The custom nature of each capital equipment sales situation makes the notion of a standard sales kit seem like a fantasy. Each prospect has his or her special requirements and views the issues differently. A traditional, fully scripted “sales-pitch pack” will most certainly miss the mark and have customers feeling that you are insensitive to their needs.
At the same time, these markets are competitive, the products are complex, and the buyers are sophisticated. So, developing sales-and-marketing materials on the fly is not likely to produce a clear picture of your value and advantage. If you haphazardly create your selling materials in response to requests for information or your competitor’s latest assault, you will fail to get your message across.
Developing a set of standard sales-and-marketing materials for capital equipment has its unique challenges. You need to develop tools that allow you to substantiate your value proposition and competitive advantages over the entire sales cycle. This sales kit needs to be structured to support each stage of the selling process. At the same time, it needs to be configurable to conform to each prospect’s unique requirements.
Going Ad Hoc Is Not an Option
Perhaps you still think the standardization of a sales kit is a waste of effort because every selling situation is different. However, you need to think about the consequences of an ad hoc approach. A lot can go wrong.
- Price is always going to be an issue. Your ability to obtain value-based pricing is dependent on your ability to prove and reinforce your unique value at every step in the sales process. You cannot count on an ad hoc set of presentation slides packed with random features and benefits to get you there.
- If you have not fully locked down your selling specifications and ensured consistency with your selling materials, you risk overcommitting, which will lead to customer dissatisfaction and potential revenue-recognition issues.
- Without a thoroughly developed and supported case for buying, you will default to tactically answering prospect requests for information or responding to competitor attacks. You will spend the whole sales cycle “fetching rocks” instead of getting your value and position established. This is good for the competition but not for you.
- Against a competitor who can skillfully orchestrate a sales cycle, you will appear amateurish. It would be like an American football team showing up for the Super Bowl without practicing and without a playbook. There would be lots of effort and creativity on the field but no coordinated effort and no chance of winning.
- You will lose control of your message. You will be at the mercy of anyone touching the sale to position the issues however he or she sees fit. This can no doubt lead to countless mistakes, retractions, and even losing the order.
- Without a grab-’n’-go set of materials, you will be caught flat-footed when you are asked to make a presentation to a prospect who just arrived in your lobby unannounced.
Your sales kit needs to be a comprehensive set of tools designed to substantiate your value during a sales cycle. It ensures that no matter where the selling is happening, it is consistent with what the best minds in your company have determined will work. It is the foundation from which you train sales and field-marketing personnel to secure purchase orders at the prices you deserve.
Sales Kit Structure
Imagine that you took your home-handyman toolbox and dumped it out on your workbench. You would be staring at a random collection of gadgets. This random collection would offer no clue about what these tools are supposed to accomplish or how to use them. Your handyman toolbox becomes a lot more useful when it is viewed in the context of an objective with instructions for what tool to use when.
Suppose you purchased an assemble-it-yourself bookcase at your local furniture store. When you get it home, you crack open the box and pull out the instructions. The first page shows you a list of the tools you need to pull out of your toolbox to build the bookcase. All the subsequent pages show you when to use each tool. This clear objective, a complete list of the tools needed, and guidance on when to use them turn your random collection of gadgets into something useful.
The same principle applies to your sales kit. It is also not much use without a clear objective, an at-a-glance inventory, and guidance on its use. Your sales kit’s objective is to substantiate your value proposition so your salespeople can close orders at the prices you deserve. Your salespeople will need to be aware of available tools, and they will need guidance on how to apply these tools in a sales cycle. This leads to two useful views of the capital equipment sales kit.
- A hierarchal bill of materials that shows all the available tools
- Sales tools by sales-cycle activity
Bill of Materials View
The first view of your sales kit structure is like a piece of capital equipment’s bill of materials. At the highest level is the parent assembly, supported by all the elements beneath it. For a sales kit, the parent assembly represents the objective. Your why-buy presentation goes here. Everything beneath it in your bill of material is there to substantiate the case your why-buy presentation makes for buying your product at your price. See the example bill of materials view of a sales kit below.
Sales Cycle View
Before you describe how to use your sales kit, you must define your sales cycle. For example, a capital equipment sales cycle can be described in the five phases shown in the table below.
|1||Prospect||Identify, engage, and nurture potential customers|
|2||Qualify||Determine a prospects’ need, budget, timing, and authority to buy|
|3||Establish Value||Tailor the value proposition to the prospect and substantiate it|
|4||Propose||Formally codify terms of sale|
|5||Close||Negotiate the final price and terms. Obtain a purchase order.|
And then with the sales cycle defined, you can then associate items in your sales kit with sales-cycle phases. See the example below.
|Target customer profile |
You will find it useful to maintain both the bill-of-materials and the sales-cycle views of your sales kit. Fortunately, even the simplest electronic content management systems make it easy to tag content with both its content-type category and its sales-cycle phase application. Using the example hierarchal sales kit and sales cycle described above, a promotional video might be tagged as media (category) and prospect (sales-cycle application).
