Sales Enablement for Conversational Competence


Guest post by Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions

If you ask most salespeople what they want in a lead to make it worthy of their pursuit, you’ll hear the standards like budget, authority, need and timeline, aka BANT. There’s nothing wrong with that except for one thing:

BANT does nothing to help the salesperson have a competent conversation that will provide value to the buyer. BANT is about what you want, not what the buyer wants.

Given that buyers are now inviting salespeople into the game during the later stages of their buying process, this can be a recipe for disaster. Arming salespeople only with BANT is like putting them into the championship game with 30 seconds on the clock when you’re behind by a goal and they haven’t played at all during the rest of the game.

Sure, they’ve likely been selling your products and solutions for years, just not to this specific buyer.

Personalization is critical for B2B complex sales. In fact, if the buyer has spent 6 months in a nurturing program, they’ve already had a dialogue with your company. They’ve already learned a lot of what they could only get from a salesperson in the past. Starting over is a momentum killer.

To avoid killing the pipeline momentum marketing has created, salespeople need to be empowered to step onto the court with the confidence that they can score that goal in the last seconds of the game. Trying to muscle their way through won’t produce the best results, but arming them with play reviews and strategic moves can.

Consider providing the following – in addition to BANT – to help salespeople have better conversations with buyers:

  • Questions your buyer has already answered with the content they viewed.
  • Provide a cliff notes overview of their activity to date.
  • Remaining questions they’ll need answered to make a confident decision.
  • Suggest additional content that salespeople can use given which content they’ve already viewed.
  • Provide email templates and conversational prompts. A conversational prompt is an idea within the content that can be used to jumpstart a discussion.
  • Case studies that most closely match this buyer’s circumstances and interests.
  • Who else from the company is also in your database, following you on Twitter or participating in discussions in LinkedIn groups that you belong to? What have they done, said or shared that might be useful? Did they attend a webinar and ask a question?

In case you think that helping salespeople improve their conversational competence is not needed, take a look at what Forrester Research found last year when they asked if salespeople were ready for executive conversations.

  • Only 34% of executives said that salespeople understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • Only 24% of business leaders said they believe salespeople are knowledgeable about their specific business.
  • 34% think salespeople have relevant examples or case studies to share during their buying process.
  • Only 15% of buying executives think their meetings with salespeople are valuable.

It’s time to start thinking about how marketing can contribute to helping salespeople improve their conversations with buyers. After all, we’re counting on them to close the deal with the leads we produce in order to prove that marketing is much more than a cost center.
Enabling salespeople will ultimately pay off with huge dividends for marketers.

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s also the author of the book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale and the Marketing Interactions blog. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales create eMarketing Strategies that use contagious content to turn prospects into buyers. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.