When building a house, it's absolutely vital that your foundation is rock-solid — but in order to lay a rock-solid foundation, you have to dig deep. It's similar with your sales team. Your Sales Foundations define the core elements of your business. But if you want everyone on your team to have a clear idea of who you are, and what you stand for, you'll have to lead your team in some "digging exercises."
When laying your sales foundations, there are five key questions you need to answer. Or rather, five questions that you and your team need to answer together. Let's talk about them one by one, and see how you can get everyone on the same page.
1. What Problems Do You Solve?
This usually isn't a difficult question to answer. But you need to make sure that there's alignment on this point before moving on to the next sales foundation question. Every company is in existence to solve a problem or fill a need. Which customer needs does your company fill? You could start the discussion by asking questions like:
Ask your team members to provide as many answers as they can. Then, compile those answers into a bulleted list. After that, organize the answers under different "umbrella" categories. For example, if you run an SaaS company, you may be able to segment the problems you solve into three areas:
2. What is Your Value Proposition?
Every time you solve a problem, or fill a need, you also create value. Your value proposition is a clear statement of the value you can bring to the table when customers do business with you. In fact, as far as your customers are concerned, your value proposition represents the most important part of your company.
Ask each member of your Improvement Team what they feel the company's value proposition is. Then, have them define any ambiguous terms that come up along the way. If there's any misalignment on the value proposition, keep digging until a consensus has been reached.
Finally, suggest two brief summaries of your value proposition: one that's 25 words long, and another that's 100 words. The 25-word version should encapsulate your value proposition in a way that any salesperson can internalize and repeat to customers. The 100-word version should serve as the basis for just about all of your marketing messages moving forward.
3. What are Your Key Differentiators?
It's true that there may be a hundred companies in your industry that basically provide the same product or service that you do. But none of them do it exactly like your company does. So the question is: What makes you unique? And then the million-dollar follow-up question should be: Why would someone buy from you instead of one of your competitors?
You may need to start the discussion with your Improvement Team by asking: Why have customers bought from us in the past? Whatever answers you get, make sure that you're especially careful with your terminology here. For instance, one salesperson may consider a product "great" because it's extremely reliable. Whereas another sales rep looks at the same product and calls it "okay" because it's not cutting-edge.
4. What are Your Offerings?
Now we're getting into the weeds a bit (but just a bit!) Your offerings are the specific products and services that your company provides to customers. They're the how of your value proposition. By asking this question, you don't want your team members to just list off the different offerings your company has. Instead, you want to connect those offerings to the needs, wants, and interests of your customers.
As an example, think of a seafood restaurant. Imagine that the restaurant only offers flounder to its patrons. But most of them want shrimp. Even if it's the finest flounder in town, the restaurant's offerings don't match the preferences of its customers.
In the same way, it's important to periodically revisit your offerings to make sure they really align with the needs and wants of your customers. You can use this three-step process to get some clarity and alignment on your offerings:
5. What Experience Can You Promise and Deliver to Customers?
As the final "building block" for your Sales Foundations, you need to move beyond the "X's and O's" of concrete problem-solving and enter the realm of human interaction. Your customer experience promise defines the kind of experiences you want to create for your customers. In other words, how you want them to feel before, during, and after an interaction with your brand.
Have your team members generate a list of keywords and phrases that they feel would best represent that "ideal experience" for the customer. Once you've compiled that list, whittle it down until you arrive at the top three or four concepts that everyone agrees most closely match your company, and are most integral to the value you deliver.
Your Sales Foundations and Foundational Messaging
Once you and your Improvement Team answer these five key questions, you'll be able to use them to shape your company's foundational messagin. In other words, the narrative that each sales rep should walk a customer through (in whole or in part) as they consider whether to buy from your brand.
A coherent foundational message will sift out prospects from your pipeline who aren't really a good fit. They help your team to win over those leads that will yield the highest value.
The bottom line? When your team knows who they are as a company, they'll be able to stay on message, deliver a consistent experience, and ultimately improve their performance. That's the power of rock-solid Sales Foundations.
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