys, assessments, cost and ROI calculators.
  3. Easily brand, execute and frame ValueStory tools within any corporate web site or portal.
  4. Enhanced customer intelligence, including the ability to collect, capture, mine and analyze trends from customer profiles, discovery question responses, and key analysis results.

Learn more about the latest ValueStory Cloud at: http://alinean.com/features.
To help organizations develop more effective tools, Alinean also offers two additional value marketing and selling services:
  • Value Messaging – consulting services to help develop the storytelling, insights and justification to fuel value conversations and tools, and
  • Value Expert Sales Training - helping sales reps and channel partners with the capability, competence and confidence to evolve to a more provocative, value-focused approach.
Click here to see the full release: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-interactive-marketing-tool-platform-to-better-articulate-and-quantify-value-to-prospects-283049011.html




The Modern Day Social Seller: Buyers are More Empowered, But So Are You!

By Dan Sixsmith and Tom Pisello

The research and the reality: B2B buyers are more empowered than ever, using the Internet and social media to research your company, products, services, customers, team, history and competitors - self propelling themselves toward a purchase decision. 

It is no wonder that sales reps being engaged later in the decision making process, with 67% of buyers having a clear picture of the solution they want before sales reps are engaged (SiriusDecisions).  

At the same time, Forrester reports that earlier engagement is more important than ever - with 76% of the deals going to the solution provider that is able to help the prospect identify the top priority issues to address and establish the buying agenda (versus only 24% going to the rep who can win the bake-off).

Today, the successful sales rep needs to find new ways to provocatively engage earlier, and if engaging later, frame the decisions to go their way.

Here's how the top sales teams are dealing with this new reality, to generate earlier engagements less stalled deals and higher win rates.

Internet and Social Media Research Works Both Ways

Buyers will engage earlier with sales reps who can help them overcome challenges and drive competitive advantage. In order to successfully engage and add value, you have to do more than just present information about your products and services, much of which they can learn about on their own via the Internet and social media.

High performing sales teams are leveraging the Internet and social media themselves, using these online resources to educate themselves on their buyers' organizations: their challenges, corporate objectives, personnel, financial performance, competition, leadership profiles, solutions, clients and so on. 

In addition to websites, they subscribe to their prospects' and clients' twitter feeds and social posts, scour the financial reports on Yahoo Finance and set up Google Alerts for real-time news. 

Today's top sales performers are leveling the playing field by doing in depth research on their buyers, properly planning their sales strategy and personalizing and leveraging 'proprietary' insights to establish credibility, and aligning the solutions to address key initiatives, overcome business challenges and improve competitive positioning.

But nowadays, you have to go even further than mining publicly available about your prospects.

Deliver Insights that are NOT Publicly Available

When it's time to craft that prospecting email or have that first vital conversation  the high performing sales team has a well stocked arsenal of insights to better connect and engage with today's more In-control, Cautious and Economic-focused Cold as ICE buyer .

So what are these insights?  They are used to help the buyer identify:
  1. Challenges - Illuminate status quo issues of which they might not have been aware, or clarify why known issues can no longer be ignored. Discuss similar challenges with the status quo and business as usual you are seeing at their peers / other customers
  2. Losses - Quantify what these new / known business challenges are truly costing them (cost of "do nothing")
  3. Opportunities and Solutions - Communicate how other customers were able to successfully move from specific status quo challenges to a new and improved way, painting a strategic picture for them in contrast (before vs. after).
  4. Evidence - Provide specific success stories and case studies to let them know that solution like this are real, and they have worked at similar firms to generate significant improvements and bottom-line results.
The CLOSE storytelling methodology can be leveraged to frame the insights challenge 0- to identify and communicate value added insights that help the buyer make better decisions, and facilitate sales to engage more provocatively earlier and tell a story that is sure to grab the buyer's attention and budget.

So, where do these 'proprietary' insights come from? 

Sales reps often struggle to pull together all the content needed to be successful, making it important for Marketing to play a key role in Sales Enablement.

