Build A Challenger Sale Commercial Teaching Presentation in 10 Steps

Challenger Sale book cover, for commercial teaching presentation blogIn their book, “The Challenger Sale,” Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Corporate Executive Board discuss how Challenger sales reps use commercial teaching to out-perform their colleagues.  Commercial teaching accomplishes two goals.  First, it provides a valuable, new insight to the buyer that causes her to think about her business problem in a different way.  Second, it spurs the buyer to take action to advance the sales cycle in your organization’s favor.  That’s why it’s called “commercial teaching,” instead of just “teaching.”  The whole purpose is to close a deal.

Marketing must be laser focused on these goals when building Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentations, since most buyers will have already progressed through the awareness and consideration stages of the customer buying cycle by the time they meet with sales.  Throw out anything that doesn’t advance the commercial teaching goals.   Here are ten steps you can take.

1.  Get rid of the corporate overview slide.  Your company’s corporate headquarters,  annual spend on R&D, and number of employees don’t help your prospect solve their business problem.  Buyers will find this information themselves if they need it.

2.  Drop the customer logo slide.   Your competitors all have their own logo slides, so it doesn’t differentiate you.  Your prospect doesn’t care about logos unless they represent companies facing the same challenges, in the same business.   And it’s very difficult for your sales rep to discuss the specific challenges faced by all of the companies whose logos are represented.

3.  Ditch the thought leadership slides.  Controversial, but necessary.  Although thought leadership is meant to get buyers to consider the benefits of an alternative way of doing business, it is not as effective as commercial insight.   First, thought leadership is broader than your company’s solution.  Unlike commercial insight, it doesn’t lead to your company’s unique advantages, so it doesn’t help you beat the competition.   Second, it doesn’t focus on the specific problem and pain associated with the customer’s current way of doing business.   Third, research on loss aversion shows that people value potential gains less than they value reducing losses of similar size.   Since thought leadership focuses on future benefits, and commercial insight focuses on avoiding current costs, take advantage of this bias in your presentation.   The CEB’s Challenger™ Marketing eBook has a nice graphic that shows the difference between thought leadership and commercial insight.

4.  Postpone the product pitch.  Focus the front part of your deck on solving your customer’s problem.  Tout the benefits of your product only after the customer has acknowledged the urgency of solving the problem you’ve uncovered.  This is especially true since your deck will highlight the problems which your product is uniquely positioned to solve.

Align Commercial Teaching with Challenger Sale Choreography

Here’s an example to illustrate these next suggestions.

4.  Tailor your title slide to your audience, their specific problem, and the benefit that your solution provides.  This shows your audience that their time will be well spent.

5.  Go vertical on the “Warmer.”  Use two or three slides to address the goals and challenges faced by companies in the same situation as your prospect.   Be sure your terminology matches that used in your prospect’s vertical market.  Add specific customer stories, with real company names when you can, in the speaker’s notes, so your sales rep can demonstrate credibility and experience.   Ensure the slides are visually appealing to facilitate the conversation your rep will have to confirm her understanding of the customer’s needs.

6.  For the “Reframe” slide, use a visual depiction of the problem you are seeking to highlight, since pictures have more impact than words.   Done right, this slide will remain in your prospect’s memory long after the sales meeting is over.

7.  Use your best slide for “Rational Drowning”  to highlight the cost of the problem you’ve just uncovered.   Remember loss aversion?  This is the slide you use to quantify the pain.   Your sales rep will stay on this slide as they confirm the “Emotional Impact” and the buyer’s personal investment in solving this problem.

8.  Introduce the “New Way” with a simple, visually compelling, quantified business benefit, such as faster time to market, reduced operational costs,or increased profitability, to show the results your customers have achieved.   This slide, and the two previous, will form the justification your prospect will use with her colleagues to further advance the sales cycle.

9.  Provide an overview of your solution in one, easy to read slide that summarizes your key competitive advantages.   Don’t go into a full product discussion yet, just focus on the benefits.  Avoid buzz-words, since those dilute your message.

10.  Show one or two customer case study slides from your prospect’s vertical market.  Here’s where you spend more time talking about the benefits that other customers have achieved.  You’ll use more detail to explain the quantified business benefit.

Done right, the front part of a Challenger Sale Commercial Teaching Presentation shouldn’t be more than ten slides.   Distilling your content down to such a small number of slides is hard work.  Even Mark Twain struggled to keep his writing short, so keep at it.

What do you think?   What’s your experience in creating Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentations?  Please share your best examples.

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Content creation is team effort

Content Creation for Inbound Marketing: Build a Bigger Boat

Necessity is the mother of invention.  The phrase is ascribed to Plato, and as the solo marketer in a stand-alone business unit within a large company, I lived and breathed it. To succeed at content creation for inbound marketing, I knew I couldn’t do it alone.   This week’s Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) illustrates how to build a bigger boat to get it done.