Sales kits are like snowflakes. No two are the same. However, the most effective capital equipment sales kits contain
- A why-buy presentation,
- Proof presentations for each position taken in the why-buy presentation, and
- Data to support your claims.
This is your core content. It is core because, without it, you stand little chance of substantiating your value during a sales cycle. It is your fully fleshed-out case for why a prospect should buy from you at your price. See below for the core sales kit content for the Mr. Melty example.
The why-buy presentation is the most important tool in your capital equipment sales kit. These are the 10-15 slides that tell your value story and set the framework for everything else in your sales kit. You must supply your sales team with this grab-n-go, top-level case for why a customer should buy your product at your price. See chapter XX for a full tutorial on how to write a why-buy presentation including an example.
Proof presentations are the next level of detail for each of the positions that you took in your why-buy presentation. For example, suppose your why-buy presentation contained the following positioning statement:
Mr. Melty saves PV-wafer manufacturers ~15% in capital expense. Its
- 5kW rhenium heater produces the fastest process times
- Closed-loop, dual-zone temperature control ensures the highest yields
In this positioning statement, two positions are taken: the fastest process times and the highest yields. Each of these needs a proof presentation that makes a detailed case for your competitive advantage. If the positioning statement had taken three positions, then you would have at least three stand-alone proof presentations.
The proof presentation is there to respond to the prospect who says something like, “I’m interested in learning more about your process-time advantage” or “Yield is very important to us. I just don’t believe yours is the highest.” The proof presentation is the next level of detail to keep the sales process moving and focused on the positions you have established.
You must have data for all the equipment performance measures that must be substantiated during a sale cycle. Among the must-have data sets are those needed to support the positions you are taking.
The data-slides portion of the sales kit is organized as data sets for key equipment performance areas such as throughput, yield, and reliability. Each data set contains performance data under different test conditions reflecting the various use cases you would expect to find in the market. The data is communicated in stand-alone slides each with the data, test conditions, and a headline with the conclusion that you want the prospect to reach. Note that these data slides are not stand-alone presentations. These are the single-slide building blocks from which tailored presentations can be built. See the example below.
Beyond the Core
The beyond-the-core content that belongs in your sales kit will vary. It depends on your sales process, how your prospect buys, the design of your sales channel, and the role and responsibilities of members of the sales team. Here are some examples of beyond-the-core content you might include.
The media category includes items such as brochures, datasheets, websites, blog posts, articles videos, and similar content. Again, all this content must echo and reinforce the product’s value and positioning as articulated in the why-buy presentation.
The sales team needs to find prospects who fit your target market and are ready to buy. To tailor your value proposition, sales will need to understand the prospect’s requirements. When the prospect requests a demo, you need to be prepared to succeed. All the tools to qualify prospects, clarify the specifics of their use case, and define the scope for demonstrations go here.
Everything that you need to configure and quote your product goes here. Example items that you might include are product configurators, price lists, product specifications, and proposal templates.
Your why-buy presentation compares a prospect’s financial outcome of buying your equipment to the financial outcome of buying from your competition. These comparative financials are developed using a value model. While the primary levers of your value proposition will be the same across your target market, individual prospect’s use cases will vary. With a value model, sales can tailor a general, target-market value proposition to the individual prospect.
There is no limit to the types of content that comprise an effective sales kit. Here are some more ideas to consider as you design yours.
- Frequently asked questions for external use
- Frequently asked questions for internal use
- Comparison to previous model presentation
- Presentations to support equipment options
- Presentations to defend against expected competitor attacks
- Regulatory compliance certificates
- White papers
- Content for newsletter, blog, or social media
The Presentation Deck of Cards
Now it is time to address the conflicting requirements of creating a standard sales kit and addressing a market in which each customer has unique requirements and buying processes.
To explain the approach, let us use the metaphor of a deck of cards. In a card game, cards can be selected from a deck to produce countless different hands. The definition of a good hand varies depending on the game that you are playing. The same concept works with the sales kit. In this case, the sales kit is your deck of cards, and the game you are playing is your specific sales situation. The figure below shows the three steps to creating a winning hand from your presentation deck of cards.
For example, suppose that a prospect has asked your company to make a Mr. Melty product presentation. Your efforts in qualifying this prospect produced the insight that the prospect is focused on yield performance. That is great since the yield performance is one of your competitive advantages. Given your prospect’s focus on yield, you would take your why-buy presentation and supplement it with several slides from your highest-yield proof presentation. You would also grab a few data slides showing Mr. Melty’s yield performance in the prospect’s use case. Now you have a winning deck of slides.
To make this work, the presentation material in your sales kit needs to be built with the deck-of-cards concept in mind. All the slides from the why-buy, proof, data, and any other slideware must have a common look and feel so that they can be seamlessly mixed and matched.