Is this a significant effort? Absolutely. But we believe the result is well worth that effort. If properly prepared, SFs provide a more consistent positioning of offerings by all salespeople, and should help your sales effort overall.
A few other observations about creating SFs:
While Marketing should take responsibility for the creation and maintenance of SFs, it also requires significant involvement from the sales organization.
The true test of an SF is whether it can be used in making a call. If it cannot, salespeople must offer constructive feedback on how it needs to be modified.
At executive levels, anticipate that a salesperson has only 15 to 20 minutes to have a discussion. This means limiting the number of usage scenarios to a maximum of four (perhaps with a fifth in reserve).
A single usage scenario may require integration of multiple product features.
SFs are indexed by vertical market, title, and business goals and objectives. Therefore, they are geared more toward management discussions than toward product presentations. If you are selling a complex offering with 847 features, eventually someone in the organization will want to know about all of them—and maybe more—in discussing potential future enhancements. SFs won't be useful in these calls, which are often associated with due diligence.
But we'd turn this on its head by asking a key question: "Where in the buying cycle are these detailed feature discussions taking place?" If they are during the first meetings in an enterprise sale, it may take months of effort to get in front of the right person. It is far better to have these "due diligence" meetings take place after you have generated interest at business/executive levels.
Whenever possible, SFs should bias buyers toward usage scenarios that represent a company's strengths against competitors that either (1) are in the account today or (2) are likely to be invited to compete at a later time.
SFs should be developed for offerings besides product. As an example, software companies should create templates for selling professional services and ongoing consulting. We work with a company selling copiers and printers that has an SF for positioning leasing (which is more lucrative for them than a straight purchase).
In the same way that your marketplace and offerings change, SFs are dynamic, not static, and must be maintained and updated over time. Sales-Primed Communications is more a journey than a destination.
Outside help may be necessary, in preparing SFs. Many people working for a company get so steeped in their offerings that they find it hard to create SFs; conversely, people unfamiliar with a company's offerings often have an easier time of it. If the ultimate objective is to facilitate a dialogue with an executive who is unfamiliar with your offerings, you may find that hiring an outside person to pick the brains of your smartest people is a good investment.
With salespeople directed to higher levels, qualification becomes easier. Most senior executives will not waste their time or their staffs' time. If they point or delegate you to others after being empowered to achieve a goal, they are serious about evaluating your offering.
Some of our clients find that in calling high, SFs can span multiple offerings. This is a shift from selling product by product at lower levels. In some cases a single usage scenario at a decision-maker level can cover an entire offering. The call on the next level down may consist of an entirely separate SF to have a more detailed discussion.
In creating SFs, it is sometimes impossible to establish competitive differentiators. Consider for a moment multiple vendors selling CRM systems. To make it easier, let's assume all offer client-server applications. If salespeople are making calls at the highest levels (CEO, CFO) and having conceptual discussions, the conversations (and therefore the SFs for any such CRM company) would be similar. Differentiators may have to be introduced at slightly lower levels.