Don't NOT Educate Your Customer

Story Title: 
Don't NOT Educate Your Customer

Don't rely on scheduling meetings with prospects to educate the now 5.4 people in the buying organization (consensus selling) on your entire or parts of your entire story.


Enterprise sales takes a long time.

Why is that? Gone are the days of selling to an individual decision maker. These days, on average, you need to educate at least 5.4 people in the buying organization about your story—what CEB/Gartner calls “consensus selling.”

How do we try to educate buyers today? The short answer is that we attempt to schedule a lot of meetings:

  • We schedule the first meeting in hopes of convincing someone to care enough about our story to invest additional time to learn more.
  • Next, we attempt to educate this interested person and the other 4.4 people in the buying organization about our story, generally by scheduling follow-up meetings and sending large text-based collateral like PowerPoint decks and whitepapers.
  • In all these meetings, we try to schedule our best people to tell their parts of our entire story.
  • Finally, we try to ensure that the buyer’s internal conversations around our offering accurately reflect our entire story.

How is this working for us?

  • If you’re like most enterprise selling organizations, your sales cycle is still many months long, partially because it’s very time consuming to schedule and conduct meetings to educate the 5.4 people in the buying account, which stretches out the sales cycle.
  • To make matters worse, people are very busy, so you likely won’t be able to schedule meetings with all 5.4 people. This means the people in the buying organization who can, at a minimum, influence the purchase of your product may not get well educated on your offering, relying instead on what they randomly read and hearsay.
  • Finally, even for those who you do get a meeting with, it’s unlikely they’ll remember much from any calls they attended weeks or months in the past.

The bottom line is that in order for buyers to make the decision to purchase your product, you have to educate them, but we’re doing a very poor job at this. Put simply, don’t NOT educate your customer!

So, is there a better way? Let’s see if we can take lessons learned in software development to assist in more efficiently building complex applications in part to shorten the development cycle and apply them to improve story development.
After all there are some parallels:

  • For one, in the old days of software development we learned that building large, monolithic programs took a long time to create and were difficult to manage and support; therefore, we transitioned to building a set of smaller modules that hang together through well-defined interfaces.
  • Second, we used to release software on floppy disks and CDs, but those formats became no longer acceptable in a world wanting to access software immediately.
  • Finally, we also used to release software on set, 6–12 month “release trains,” which today lack the agility required to support our current online software-as-a-service deployments that can be updated daily.

Now, let’s take a look at how we do story development today:

  • Our content strategy centers on building large, monolithic text- and slide-based documents, such as huge slide decks and 10-page whitepapers, which take a long time to create and lack well defined interfaces to help the student to walk easily through the entire story.
  • We release these large documents as PDFs and PowerPoint files in an age when many of us are consuming our content anytime and anywhere via our mobile devices, which are not well suited for reading large, text-based documents.
  • And, given it takes so long to create these documents, they are often not updated and easily become outdated.

See the parallels?

So is there an answer? Let me introduce you to Precision Storytelling, which at its core takes lessons learned from improving software development and applies them to improve story development so we can better educate both our buyers and sellers.

Let me now describe some of the capabilities, starting with architecture:

  • If you’re going to build a complicated application, you first design a software architecture. So, when we’re creating a story that educates buyers and sellers on a complicated product, we start by designing a story architecture. We also organize this architecture around the buyer’s educational journey of learning the why, what, how and who of your offering.
  • Next in writing software we create small modules, described in the architecture, which are easier to write and debug than large, monolithic programs. Therefore, in creating the elements of a story, we break the entire story into smaller less than 8 minute story modules that are easier to create and debug.
  • Next, we operationalize software development by adding the right people collaborating and using applications—like project and release management software—to optimize the processes necessary to meet the business priorities—like having agile development. Likewise, with Precision Storytelling, we operationalize our story development, such as including story release management to ensure our story modules and overall architecture are always kept up to date.
  • Next, in software development, we utilize available developers whose skillsets best match the requirements for building each module. Similarly, Precision Storytelling leverages and enables your best storytellers—your star sellers and subject matter experts—to enhance story credibility and quality.
  • Finally, these days, a software strategy has to include mobile, as people are increasingly consuming applications on their mobile devices. The same is true for consuming content. Our content strategy must fit in a mobile world, so Precision Storytelling takes a video-first approach, first creating video and audio assets that are easier to consume on mobile devices, followed by complementary text-based content.

When building your story through Precision Storytelling, you’ll create a library of videos (typically less than 8 minutes long) told by your star storytellers that tells your entire story via episodes that answer the questions that align with your buyer’s educational journey:

  • Why should they not do what they're already doing today? In other words, why should they care about what you have to say?
  • What is it you do?
  • How does it work?
  • Who else uses it?

Ultimately, both buyers and sellers will become more educated because they can view your entire story, any time, in short episodes that are easily consumed on mobile.

It’s like watching a show on Netflix, where each episode logically leads you through the entire show’s story.

This should result in a shortened sales cycle, as fewer meetings need to be scheduled because the buying organization can more easily self-educate on your offering. It’s well known that buyers are educating themselves well before talking to sales reps anyway; therefore, wouldn’t it be more efficient to give them the whole show to watch versus asking them to try to piece together your story in an ad hoc way by reading a bunch of presentation decks and whitepapers?

After all, you’ve no doubt invested a great deal of time, energy and money into creating a great offering. Don’t extend the sales cycle and potentially lose deals because you don’t do a good job telling your story.

If you’re curious to learn more about how Precision Storytelling can improve the education of your buyers and sellers, please consider watching the next episode: DON’T NOT DESIGN A STORY ARCHITECTURE.

Vince Vasquez, CEO Precision Story
Connect with him on LinkedIn