Sales Enablement for Vertically Aligned Selling
Common Vertical Sales Approach Mistakes
Sales needs to know your company is committed to the change to sell with deeper insight into specific industries. We often see sales teams ignore the strategy thinking it’s a new “flavor of the month.”
Whitepapers and industry thought leadership won’t make salespeople experts in leading high-impact, vertical specific conversations. A common challenge in shifting to selling by industry is a lack of sales confidence and insight. Salespeople need the vertical specific insights, use cases, stories, and discovery guidance to speak at a deep level.
Depth is often the biggest issue for a salesperson who is used to talking about products in a generic way. They have to learn how to understand the customer’s world and at the vertical specific level, a two-fold problem. Just talking about the product doesn't work in the new world. Beyond industry thought leadership, salespeople need specific resources on what to know, do, say, and show for customer conversations.
A Proven Approach to Vertical Selling
We see two situations - organizations that want an individual salesperson to know enough to be dangerous across multiple verticals while other organization completely verticalize, and an individual salesperson only focuses on one industry, truly specializing. Either path requires the right content, tools, and training to build confidence and ability to lead strategic, industry specific sales conversations.
Get started by involving everyone. This may look like a cross-functional meeting with sales, marketing, product, and vertical leaders. Focus the meeting on documenting and defining who the right buyers are and what content needs to be created to give salespeople what to say and show during meetings. Having marketing, product, and vertical specialists involved will ensure everyone is on the same page. With each function represented, there is alignment on marketing & product strategy and what sales & vertical teams are asked to do in the field.
Don’t build the content in a vacuum - always road test with customers. Talk to the people who know the industry, and the industry’s use cases, trends, etc. There’s little doubt that there are people on your team that have deep levels of industry expertise. That will be hard to ever match for most salespeople. That type of unique experience can be replicated to give other reps the opportunity to be more insightful. Include salespeople and friendly customers in validating the content as that will build credibility when you launch the new vertical messaging.
A best practice for packaging this sales and customer-validated content is using a playbook approach. The best sales playbooks give reps simple and practical guidance for everything to know, do, say, and show for a compelling vertical conversation with a target audience. That simple framework ensures salespeople fully understand how to implement this new strategy and have the tools to support insightful sales conversations. The goal should be sales mastery and adoption of the new vertical message as quickly as possible. That means salespeople gaining confidence that the new strategy will lead to actual results with customers.
A vertical strategy may require an experiential training launch because the new strategy pushes reps outside their comfort zone. Experiential training can be delivered through large in-person sessions or though manager-led team meetings. Experiential training means including application, simulation, and role-play, not just knowledge sharing. It’s best if managers are trained before the reps so managers can coach their teams during the broader training. It’s critical to not only have first-line sales managers reinforcing the strategy, but have the executive sales leader or P&L leader reinforcing the business case and behavior change necessary to implement the vertical strategy.
Right after initial launch consider holding a “90-day sprint” that challenges the team to accomplish a series of activity goals or milestones that will lead to a robust vertical pipeline. Celebrate the early wins from the “90-day sprint” to build momentum with the sales team. Pinpoint salespeople having success and package their best practices - what they are doing & how they are doing it, for the rest of the team. Share these best practice insights with the sales organization through on-demand training, webinars, or podcasts.
What Success Looks Like
Within the digital marketing business unit of Adobe, the sales team was stuck selling point solutions at a tactical level. Adobe decided to shift from point solutions to positioning a digital marketing platform at the executive level by vertical (watch their success story here). Here are three ways Adobe accelerated sales change and outcomes:
Industry-specific playbooks that enabled the global sales organization to tailor their insights and value proposition based on the customer’s market segment (one playbook per vertical)
Incorporating the experience and ideas of subject matter experts within Adobe combined with industry research provided by third parties
“How to” videos showing sales people how to lead a compelling, industry specific conversation
Consultation with DSG
Are you about to implement a vertical approach? DSG has 25 years experience working with B2B companies to accelerate sales mastery and adoption of vertically aligned sales approach. In a brief web meeting we can:
Share a vertical messaging playbook example
Show how changes in sales strategy or structure can be translated into tangible sales execution.
Explain a framework for making change stick through “continuous learning” versus relying on a big event
Share use cases for how other companies shifted to a vertical approach or equipped sales team to speak conversationally fluent across multiple industries