The way marketers measure their efforts is increasingly focused on pipeline and revenue. These days, most marketers aren’t handing off MQLs (marketing qualified leads) and wiping their hands believing their job is done. It doesn’t matter so much that a prospect read two articles, watched a video, and downloaded a data sheet, but that those assets and messages led to the prospect contributing X dollars in revenue.
Marketers want to know their well-researched product positioning, brand messaging, and thoughtfully created slide decks, case studies, web copy, product sheets, or ebooks are making a direct impact on the business.
That’s why sales and marketing alignment is once again dominating the conversation. It’s a common problem that’s always been there, but with marketers focused on attributing their efforts to deals won the idea has returned to the forefront. That's why marketers are starting to certify sellers are buyer-ready with messaging.
What does it mean for sellers to be buyer-ready and why is it a marketing concern?
Sales readiness involves certifying whether salespeople possess the skills and knowledge needed to have effective conversations throughout the buyer’s journey.
This type of training has been left up to sales and enablement managers in the past, but as architects and stakeholders of the buyer’s journey marketers need to take a more active role in certifying sellers are buyer-ready with knowledge and messaging. This is especially true for people in brand and product marketing roles who are responsible for researching and crafting messaging and accompanying collateral.
The difference between typical sales training and messaging certification is that for marketers, it’s not so much about skill development, but about making sure sellers are telling the right story so marketing efforts aren’t wasted.
Why marketers need to certify sellers are buyer-ready with messaging
More broadly, certification is validation and proof that sellers (or any team member) have achieved mastery in a knowledge area or a skill and are ready to take it out into the field. Certifications also serve as professional development that can result in new positions and promotions. They are an investment in your team members that has immediate and long-term benefits.
The immediate benefits of certifying that sellers have mastered messaging are more successful product and brand launches, with long-term benefits being improved customer experience and sales and marketing alignment. Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits and how to achieve them.
An essential part of bringing a product to market is enabling customer-facing teams to position and discuss it with clients and prospects. If sellers aren’t prepared to discuss a new product and its benefits to customers, then it won’t matter how much marketing budget or efforts have been spent on it.
As Product Marketing Alliance explains in their Guide to messaging, “How people perceive your product is a direct result of messaging. The right messaging effectively communicates your product’s value, giving prospects an understanding of how your product solves their specific problem.”
If product marketers certify sellers are buyer-ready with product messaging they can make sure the go-to-market teams understand and can reiterate the value of new features or products.
A product messaging certification course should cover:
- What the new product or feature does and how it changes or adds to current product functionality
- Why it matters to the customer - what use do they get out of it and why should they take the time to learn and implement it?
- How it compares to other products on the market
- How to talk about it - key terms and phrases to use and avoid
Brand launches or updates
Branding or rebranding efforts are customarily led solely by the marketing team, which means sales has little to no insight into new brand messaging until it is released into the marketplace. Sales can then feel blindsided if they haven’t had forewarning or training on brand messaging before it is made public-facing. It can also contribute to a feeling amongst reps that they are not stakeholders in the brand message and are just parroting it, which customers can sense.
Building consensus around brand by certifying sellers and other customer-facing teams are on board with it will present a strong, united front to the market.
A brand messaging certification course should cover:
- Vision and values
- Personality and tone
- Competitive differentiation
- Language examples and dos and don’ts
- Treatment of visual elements like logo, color palette, and fonts
90% of sales and marketing professionals agree that when initiatives and messages are aligned, the customer experience is positively impacted (source).
When marketing makes the effort to explain new messaging to sales and why it matters, sellers have time to understand and practice it so their conversations with prospects sound natural and confident — not like they are delivering a script.
If sellers don’t understand the importance or reasoning behind messaging or marketing efforts, they simply won’t use it and will stick to what they’re used to. That means the customer has been made to believe one thing when reading the website and other marketing content and is then told something different when they reach the sales team, leading to a frustrating disconnect.
Avoiding this disconnect is key for a smooth buyer's journey and positive customer experience. Any way to avoid adding confusion or complexity to the buying decision is of utmost importance for every business. That one confusing phone call or email could cause a prospect to abandon the relationship.
While sales and marketing play different roles in the buyer’s journey, “The trick is to ensure the customer gets the best of both, a well integrated, valuable experience” (source).
If marketers put in the effort to certify sellers are buyer-ready and on board with messaging, customers will hear the same story from start to finish and can avoid any disorienting conversations.
Sales and marketing alignment
97% of sales and marketing professionals face challenges with alignment on content and messaging (source).
Challenges with go-to-market alignment are not few in number, but they are usually born of the fact that sales and marketing are often working independently — even if they're working toward the same goal. Sales reps are not typically included in messaging or content development and marketing staff are not made privy to the details of the sales cycle.
Sellers don’t want messaging to be delivered to them from on high without explanation as to how to use it or how to work it into their conversations. Sellers often develop an approach and set of questions to ask customers and new messaging can throw a pebble into their gears.
On the flip side, marketers don’t want sellers creating their own content or narratives that differ from the company line or aren't up to date.
But if marketers work with sales enablement or sales leaders (however it works at their org) to develop certifications that thoroughly explain the thought behind messaging and how to strategically apply it, sales reps feel ready to bring it into their conversations with prospects in an organic way. And when sales and marketing are regularly convening to discuss messaging and how it’s relevant to revenue goals, the two teams will be more aligned.
Because when sales and marketing are “speaking the same language, your messaging becomes more powerful and recognizable as it’s consistently applied across all media” (source).
How to build a messaging readiness certification program
97% of sales and marketing professionals report issues with process alignment, including sales and marketing tools and systems that are not well integrated (source).
Technology is often another barrier to sales and marketing alignment. The two teams are working in different CRMs and may not share a common space to communicate and collaborate.
A sales enablement tool helps solve that problem, but only if marketers are also using it.
In order to ensure readiness certification becomes a regular part of brand and product rollouts, marketers need to spend more time in the sales enablement tool, specifically in the learning and coaching areas.
Busy marketers — who likely already have at least six projects in motion at any given time — might not jump enthusiastically at this task at first. But the good news is, unlike skill certification, messaging certification for a brand relaunch or a product launch doesn’t have to be time intensive.
Messaging certification courses can be shorter and more quickly customized for each scenario using established templates for brand and product updates. Using the same format and simply changing the content also helps with knowledge retention since any team members going through the training will develop a mental model over time.
Marketers should also work with the enablement team when developing any certification courses, especially in the beginning, since they are power users of the tools and familiar with best practices for training sellers.
Of course, in order to build custom certification programs on the fly, you need a sales learning and coaching tool with the right capabilities.
Your messaging certification program should include the following elements:
- A curriculum consisting of interactive, video microlearning sessions with built-in quizzes for knowledge retention
- A spoken element such as coaching challenges for practicing messaging learned in video training
- A set window of time in which certification must be completed
- Physical proof of certification like a digital (but printable) certificate or badge
- Automated tracking of leading metrics like courses completed and just-in-time training revisited
- Method of connecting lagging metrics like revenue and pipeline generated to messaging certification
- A process for repeating certifications for any major brand or product messaging updates
If a lack of sales and marketing alignment around messaging could be leading to lost revenue, wasted efforts, and bad customer experience at your company, consider investing marketing time in seller readiness certification programs.
Speak to our team to find out how you can get started.