What does Dwight from NBC’s The Office have to teach us about messaging? In the thirteenth episode of the fifth season (“Stress Relief”), Dwight tries a unique tactic to teach fire safety (don’t try this at home… or the office).
Watch as much of this clip as you can handle:
You clearly don’t want or need to go to extremes, but creating urgency with context is the key to driving home your point. How many times have you simply tuned out an alarm because you figured it was just another drill?
As I’m writing this, it’s Saturday in my small suburban community and the siren is going off, signaling it is noon. But, no one gives it much attention in my house, or neighborhood. It’s just the “noon whistle.”
Since I live near Milwaukee, WI, tornadoes, hail, and the ominous storms with “damaging” or “straight-line” winds can occur suddenly. Interestingly, the siren that signals it is noon on a Saturday is the same one my community uses to signal a severe weather emergency.
The siren that is ignored on Saturdays at noon when the weather is nice can clear an entire park within minutes on a threatening summer Saturday. I’ve heard that the only time the “noon whistle” does not happen is when the weather is bad. Why? The Public Safety department doesn’t want people to mistake it for a real emergency.
In other words, the siren uses the exact same sound, but you don’t know what it means without putting it in context. The siren on a sunny Saturday at noon means nothing. The same siren with dark clouds or wind means “take shelter now!” Context gives the message its meaning.
Context Creates Urgency
It’s the same with your company’s marketing messages or value propositions. Context creates urgency. It’s what causes your prospect to take action versus listen passively to the same blah, blah, blah they’ve heard 100 times.
Many companies tell their story in a generic way, often comparing themselves to their competitors. Hoping the prospect will care. But, there’s no reason for a prospect to do anything different, if they don’t understand the potential impact on them. Just like the siren during the sunny day vs. the cloudy day. You need to clearly show your prospects the potential upside or downside of responding to or ignoring the challenges they face – not the features you offer.
This has never been more important for Marketing and Sales leaders to grasp. As the economy struggles to escape the grips of a recession, you will be working harder than ever to create demand and create urgency — versus trying to beat competitors — just to build a respectable pipeline.
Sales Can’t Wait for BANT-qualified Leads
I recently spoke with a VP of Sales at one of the biggest software companies. He said that his salespeople are spending significantly more time on “deal creation” than running traditional competitive sales cycles. “Otherwise, they’d have nothing to do,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s the part of the job where they have the least messaging and least training,” he added. “But, they know they have to do it if they have any chance of succeeding.”
Today more than ever, your marketing and sales efforts need to create opportunities before your prospects have determined a budget. Why? Because there aren’t enough deals happening fast enough on their own to help your company make its number.
If you wait for Marketing to create awareness and then demand, and focus your sales people exclusively on managing BANT- (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) qualified leads, you are going to hear a lot of crickets chirping on your pipeline calls.
One superstar salesperson recently told me, “If I had to feed my children based on waiting for Marketing leads, they’d starve.” That’s why he approaches demand generation as a significant part of the job.
The Challenger Model
So many companies get their underwear wadded up over the competitive matrix. You know the chart I’m talking about. The one with all the competitors’ names and the images of half moons, quarter moons and full moons to show where you are different from your competitors.
That’s all well and good when you are buried deep in the weeds of a “competitive bake-off.” And you have all you can handle keeping up with RFP’s (requests for proposal). But those days are a distant memory. And, they aren’t coming back anytime soon.
You know what else has disappeared? The days of the elongated, expensive dog-and-pony demo parades. Prospect decision-makers are telling researchers they want a different kind of engagement with sales people.
According to the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales Executive Council (SEC), the sales profile most likely to succeed today is something called “The Challenger.” Decision-makers tell SEC they prefer conversations with companies where they, the prospects, learn something new. They want their sales interactions to provide a new, fresh insight by challenging the status quo and showing them a better way to do something.
Most companies struggle to equip their sales people to have these types of interactions. Why? It goes back to the initial premise of this article. You have the context all wrong.
A company-focused context that emphasizes your product features and tries to take out your competitors on a competitive matrix has nothing to do with what your prospects are looking to accomplish. You are arguing in your context, but the prospect is living in their context.
The real winners create and deliver messaging in a customer-focused context that points out problems and pitfalls that are threatening your prospect’s ability to meet their objectives, and then aligns your solution to their context. You also show them how you can help avoid the landmines and pains others like them have experienced.
By getting into your prospect’s context, creating urgency to solve a problem, and showing them how you can uniquely help, you will significantly increase the chances they will care enough to start a buying cycle with you.
And, after all, that’s job #1 today.
- Timothy Riesterer
CMO and SVP Strategic Consulting at Corporate Visions Inc.
Co-author of Customer Message Management