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Unfortunately, the outdated idea that, in sales, you should always be closing also persists.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