Creating value vs. quoting on stuff

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We just finished a case study driven marketing campaign and it felt a little like tooth extraction. No, it wasn’t getting client consent or approval that was the problem, it was pulling the story out of our beloved commercial finance salespeople.

Let me explain. Our process starts with a conference call where we pull the deal team together with our account strategists and our copywriters. In this call we ask some of the basic questions you might think, but the responses to these questions left much to be desired. Every salesperson quoted below had at least 10 years of experience in the business and these are just responses from two of the questions. For example…

The question: “What event occurred to drive the need for new capital?”

The answers:

  • “They needed new equipment”
  • “They were looking at options”
  • “I think it had something to do with a recapitalization”
  • “We just renew every few years, their needs are always the same”
  • “I’m not sure”

The question: “So what did the customer actually use the new capital or assets for?”

The answers:

  • “They wanted to grow, I guess”
  • “They need equipment to manufacture things”
  • “One of the guys wanted to retire”
  • “Flexible capital stability”

What the hell is “Flexible capital stability”? These are experienced, relatively consistently producing reps and they generally had no idea about the details of the situations that were causing the customer need…or even what the need really was. What the reps did excel with was a detailed discussion of their quote on the financial structure. Senior secured revolver with a term overadvance to handle seasonal receivables inconcistency all delivered in a unitranche structure. Or 72 month EBO Lease with a put option at 60 and refinance of a previous term loan to add a swap. And while we and all of you understand that, most of your target audience is less interested in that and far more interested in how you identified and solved the problem.

We felt like journalists digging for the story. Why did they need new equipment? What did the use their additional access to capital provided in the term overadvance for? In wanting to retire, was he trying to unlock the equity of his middle market business and what concerns did he have on the management transition?

We dug out the story and made some really nice things happen, but the overwhelming concern to us was, are we just quoting on stuff or really creating value and solving problems? And we wonder why everything is so rate competitive? We had a handful of salespeople take the content we created and thank us for giving them the tools to have a better sales conversation. Not just be talking about the win, but literally how to ask better questions.

So, what to do? Everyone needs development. The sales life should be one of continuing education. We have often published that technology is driving new decision making behaviors, salespeople should be working to evolve, educate and constantly gain a new advantage. Even experienced old industry vets need a refresh of best practices from time to time. Marketing can help too. Developing thought leadership content doesn’t just help your prospects know you’re smart, it also reminds the salespeople how smart your solutions are from a consultative point of view and can guide real needs-based sales conversations.

There are a ton of great consultative salespeople out there, but we should never take our eye off the ball. A value creation, solution oriented, consultative approach is the answer to improving your competitive position. If you ever want to talk about how marketing can help, give us a holler.

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