Rethinking your sales messaging is never a bad idea – but how do you keep the needle moving on rep performance?
The bottlenecks that come with sales messaging adoption are no secret. Proving the value of new messaging to stakeholders is one challenge, but how do you then give reps the essentials to ensure it succeeds?
Skepticism is not uncommon in the live sales environment. Every professional will have their own process, flair and ideas of what works and what doesn’t. When your sales team works on commission and has specific targets and goals to hit, testing new messaging and fixing things that aren’t “broken” can cause conflict, reduce morale – and even generate attrition in the worst cases.
As an inside sales leader, it’s your job to blend these ideas in a way that drives engagement, attracts prospects and combines different schools of thought, in order to ensure contributors feel seen and heard. How exactly do you do that?
Initial 5 steps to seamless play adoption
Far too often, sales organizations see messaging adoption as a secondary priority in the strategy creation process. They expect a single stakeholder to write a play unaided and drip-feed it through to a sales team to practicalize and execute – with objections handled further down the road. It’s seen as a hierarchical implementation, rather than a team one.
The reality is that team adoption starts much earlier in the messaging creation process. While there’s no instant win to quick messaging adoption, with proper cooperation, data insight and diversity of thought, there’s a better chance for plays to resonate across the board – from prospect engagement to team interaction. This will help leaders to overcome difficulties before they become problematic and potentially irreversible.
Any great play adoption really begins with… designing a great play. That’s hardly a revelation. So, what else can be done? Here are five initial steps to boost adoption during the messaging creation process.
1. Plan ahead
The “pre-play planning stage” is crucial for designing effective sales messaging. Before writing a messaging strategy, you need to create a Buyer Persona and Ideal Customer Profile. These help their team understand the “who” and the “why.” That is, the target audience, and the purpose of the message.
Dive into historical data: Leaders stand a far greater chance of their messages being successfully adopted (and performing well) if they take time to sift through historical data and ground decisions on previous performance. Sales teams are far less likely to question messaging based on rigorous, analytical research than messaging rooted in assumptions.
2. Input from key stakeholders
Don’t underestimate the value of collaboration. To write a sales message that’s unique and engaging, you need perspectives from diverse age groups, cultures and schools of thought. No two messaging styles will ever be the same. Salespeople each have their own personal flair and ideas – and that’s invaluable.
If strategists want to build a play right, insight from the perspective of a rep is a key component. Involving them in the process means reps are more likely to adapt to the play and follow it through concisely. Leaders will also be able to identify their role-specific challenges and pain points earlier.
3. Design review
Before rollout, the design, review and agreement stages work as a safety net for all parties involved in the messaging. It’s an opportunity for key stakeholders and messaging development teams to agree and finalize the play, ensuring everyone involved in design, preparation and execution is singing from the same hymn sheet.
For outsourced sales teams, this is also a chance to negotiate with your client. Remember: No one knows the product quite like the brains behind it. Clients can be very particular and focused on the messaging they want to use.
4. The rollout phase
To maximize adoption across a sales team, every rep must understand the “why” behind each step. As part of the rollout process, explain to the sales team the purpose of the play. This includes the target audience, the reason for a call, LinkedIn touchpoint or email, and the data powering each and every decision.
For us at Harte Hanks, we find this process makes the most sense for our reps. It helps them become actively invested in the process, rather than blindly following directions.
5. Agreeing to commitment
Once the play is complete, optimized and ready to go, it is essential to gather the thoughts, opinions and feedback of the sales team before go-live. If leaders can understand the challenges their reps will have early on, they’ll be able to overcome them sooner, rather than paying the price further down the line.
Equally, work to agree to a commitment with every rep that they will run the play as designed. Success early on is encouraging, but that’s no reason to stop there. Remember, this is a new play, so it needs to be executed as closely as possible to understand its true returns.
Root everything in historical data, not gut feeling
Relying on gut feeling is an instant route to failed sales play adoption. If there’s one trick to sales messaging adoption success, it’s basing decisions on actionable, meaningful historical data.
Once you can analyze particular metrics, get sales feedback and pick apart the performance of previous messaging, you’ll be more able to understand the motivation of buyers in the sales funnel. That makes it easier to reinforce the play’s worth with provable numbers – rather than assumptions.
Equally, once you understand what the historical sales cycle for a product looks like, you can make better predictions about the overall success of a play. You can contrast your new play with the patterns, pipeline and performance of the existing strategy.
Ultimately, successful play adoption comes down to having the data to back up everything you do and say. Don’t just randomly put plays out there and hope they’ll stick. Talk to the right people, and understand the gains for the persona, industry and product line. That way, if you’re challenged by someone who is uncomfortable with a new message, you have the insight to prove its worth.
Increase adoption through understanding
If your sales team can’t recognize the benefits of your sales messaging, you’ll see huge reductions in adoption. There’s a real business case for teaching reps to read and understand the analytics behind a play. With most sales enablement tools, this data is readily available at their fingertips. If they don’t understand, or can’t interpret this data, take the time to demonstrate.
Not only will this help diagnose issues across play execution, but it also gives the sales team a better view of what successful performance looks like. If they understand an open rate or a click rate, then they’ll be able to assess their results with a tailored mindset, more suited to the play’s key objectives.
For them, an email falls flat if they don’t get a reply. That’s not always the play’s purpose. It could be visibility and name recognition, and eventually getting a result because of that process – rather than immediate results upfront.
Don't judge prematurely
The feedback and insight from your sales team should have an influence, but it’s easy to judge a sales play prematurely. Remember, you need to have a certain number of leads go through the cadence before you can determine what is effective and what isn’t.
It’s all about metrics with any sales play – not just feedback from a single individual. What do the numbers tell us? Where do we see success within the play? It’s one thing to take feedback from one voice saying: “This email is NOT working.” That may mean one thing to them and a totally different thing on the analytics side.
Many salespeople jump the gun to attain an instant return on investment; they don’t necessarily understand the purpose of a well-crafted sales play. Education is vital to avoid any premature opinions or wandering. Plus, sales reps talk. You don’t want one apprehensive rep causing anxiety amongst others. Any feedback shared by reps should be considered, and applied strategically to the play itself, where appropriate.
Be transparent and seek opinions
Being transparent across the entire design, implementation and execution process leads to easier adoption of the play. Often, an apprehensive rep starting a new play simply comes down to a misunderstanding of the objective. As with every good business decision, being as open and transparent as possible leads to success.
Remember, your sales team is part of the process. Define the purpose and goal of each sales play, minimize uncertainty, and seek feedback on a regular basis.
Look at every factor that needs to happen for the play to excel. Analyze previous performance, collate the gold dust data and be proactive. Through proactivity, you’ll be able to invite your team to challenge you, or find a reason why the play doesn’t work – in a constructive manner. Confidence in your own decision-making will boost belief across your team, increasing adoption from the get-go.
Sales messaging adoption is crucial to the success of your organization. In this blog, we’ve explored key components that boost adoption across your team and improve messaging performance throughout.
The process can be time-consuming, especially for fast-growing companies with little sales data to work with. We can help. At Harte Hanks, we specialize in the design, application and execution of powerful sales plays that win for our partners.
With our extensive archive of historical data, we truly understand market variances, and we know how to power every sales play decision with proven processes and data-driven insights that make a valued difference.
Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, Christina has 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level. Those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working in her role as SVP of Sales Services to develop the individuals and teams as a whole.