Organize your Content Creation Plan

Choose your channels.   Are you rowing sweep (one oar) or are you sculling (two)?  In a single, double, four, or eight?  Similarly, choose your social media channels based on your strengths, resources, and intended audience.  We used Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging.

Find your contributors.  As the marketer, I was the coxswain of our effort, steering and setting the cadence.  Just as a cox can’t move the boat without rowers, marketing can’t be the only function doing content creation for your inbound marketing effort.   Below, I discuss who took up an oar in our content creation boat and what they provided.

Drive to a schedule.  It takes about twenty minutes to finish the three mile HOCR course, but boats can lose major time navigating the 180 degree turn that starts at mile two.  Our content plan had a schedule for each of our channels.  Every week, members of our sales, business development, and product management teams suggested content to me.  I used their suggestions to build an inventory of tweets that were scheduled using HootSuite and distributed to the rest of the company using GaggleAMP.  I recorded one YouTube video each week on technical topics determined by the field.   Our thought leaders contributed to our corporate cloud blog at least monthly.

Build content for the whole customer buying cycle, just as rowers vary their output over the race course.  At the start, they accelerate with a furious stroke rate, then they settle into a more sustainable pace at the B.U. Bridge.  With a half mile to the finish, they go all out once they pass the Eliot Bridge.  Don’t limit your effort to thought leadership content for awareness and consideration.  You need a variety of content for subsequent stages in the cycle.

Track results.  Just as rowers follow a specific plan of workouts leading up to the regatta, we tracked the results of our efforts.   We analyzed which tweets got the most amplification, and which website content was most popular.  We shared the contributions and Klout scores of our team members, to generate competition.

The Oarsmen in our Content Creation Boat

Several groups played a role in content creation.   Here’s who pulled an oar in our eight, from stem to stern.

1.  Product Management:  In the bow seat, our product managers created short YouTube videos covering the our product’s business benefits.  Avoiding detailed discussion of features, these videos highlighted our competitive advantages, and targeted the preference stage of the buying cycle.

2.  Strategists:  Our strategist provided thought leadership content, in white papers and blogs, for our corporate site and popular sites for our targeted industries, like MSP Mentor.  If your vertical market experts aren’t visible on the industry blogs your prospects read, you won’t expand your awareness beyond your current customer base.   

3.  Sales:  As sales met with customers and partners, they tweeted photos and key points, which were then promoted via Twitter and LinkedIn to help drive the purchase stage. We also used this information to write industry specific blog posts such as this example from the CRM software space.

4.  Business Development:  Responsible for the partner eco-system, the business development team recorded short customer videos, highlighting the quantified business benefit of our product.  We not only created a repository of customer videos on our product page, but we also tweeted them out regularly.  These proved to be our most popular tweets, since the profiled customers aggressively promoted them as well.   Create videos for all of your vertical markets and target use cases.

5.  Pre-sales:  Our pre-sales experts recorded YouTube videos on technical tips and tricks.   Targeted to existing customers, these videos helped customers expand their use of our product, helping us cross-sell and up-sell.

6.  Customer Support:  No team is better positioned to understand what customers struggle with, so it was easy for support to address FAQs on our LinkedIn user group.

7.  Executives:  We engaged our leadership, especially on controversial news-jacking opportunities.  The best example is a blog showing how  our customer supported a massive increase in traffic to Boston Magazine’s website after it published unauthorized photos in the Boston Marathon bombing case.

8.  Customers and Partners:  In the stroke position, the most important in the boat, are customers and partners.  After all, it is their experience with the product that drives the business.  Add them as guests on your blog and lead generation activities, since their credibility and direct experience will be more convincing to prospects than your own.

My job as marketer is just like that of the cox:  drive to the schedule, insist on quality output, and constantly demand more effort.

What do you think?  Are you getting the most out of your colleagues when it comes to inbound marketing content creation, or do you have a few empty seats in your boat?

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cloud, cloud computing

Mass TLC Cloud Summit: Top 10 Key Points from Keynotes

The Mass TLC Cloud Summit, “Doing the Cloud Right:  From the Real Practitioners,” was held on October 8.   A central theme echoed by each of the three keynote speakers was the extent to which cloud computing empowers business users to operate with the speed and agility they need, sometimes in spite of their colleagues in IT.  Here is a summary of each presenter’s discussion, a link to their presentations, and my Top 10 list of their key points:

Ariel Tseitlin, Director of Cloud Services for Netflix, led off the session.  Netflix uses an Amazon based public cloud to deliver 1 billion hours of content per month to 38 million viewers in 40 countries.  Netflix has built a highly scalable and available platform as a service to run this network, and has open sourced it as Netflix OSS.

