The custom nature of each capital equipment sales situation makes the notion of a standard sales kit seem like a fantasy. Each prospect has unique 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 unique challenges. Your sales team needs tools that allow them 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, a lot can go wrong with an ad hoc approach.
- 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 valuable when you view it 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 using them enable you to turn a pile of parts 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 provide your sales team with the tools that substantiate your value proposition. The following two views of the sales kit will get you your at-a-glance inventory and usage guidance.
- 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, you can frame the capital equipment sales cycle 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 helpful to maintain both the bill-of-materials and the sales-cycle views of your sales kit. Fortunately, most electronic content management systems make it easy to tag content with its content-type category and its sales-cycle phase application. For example, you could tag a promotional video 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.
These three content categories are your core content. They are core because you stand little chance of substantiating your value during a sales cycle without them. 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 cornerstone tool of your capital equipment sales kit. It contains the 10-15 slides that tell your value story and set the framework for everything else in your sales kit. It’s the grab-n-go, top-level case your sales team needs for why a customer should buy your product at your price.
Proof presentations are the next level of detail for each position 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
The positioning statement establishes two positions: “fastest process” times and “highest yields.” Each position needs a proof presentation that makes a detailed case for your competitive advantage. If the positioning statement had taken three positions, you would need three proof presentations.
Proof presentations respond to the prospect who says something like, “I’m interested in learning more about your process-time advantage” or “Yield is critical to us. I 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 your positions.
You must have data to substantiate all of your equipment performance claims made during a sale cycle. Among the must-have data sets are those needed to support your positions.
Organize the data-slides portion of the sales kit around 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. These stand-alone slides contain 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 you can build tailored presentations. 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 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. You need to understand the prospect’s requirements to tailor your product’s value proposition. When the prospect requests a demo, you need agreement on what to demonstrate. 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.
You based your value proposition on a value model that framed the economics of the target customer’s buying decision. Turn that value model into a user-friendly tool so salespeople can tailor the master value proposition to individual prospects.
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 unique customer requirements and buying processes.
To explain the approach, let us use the metaphor of a deck of cards. You select cards from a deck to produce countless different hands in a card game. The definition of a good hand varies depending on the game 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 showed that yield performance is the prospect’s primary concern. 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.
The presentation material in your sales kit needs to be built with the deck-of-cards concept in mind to make this work. 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.
Does Your Sales Kit Support Value Selling?
“We need to sell value!” is the refrain from your management.
They know that your customers are either saving or making a lot of money by buying your products. Those savings or gains are the value that your product provides. Your management wants product pricing to compensate your company for that value.
You get it. You know what management wants, but you’re unsure where to start. Well, as with solving almost any problem, you need to start by diagnosing your current condition. Once you’ve got a handle on that, you can chart your course for improvement.
You can quickly assess your organization’s value-selling capability by evaluating your sales and marketing approach against these three attributes:
- Dealing with the Competition
To do this, read the descriptions under each of these attributes below. Then select the one that best describes your organization’s sales and marketing condition. Your score for that attribute is the number associated with your chosen description.
- Your marketing materials speak in the language of your product and company. Very little of your content concentrates on the customers’ problem or the outcome the customer obtains by owning your product. Your materials may also be written in the first person. The words “we” and “our” show up more than “you” and “your.”
- Your marketing materials demonstrate a real understanding of the customers’ problem and how your product will solve it. Selling and marketing materials are less about your products’ capabilities and more about how they improve the condition of your customers.
Dealing with the Competition
- Your marketing materials explain many of your product’s key features and benefits. Direct comparisons to the competition are absent.
- Your marketing materials focus on the key advantages that you have over the competition. These materials contain direct, head-to-head comparisons between you and the competition that point out these advantages.
- Your marketing materials make direct, head-to-head advantage comparisons between you and your competition. You make a direct connection between those advantages and the economic value they produce for the customer.
- No direct connection between product performance and price is apparent.
- Pricing is related to your relative performance advantage or disadvantage verses the competition.
- Pricing is directly related to the economic value your product produces for the customer.
How to Use Your Value Selling Rating
Tally up your organization’s score for the three attributes. Then correlate it to the value selling capability assessment below:
- ≤ 4 = Level 1: Features for a price
- 5-7 = Level 2: Performance advantage for a price
- 8 = Level 3: Value advantage for a price
At level 1, there’s no direct connection between your product’s capability and price. When selling at the “features for a price” level, the probability of achieving value-based pricing is very low.
Selling and marketing at level 2 improve your potential for achieving value-based pricing. However, you still cannot be sure that your prices reflect your product’s value since you do not relate your price to the economic value you provide your customer.
That brings us to the highest value selling capability level, level 3. At this level, you are selling a value advantage for a price. You have connected your price directly to the superior economic outcome realized by your customer as a result of buying your product.
Your value selling capability is directly related to your understanding of your competitors’ capability and your customers’ business. See the chart below for the relationship between your value-selling capability level, expertise domains, and the outlook for achieving value pricing.