To create the best insights, Marketing organizations are helping to:
  1. Define the most common challenges - by role and industry
  2. Collect commercial insights around each challenge - published studies and survey responses
  3. Conduct proprietary research to determine the impact of these challenges and value of solutions, often using third party researchers to gather unique insights across the market
  4. Build a value messaging matrix to provide the CLOSE content, so sales reps can easily  leverage the content to fuel email prospecting and conversations.
  5. Create Point of View (POV) conversation guides / presentations to guide the sales rep in the insight conversation
  6. Leverage new interactive / mobile selling tools, so you can give the sales reps intelligent guidance as to what to best present based on the selling situation, as well as providing personalized specific challenge assessments, loss, value and ROI calculations. With technology, these same tools can also be used to help sales reps / channel partners dynamically discover, catalogue and leverage insights in subsequent engagements (see the article: Need Insights for Provocative / Challenger Selling? No Problem!)

The Bottom-Line

Your sales reps need to find ways to connect and engage earlier, and if involved later, consultatively helping to reframe the discussion in the solution providers favor.

Insights are key, with your Marketing team playing a key role in developing your insights, messaging and tools that your sales reps and channel partners can leverage to connect and engage earlier and more effectively. 

Your messaging and tools can initially be populated with public information and commercial insights, but are best when advanced to include proprietary insights and experiences.

To start, we recommend you using the  CLOSE storytelling methodology as a guide to develop your insights and messaging, with your Marketing packaging the content into an insight messaging guide, POV and interactive selling tools to fuel each and every conversation.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Gartner Raises IT Spending Forecasts – Time to Party Like its 1999?

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending growth has been revised upwards to 2.6% for 2014. This is good news, and is the first time in three years that Gartner is revising its growth predictions up versus down mid-year.

Although the current forecast is lower than the original 3.2% increase predicted at the start of the year, it is higher than the 2.1% annual growth indicated from the Spring update, led by healthier investments in devices, security and data center systems.

Gartner predicts modest go forward growth into 2015 and beyond, between 3-4% annually through 2018, a far cry from the double-digit growth in the tech-booming 90s.

For technology solution / service providers, revenue growth remains a challenge. Moreover, a major "sea change" has occurred in technology spending and purchase decision-making - with significant implications for your organizations sales and marketing strategy.

Frugalnomics in Effect

So what are the real reasons behind the continued slow growth? We believe it is all about Frugalnomics:
1) Although there has been an economic recovery, top-line revenue growth remains a challenge for most companies. With a focus on performance, companies turned to improving the bottom-line and have learned to permanently “Do More with Less”.

2) Although new technologies like Mobile, Big Data, Security, Social collaboration, the Internet of Things and the Cloud are hot topics, and they promise to fuel the next big IT investment wave, they are still in the hype cycle, and are not significant enough to affect the annual growth figures - yet.

3) Most technology spending decisions are now driven and controlled by business groups vs. formal IT. At the same time, more and more spending is occurring in the shadows, by individual users and groups, especially Cloud / SaaS purchases, without the formal knowledge of IT. With the businesses and individuals making more purchase recommendations, the language of technology selling has changed.

4) Purchase decision-making is now driven by buyers who are as “Cold as ICE”:
a.   In-Control - Highly empowered by access to incredible amounts of research and information via the Internet and social media, buyers have taken control of the decision making process with sales reps being invited later to the game, and ever more competition for each deal.

b.   Cautious – buyers are Risk averse, afraid of making a wrong decision, and instead choosing to remain with business as usual / status quo rather than considering projects they view as too risky.

c.    Economically Focused – buyers are more frugal, with over 95% of technology purchase decisions now requiring a solid business case with significant ROI and fast payback according to IDC. CFOs are also more involved through all stages of the purchase decision.

These are the trends of Frugalnomics, and as a result we expect that IT spending growth for 2015 and beyond will remain challenged.

More importantly, you need to take Frugalnomics into account as you evolve your sales and marketing strategies and investments to meet the challenge.

