One of the issues raised recently in the SES forum was the challenge of collecting customer success stories. As most sales and marketing professionals know, good success stories are a great resource for sales.
- Proof-points from real customers
- Guidance for sales on the sales cycle
- Differentiators and value messages for specific product-market combinations
But they can be difficult to collect because the key information is often held by the salesperson, and:
- By the time you contact the salesperson, they have already moved on to the next sale
- Salespeople are not incentivised to provide the information
- The information salespeople provide may be inconsistent and, to some extent, egocentric
- The availability of success stories becomes determined by the salesperson's availability, not what’s required
As part of our Sales Enablement programme, we have created hundreds of success stories to support our process and playbooks. This is the process we use…
I’ve broken the process we use into six steps:
1. Targets and format
Sales needs a bank of succinct Success Stories that relate to customers, not a thick book of irrelevant case studies. The first step is to create a list of the Success Stories you need, mapped by:
- Customer segment
- Product used
In addition, you should determine and document the preferred format and delivery medium. That will allow the Success Stories to be standardised, but it will also ensure the information collected fits the template. We favour a single sheet template – no exceptions; if you make exceptions, the deliverable will bloat and eventually become so long it will not be used.
Set up your radar so you know when Sales wins a deal that fits your criteria. In a small company, this is not a problem; but global companies need a process for sensing and filtering wins. Don't go for every win (unless you need them). Strike when the sale is fresh and memories are vivid.
There are two best ways of collecting the content: video interviews and telephone interviews. The latter is easier as you aren’t relying on the location, lighting, salesperson’s presentation and language. But video has more impact*. We favour both, but that’s not always possible.
* We are currently developing a remote capture interview process that will allow professional grade videos to be produced using little more than an iPhone.
Whichever method you chose, use a standard interview structure, with open questions, to ensure you capture the unique aspects of the sale. In our experience, a skilled person--one that understands the proposition--can capture the key information in 20 minutes, although we aim for a diary appointment of 45 minutes.
In theory, you could create a questionnaire or template, email it to the salesperson, and ask them to complete it. But in our experience this simply doesn’t work.
4. Draft the Success Story
Based on the information gathered during the call, the first draft of the Success Story can be created and returned to the salesperson within 24 hours. It’s important to have a quick turnaround so the salesperson doesn’t need to get involved in a protracted process.
If your writer knows enough about the background of the sale you could use a single review by the salesperson (the writer needs to sign off the draft). However, we recommend two reviews:
By the salesperson. This is to check that the information has been captured and edited correctly.
By Sales Management and Accounts. This is to confirm firstly that the role of the sales team is correctly described, and secondly that any sales figures are correct. Yes, sometimes salespeople get the numbers wrong, especially in complex, multi-year deals.
There are many ways of disseminating sales enablement content, but few of them work well. The available channels will be dependent upon your existing infrastructure, tools, etc. We know that emailing the documents or placing them silently in a shared area doesn’t work.
Our recommended approach is to:
- Create 2-3 headlines from the Success Story for use in you sales update newsletters. The headlines should be active, for example:
‘How we…’, ‘Solving XYZ’s inventory problems, here’s how…’, ‘How Charlotte hit her quota in 8 months…’
- Allow shared access to the list of target sales and populate the list as the Success Stories are completed.
- Include the Success Stories in a PlayBook around a specific solution and/or market.
Of course, if you have a content delivery or sales enablement platform that allows you to deliver content to the right location, at the right time, based on product, market, sales cycle stage, etc.
This process works well. Using an external resource helps with objectivity and speed, but there is nothing here that can’t be done internally, given the right skills, resources, and time. Above all, ensure that the creator understands the proposition being sold and is skilled at capturing the information to ensure that the Success Story is of real value to the sales process.