The Sales Messaging Hierarchy

Top-down

During category creation, it is uncommon for users to seek out products from the emerging category. For example, before email became ubiquitous, users of fax machines weren’t dreaming of sending communications electronically over the internet — they were asking for better fax machines. It would have been an intentional decision by leadership who realized that in order to outpace competitors, they needed to embrace faster modes of communications. The technology may have been imperfect, but the best leaders could envision how this form of communication might improve with a few iterations. I suspect the leaders did not study SMTP protocols and sophisticated networking, but I am certain they tasked their VPs with initiatives to explore these technologies who then employed their technical users to evaluate them more granularly.

Bottom- and middle-up

In existing categories, the strategic importance of acting already permeates the line of business and user ranks such that decision making typically depends on how might your product more effectively impacts job measures relative to substitutes and better meet the requirements of the users themselves. The job of the salesperson in these environments is to target one of these groups and then partner with them to build the case for the other. Either uncover pains among users that are so pervasive that they will lobby their leaders to consider an initiative for change or start with communicating the potential impact on job measures to leadership so that they employ their teams to evaluate further. In either scenario, ensure the right message lands with the right group.

Message Gravity & Inference

Each message framework — strategy, initiative, solution — has its own gravity. If you start communicating features, you will inevitably get pushed to the people who care about features.

Slow down to go fast

Too often I see sellers become impatient with their lack of access to other parts of the organizational hierarchy and assume that dominating a side-by-side feature comparison to competitors or substitutes will unlock the deal. Your customer doesn’t care that it’s the end of the quarter and that you need to achieve a certain growth milestone to raise the next round of funding. If you haven’t communicated the appropriate messaging to all of the layers of the organization, slow down to ensure you do.

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