Surviving Frugalnomics - The 3 Things You Must Do Now to Win in 2015

 To help meet the challenge and Survive Frugalnomics into 2015 and beyond, we recommend three “must do” programs for the next year:

#1 – Break the ICE - Engaging Prospects with Provocative Marketing
Todays’ buyers are more risk averse and frugal than ever, with 58% choosing to “Do Nothing” versus considering your solution (SBI).

Prospects will choose to stick with the status quo unless you can proactively and provocatively quantify that they have a pain worth addressing. 

And those opportunities you thought were progressing through the waterfall / sales process to “wins” will stall unless you can help successively convince the prospect that the issue you can help solve is real, that it is a high priority worth addressing over all other issues on their plate, and that your solution / services represents a real low risk / superior value solution with unique competitive advantage.

In order to connect and engage with “Do Nothing” buyers, helping them through the decision making journey, you need to help them realize:
         Why Consider a Change? - the Prospect has a pain worth addressing and a significant cost of “Do Nothing”.
         Why Change Now? – the Prospect should not wait to address the issue because every day is costing them, they are leaving good money on the table (significant bottom-line impact, ROI and fast payback), and they are falling behind competitively (illustrated through peer comparison benchmarks).
         Why Your Solutions?– that your solutions / services can deliver unique and superior value at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

So how well does your current content marketing help answer these 3 key decision making questions, in a compelling and quantified way?

#2 – Value Story - Empowering Sales with Value Messaging and Quantification
According to SiriusDecisions, the #1 reason why sales reps fail to meet quota (for the 3rd year in a row) is their “inability to effectively communicate the value of proposed solutions”.

Sitting in on the majority of sales presentations and you can see that most are still delivering empty product pitches or pseudo-solution selling asking a few questions and then jumping into canned “death by PowerPoint” presentations. According to Forrester, prospects indicate that less than 12% of sales engagements are focused on customer value.

Despite significant changes in prospect expectations, sales leadership recognizing that value selling is needed in order to meet quota, and the millions spent on solution / value selling messaging and training, only about one in ten sales professionals engage with “value”.

So how well do your sales professionals and channel partners communicate and quantify your value?


#3 - Seal the Deal – Delivering a CFO-ready Business Case 
CFOs are large and in charge of many IT purchase approvals. According to a Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation research survey, the CFO is becoming the top IT decision maker in many organizations, with:
         Over 75% indicating significant decision making involvement,
         41% indicating being the main decision maker for IT investments.

 From the CFOs we talk to, they indicate that proposals:
         Won't be considered a priority without a business case, and the larger the proposal, the more detailed and formal the case has to be,
         Won't be advanced unless you show that the issue being addressed is a priority with a high cost of “doing nothing”, quantified savings / benefits from the proposed solution, and a significant ROI and fast payback,
         Won't be approved unless you can prove your solution has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) / better value than competitive offerings.

With Finance playing such a key role in IT decision approvals, it is imperative that proposals contain the business case content that CFOs need to provide approval, otherwise your deals will be stalled or delayed in the final stages, and you may be losing critical deals to competitors who make the better CFO case.

So how well do you deliver the financial business cases / ROI that CFOs demand?

The Bottom-Line

Gartner has predicted low IT spending growth forecasts for the next several years.

With Frugalnomics in full effect and buyers as “Cold as ICE”, technology solution / service providers need to implement a more value-focused approach to their sales and marketing strategy, content and tools.

If value marketing and selling are not effectively implemented to account for Frugalnomics, the majority of your deals will continue to stall, sales cycles will get longer, and heavy discounting will prevail.

For 2015, IT sales and marketing professionals should consider three initiatives as a top priority to help Survive Frugalnomics:
1.       Break the ICE - Engage Frugal Prospects with Provocative Marketing
2.       Empower Sales with Value Storytelling and Quantification
3.       Close the Deal with CFO-Ready Business Cases

To learn more about out suggested best practices to Survive Frugalnomics, click here.


Sources:
IDC 2014 Buyer Experience Study (Oct)
Forrester Sales Enablement Conference 2014

SiriusDecisions SiriusIndex, results from 2011 – 2014