A Sales Enablement Perspective: Enabling Command of the Message®
Marco Davi is a sales enablement professional with 15 years' experience in high-growth companies. He has worked with Force Management on our Command of the Message® offering, implementing the program with a global sales force. Marco was responsible for the rollout in the UK office which included about 100 people. He is also a certified facilitator of the program having participated in our training certification program.
Introducing and rolling out Command of the Message (CoM) in an organization is a major step in improving the overall sales strategy. As a sales enablement leader, I have seen and implemented my share of training programs. However, in my experience, Command of the Message is different than other off-the-shelf-type offerings because of its customization, particularly around the products and/or services that you sell. This customization is what creates immediate impact and provides sales reps with something they can use directly after attending the in-person training session.
The Power of Customizing Your Sales Training Initiative
There's no value to a sales training initiative if your reps don't actually adopt the behaviors you're asking them to do. Command of the Message is customized through a facilitated workshop that brings together sales, marketing, product and other cross-functional leaders. The goal of the workshop is alignment, specifically around the value and differentiation of your solutions. The variety of leaders from different roles brings together accumulated knowledge and different points of reference as to how the organization's products and services solve customer problems. The output of this session is the Value Messaging Framework (VMF), which provides a guide for sales reps to effectively articulate value and differentiation in a way that is meaningful to the buyer.
When I worked with the Command of the Message program, my role was twofold: firstly, drive adoption of the Value Framework and provide continuous learning among existing sales and marketing teams and, secondly, to deliver the Command of the Message training course to new hires. Managing the rollout of Command of the Message provided me with some important insights on what helped make the program successful and what drove continuous adoption across the organization. Here are my four main takeaways and recommendations for a fellow sales enablement leader who is charged with doing the same:
1. It’s a change management project. Treat it as such!
Do not think of Command of the Message as a standard sales training course. It is a change management project. Because the VMF is not created by sales alone, it creates a mindset shift within the organization at the leadership level and beyond. I remember very well when I attended the first time a Command of the Message training myself. My background is technology sales enablement and I had been through numerous sales methodology training courses before so I did expect something similar. How wrong was I!
After our leadership team completed the workshop, the program was delivered to our global team. The course ran over a day and a half, was very engaging and I walked away with a powerful sales methodology structure combined with “sales-consumable” materials. Day two was focused on role plays and they were highly impactful. The role plays forced us to focus on discovering customers’ highest-level business issues and then trying to quantify the customer’s pain of those challenges, rather than jumping into pushing in and prescribing a solution too quickly. In the role plays you get to play buyer, seller as well as observe and coach other participants. The application of what you learned and the immediate feedback during the role plays made a real difference and improved the confidence of everyone who would have to actually use these techniques with buyers.
After attending as a participant, I became certified to deliver the course myself to new hires and existing sales reps that were looking for a refresher. Being a certified instructor within my company continued to help drive adoption because we didn't have to wait for a giant training to ramp up new people, I could handle trainings and refreshers internally. Because of the customization and their practicality, the VMF and other supporting documents can be used straight away whether you are a new hire or a tenured seller. The tools also helped me easily train people as needed.
As with any change management project, Command of the Message requires support and reinforcement from all parts of the company. It has to become the way you do business. If you approach it as a change management initiative, you will greatly increase the likelihood of the programs' success and the measurable results you will drive from its implementation.
2. Include and Involve Sales Support Teams
In order to keep the initial alignment between sales, marketing and other parts of the organization when building out the Value Messaging Framework, it's important to continue to include these same teams in any updates to ensure that new hires get the same impact from training and that your VMF is as relevant to your buyer as possible.
Training new hires can be tricky because of the diversity of roles that any new hire group may include. For example, a new product marketing manager has different needs than a sales rep. And even within sales teams, roles can vary greatly. You also have to cater to anyone who will be coaching Command of the Message principles to their direct reports. However, taking the time to develop materials based on role that build off the VMF is an important step. For example, a Discovery Guide that helps new business development reps use the framework's concepts in short phone conversations or a Deal Coaching Guide to support leaders using the CoM terminology and process when doing opportunity reviews. I found it also beneficial to include customer success teams in order to ensure the customer language was consistent from sales process through delivery. I believe that it is important to have role specific content and I received consistently positive feedback not only in relation to the Command of the Message training itself but also on the specific content available for those roles.
3. Continue to Evolve and Update the Value Messaging Framework
Why is this important? In today’s world of shortening product life cycles, features and benefits of products and services constantly evolve and customer requirements also change. It is therefore mandatory to monitor the market and competitive environment and keep the Value Messaging Framework up to date.
An up to date VMF ensures that Command of the Message becomes the cornerstone of any sales new hire training. With its “sales-consumable” materials, the real-life focus, combined with continuous coaching, it drives fast sales on-boarding and reduces ramp up time of new sales reps. Moreover, it provides all sales professionals with a framework that's current and highly relevant to the conversations they're having with buyers. New products, new pricing structures or new competitors may all be reasons to refresh your current framework. Refreshing the content strengthens continued adoption.
4. Consistent Use of CoM Terminology
I found one of the biggest drivers of success was the consistent use of the CoM language, from all levels in the organization. For example, using the terminology when salespeople talk to each other, leaders provide updates at sales meetings, and when deal reviews are conducted. If everybody is using the words and terminology, the mantra of Command of the Message simply becomes the way you do business. It also prevents old habits from creeping in and hurting adoption. A consistent use of the terminology (e.g., Positive Business Outcomes, Metrics, Required Capabilities, Negative Consequences, Before Scenarios, etc...), helps drive consistency and reduces confusion. If product marketing is developing a competitive battle card it needs to be aligned with the Value Messaging Framework and its terminology. Your CRM should also be customized to include the same language. I recommend to have appropriate fields like “Value Driver”, “Before Scenario”, “After Scenario”, “Required Capabilities”, and so on.
If you're in sales enablement and you're looking to implement Command of the Message, treat its implementation as a change initiative that requires alignment and reinforcement. If you do, the results will have a measurable impact, ranging from maximizing revenue per rep, increased average deal size to more closed deals and, ultimately, leading to happy and loyal customers that recognize the value and differentiation of your solution.