#gxmxp Series

Conversational Frameworks

All of your work in Market Messaging so far has been leading up to crafting a conversational framework – the outline and flow of a sales conversation with a potential customer. 

Like Market Messaging, your conversational framework will help customers understand the value they’ll gain from your product or service. Remember, you’re not here to sell, we’re here to seek fit.

With the ICP work you’ve already done to pre-qualify customers, you should already have a very good sense if there’s a fit before starting any conversation. However, just because you know there is a fit, doesn’t mean the deal will happen. Simply telling people that you see a fit rarely results in a deal getting done.

The goal of the conversational framework is to enable a potential customer to conclude that your company is a good fit for helping them solve their problem or address their need.

Selling is Helping 

There are a lot of societal misconceptions about sales. Many founders approach selling with the image of the used car salesman in their head. Or, a pushy, overbearing person who is out to pressure a customer into buying.

Unfortunately, the outdated idea that, in sales, you should always be closing also persists.

It’s time to throw these preconceived notions right out the window. They. Are. All. Wrong.

From now on, replace the words “sales” and “selling” with “help” and “helping.”

The most important thing to know about building and executing a conversational framework for the purpose of selling is this: selling is helping. Your goal with a potential customer should always be to find all the ways that you and your product can provide value.

When you are executing a conversational framework, you are not using it to sell and close a deal. Rather you are using it to seek fit between the way you can help and a problem that the customer may have.

There are hundreds of best practices and methodologies to selling that will help you engineer conversations towards specific outcomes regardless of your sales experience. 

Don’t sell; seek fit Click to Tweet

For example, our conversational framework draws on deep insights from SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. It’s a classic sales training book based on thousands of hours of sales calls. It’s required reading for the GrowthX portfolio companies.

SPIN stands for

  • Situation: How is the customer doing things today?
  • Problem:  What problems arise from the way they’re doing things today? 
  • Implication: What’s the business impact of those problems? Where do those problems affect their top line? Bottom line? Where do those problems impact one of the four reasons people buy? 
  • Needs payoff: How can you eliminate those problems with your solution?

We strongly encourage you to read the book as part of your work on the conversational framework. You’ll be better prepared for every customer interaction if you do!

A Framework, Not a Script

The keyword to remember while you’re doing this exercise is “framework.” We aren’t writing a script. 

Scripts are heavily dependent on you talking, but success in sales and market development is really more dependent on listening.

According to Gong.io, the golden talk-to-listen ratio is 43:57. Think about that for a moment and reflect on your previous conversations with potential customers. Where does your talk-to-listen ratio sit and would a script that focuses only on the words coming out of your mouth help or hurt?

Another problem with scripts is that people become too dependent. When the conversation inevitably goes in an unintended direction, the founder is ill-prepared to adjust on the fly to something off script.

Our framework gives you the keys to ask the right questions that will uncover fit and drive need. 

This is not about one-liners and elevator pitches. Rather, what you need is a genuine interest in your customer’s business, good business acumen to guide your advice as you search for their business issues and the right questions to ask in order to unlock the value that you could bring.

Ideally, as you get more comfortable with the framework you will be more present in the conversation itself and less aware of the mechanics of executing the conversation

When to Use the Conversational Framework

Keep in mind that in any industry or sales process there are multiple touch-points and conversations. We are building out a complete messaging toolbox to assist us in building product-market fit.

Just like your UVP and USP, portions of the conversation framework can be used at almost any time. 

There is one specific time where the conversational framework should be deployed – at the beginning of your sales cycle before you ever demonstrate your product.

Why use this at the very beginning? For starters, the conversational framework is not just a selling tool. It’s a tool for qualifying potential opportunities in and, most importantly, out.

All too often startups are so eager to acquire revenue that they fail to disqualify poor fit opportunities that suck up time or worse become bad-fit customers.

Don’t view disqualification as a bad thing. Remember, no is the second best answer. Just as we were doing in ICP development, you’re looking for reasons to eliminate people because you don’t have enough time or resources to focus on everyone.