Netflix is committed to moving all of its corporate systems to SaaS.  Email now runs on Google, instead of Exchange.  Expense management runs on Workday, instead of Concur.  Document sharing runs on Box, instead of on file servers.  Credit card and big data analytics will be the next to move.  Netflix’s reliance on SaaS and open sourcing of their OSS indicate their focus on their core business.  Their core competence is not in operating networks or running applications, but in delivering content.  And now, having made history as the first non-TV network to win an Emmy award (for “House of Cards” director David Fincher), Netflix can also add content creation as a strength.

Here are some of the key points from Ariel’s presentation.

  1. Prevent application failures by designing them right.  With a highly available architecture providing redundancy at multiple levels, Ariel focuses on the high probability failure modes.   Application failures are at the top of the list.  Ariel’s approach to reducing the likelihood of application failures is to ensure that developers run the applications they write, and take responsibility for any failures.   After a few wake-up calls in the middle of the night, application developers learn how to write more robust applications.
  2. Find problems and fix them fast.  Since Netflix has content as its core competence, not network operations, they don’t want to have to scale their 120 member operations team linearly as their service grows.  Pay people to build very smart alerts, not to monitor screens.  Build redundancy into the underlying infrastructure, so you can monitor services, not instances.
  3. Raise efficiency by using batch processing in low  resource consumption periods.   Netflix accounts for 1/3 of all North American peak period downstream internet traffic.  Peaks are about 10 times the trough.  Netflix uses Amazon reserved instances for base footprint and augments with bursting as needed.  They fill the troughs with batch loading.

Allison Mnookin, VP & General Manager of Intuit QuickBase, was next to take the stage at the Mass TLC Cloud Summit.  She discussed how cloud computing empowers business users to respond to customers by doing custom application development on their own, rather than having to rely on IT.   Her presentation built on the concepts of such business users, which Gartner refers to as  “citizen developers,” and Forrester calls “HEROs” (Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives).

In her presentation, Allison shared the results of Intuit QuickBase’s survey of 903 information workers in firms with more than 100 employees.

  1. 50% are acting on their own to build their own business applications, up from 33% in 2009.  Those feeling empowered by doing so grew directly from a reduction on those formerly feeling disenfranchised.
  2. Employees would consider switching jobs to find an environment with more freedom to develop.  28% of all employees would consider switching jobs, and 50% of so-called “rogue” employees would.
  3. Do-it-yourself (DIY) custom app development is significantly faster that relying on IT.  68% of DIYers take less than a week to design a custom web app, whereas 72% say it would take more than a month if they were to rely on an internal development team.

Michael Skok, General Partner, North Bridge Venture Partners was the last speaker to take the Mass TLC Cloud Summit stage.  His presentation covered results from the North Bridge 2013 Future of Cloud Computing Survey, conducted with GigaOM Research.

  1. The three drivers of overall cloud adoption, scalability, agility, and cost, remain consistent relative to last year’s survey.  There ARE differences, depending on the type of cloud service.  Organizations focused on agility and innovation are respectively 5x and 4x more likely to invest in SaaS than in legacy infrastructure.  For IaaS, those focused on shifting CAPEX to OPEX are 2.5x more likely to adopt IaaS than to invest in legacy infrastructure.
  2. As for inhibitors to cloud adoption, security concerns are easing (46% vs 55%), but cost concerns are growing (28% vs 20%).  The key concern is total cost of ownership, not just conversion of infrastructure CAPEX to OPEX.   68% say cloud has about the same or better TCO than traditional IT infrastructure, with the cloud advantage being predictability of spend, not necessarily the straight cost advantage.
  3. Cloud is currently used more extensively for business activities than IT activities.   At least 50% of respondents use four business applications (file sharing, business productivity, CRM, social) in a SaaS model.  No single SaaS IT application (backup, security, systems mgmt, help desk) was used by at least 50% of business respondents.  But this is trend will change, as six of the seven highest growing SaaS applications are in the IT area (big data, mobile, systems mgmt, back-up/DR/BC, help desk, security).
  4. The PaaS market is getting squeezed from above by SaaS players and from below by IaaS players as each build APIs to extend the capabilities of their offers.  This trend is consistent with the focus on APIs by both Intuit and Netflix.

What do you think?  Check out the presentations.   If you attended the MassTLC Cloud Summit, did you come away with different key points?  Let me know what you think.

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Managed Services Pricing – Put Your Customer on the Winner’s Podium

Determining the ideal managed services pricing model can be complex.  MSP University summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of six popular pricing schemes, including per-device, per-user, à la carte, and “pick 5.”   MSP Mentor points out that service providers should consider break-even cost, staff expertise, competition, and regulatory issues, along with value to the customer, when determining managed services pricing.