Conversational Framework = tool for qualifying and disqualifying opportunities. Click to Tweet

Another reason we do this before demonstrating your product is to personalize the demo. How much more effective would your demo be if you were able to demonstrate the specific product features that made the most impact to your customer?

In order to drive a sense of urgency around your product, and in turn the sales process, you need to know exactly where the pains are before you demonstrate how you solve them.

No is the 2nd best answer in sales; get there efficiently. Click to Tweet

Creating the Conversational Framework

Time to scroll over to the Resources/Downloads section and grab the Persona-Based Conversational Framework worksheet.

Complete the worksheet with the answers you expect to get based on your learnings so far, and you can adjust during each conversation. 

Here’s what to write for each column:

  • Persona – Just like we did with ICPs, give this persona a name that’s easy to understand when you’re discussing them with your colleagues, like “Economic Buyer at Top 50 Accounts” or “Fortune 100 CMOs.
  • Buyer Type – Is this an economic buyer, a user buyer, or a technical buyer?
  • Persona’s Priority/Challenge? – Think about this individual and what you’ve learned about them so far. List one priority or challenge at a time and be as specific as possible. This will remind you what the person cares about as you’re having a conversation with them.
  • Persona Priorities for 2019You should already know this from the ICP Part 2 Exercise. Is there a trend or priority in this persona’s industry right now that you can speak to? Put the most relevant ones here. 
  • How are you currently addressing (challenge)?Start by personalizing this question to your economic buyer and their business. Make sure you craft the question in a way that would be easy to understand. Next, ask yourself how do you think this persona will answer this question? As you collect feedback and hone in on the truth, this should get updated with typical answer you get from qualified conversations. And remember that these challenges and priorities need to be related to your product. Don’t ask questions or bring up problems you can’t solve. If you do this, you might leave them with the impression that they have a much larger problem, and you’re actually no longer in the running to solve it. 
  • How and where are you in achieving (priority)?Just like the previous question, tailor the question to your audience and fill out what you think their answer is going to be and adjust as you get more answers from customers. 
  • What is the business impact of this challenge/priority not getting addressed?Answer this from the customer’s standpoint. What happens if they don’t fix their problem? 
  • How happy are you with your current (solution, plan, tools, etc.)Again, how happy do you think this persona is with what they’re doing today? If they aren’t happy with it, what would be the reason why and the business impact of that challenge.
  • Solution/component of yours that addresses priority/challengeYou might need to have multiple rows here. This is about how you address specific pains with your product.
  • Expected result after applying solution component –  What are the tangible outcomes that this persona will see once they start using your product? 
  • Completed attention grabberNow, you’re pulling it all together into one sentence that’s a clear value statement. It should be something like “With this product (Column I), this persona (Column A) will see a tangible outcome (Column J) that will enable them to accomplish their priorities (Column C).” 

Turn It Into a Real Conversation

When speaking with a customer, the questions above should ideally flow in the order of the spreadsheet, but every industry is going to be different. You need to make your questions are tailored and specific as possible.

For example, instead of saying “what are your priorities for 2019?” say, “So I know (Column D) is a priority for many people in (Column A). Is that true for you?” This should feel like an organic conversation, not like a survey. 

The next step is to turn this into a document. Take the essence of each question, personalize it, and then leave a space after each one for the customer’s answer. These are the questions you know you have to ask during your conversation in the time that you have.

We encourage you to go “off script” if necessary. When you hear something interesting, ask a question about it even if it’s not on your doc but as long as it’s relevant. Just remember to avoid taking the conversation to a place where you’re talking about a problem you can’t solve. 

A Closing on Closing

Closing isn’t a magical skill; it’s a byproduct of a well-designed and thoughtful sales process. This is about creating value for your customers and teeing up successful opportunities for yourself.

If you have an appetite for more on sales best practices, check out two of our favorite blogs:

  1. Gong.io blog; and 
  2. John Barrows’s blog

Next up on #gxmxp, we’ll move on to the Sales and Marketing Instrumentation phase of Market Messaging. This is where you’ll learn how to implement the necessary tools to support your marketing and sales process and measure/validate the results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add Comment

Viewing Highlight

Forgot password?
New to site? Create an Account

Already have an account? Login
Forgot Password