Multiple models and a broad range of factors can be overwhelming, but establishing pricing and packaging is a lot easier when you crisply focus on your customer and the problem they are trying to solve.  For marketers at B2B companies, whose products are the basis of managed services offers, this means thinking along two dimensions.   First, you must help your immediate buyer – the executive or product manager at the MSP responsible for launching the managed service and driving a profitable revenue stream.  Second, you must help the customers of this buyer understand the benefits of the managed service based on your solution.

Marketing to the first buyer goes without saying, but some may question whether it is in their charter to help their service providers market to their customers.  Surely that is the job of the marketing team within the service provider itself, as they are the ones who best understand their own organization’s differentiators, competition, and customer base.  Besides, B2B marketers need to move on to the next campaign, product launch, or demand generation activity.

Put Your Customer on the Winner’s Podium

Age Group Winner, 2013 Ashland Olympic Triathlon
Age Group Winner, 2013 Ashland Olympic Triathlon

Rather than take this narrow view, marketers should put their customer on the winner’s podium.   To win, the service provider must ace the marketing mix as they target their customers.   The 4Ps – product, place, price, and promotion – are tightly coupled for a managed service, and as the vendor, you are in the best position to help the service provider articulate the value proposition and competitive advantages of the technology underlying their managed service.

The podium also reinforces the benefits of a tiered managed services pricing scheme like “Gold/Silver/Bronze.”  Large service providers, such as CSC and Sprint, and smaller providers like Technology’sEdge™ and Beringer Associates use a tiered approach.  Doing so helps in several aspects of the marketing mix:

  1. Resists commoditization:   Unlike per device or per user pricing schemes, which reduce the value proposition of a managed service to a simple cost comparison, a tiered managed service pricing model helps justify premium prices for the extra value of higher tiers.  This helps reduce customer churn and enables more effective up-selling and cross-selling.
  2. Differentiation vs. the Competition:  The product is a combination of the service provider’s staff expertise, SLAs, brand, and the technology on which the service is based.   But every MSP touts its highly trained staff, secure data centers, and redundant power supplies.   It is the software behind the back-up and recovery, monitoring, or security service that can differentiate among providers.   While the lowest tier may provide the base level of service that is common across service providers, the higher tiers can leverage more advanced software capabilities.  For example, in managed network services, “bronze” may provide customer notification of outages, whereas higher tiers can provide proactive notification of degradation, the impending approach of a network capacity constraint, or the ability for the customer to run their own reports.
  3. Differentiation vs. In-house IT:  A prospect’s IT staff is often an MSP’s key competitor.  Although a managed service may free up IT staff to work on more strategic projects, IT leaders often resist giving up control.   Service providers can align their lower tiers of service to the capabilities of their prospects’ in-house IT staff, and use the higher tiers to demonstrate the extra value of more advanced functionality not available with current staff.
  4. Enables freemium business models:   In today’s market, customers expect to be able to try a service before they commit to buying it.  A tiered structure can provide basic functionality for free, as part of the lower tier of service, and time-bound access to higher value, higher tiers of service to entice customers to upgrade.

Although there are many approaches to managed services pricing, the benefits of a podium approach are clear.  What do you think?  If you are a service provider, are you getting the support you expect from the IT vendors on whose solutions your managed service is based?  If you are a vendor, are you helping your service providers find a place on the podium?  I’m interested in your feedback.

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Berlin Marathon Finish Line: An Embarrassing Example of Marketing and Marathon

Run a mile at a 4:42 pace.  Do it again.  And another time.  Repeat 23 more times.   That’s what Wilson Kipsang of Kenya did on Sunday, as he set the world record at the Berlin Marathon, with a time of 2:03:23.    With its flat course and cool temperatures, Berlin is known as the site for world record marathon runs, with eight world record times recorded there since 1998.

Now, however, it is also known as an unfortunate example of guerrilla marketing in endurance sports.   Just as Kipsang approached the finish line, a bandit promoting a high-end escort service on his t-shirt jumped out onto the course and broke the tape in front of him.  The rogue runner was apprehended, but he not only ruined Kipsang’s moment of triumph, he obtained for his business immediate, world-wide awareness. The finish line photos of Kipsang are spoiled by this interloper’s misguided and selfish promotion.  The notoriety the culprit has obtained for his business will surely far outweigh the penalty he will have to pay, while Kipsang’s years of dedication have been marred forever by a marketer’s short term, egocentric awareness campaign.

Take a look at the video of the finish.  As both a B2B marketer and an endurance athlete, I’m ashamed.  Some tactics just go too far.  This is one of them.  What do you think?Where’s the border between outlandish and inappropriate?


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