- No buyer makes a decision from a product data sheet, yet many sales reps consider the product data sheet a one-size- fits-all asset
- The product data sheet should only be used during the solution phase of the buyer’s journey, when technical details are needed
- Portfolio marketing and sales enablement should collaborate to educate the sales team on when and where to use product data sheets in the buying cycle
Sales teams often look for that one special piece of collateral to convince buyers to change the status quo, select their solution and sign on the dotted line. This is especially true in outbound prospecting. When finally reaching a prospective buyer on the phone who says, “Send me something to read,” the sales rep often sends a product data sheet. In an ideal world, reps wish for an information-dense asset that answers any possible questions the prospect may have.
This rarely produces the desired outcome. A high-tech client shared an incident where a prospect was interested in understanding options to address a specific problem. The sales rep responded by providing the client with a data sheet containing a detailed list of all the product features. A financial services client, who sells funds to brokers, disclosed the challenge of a prospective broker wanting to understand how a new fund would fit into their portfolio, only to be given a detailed prospectus of the fund.
The reliance on the one-size-fits-all asset can be the result of training gaps or a lack of confidence in the sales process. It can also come from the failure of sales to understand buyers well enough to provide prescriptive, tailored information based on where they are in their buying journeys. Both cases are a failure of portfolio marketing to transfer buyer knowledge to sales and to train sales reps on how to apply it.
The product data sheet can be a valuable asset when used in the right stage of the buying cycle. Here are some key considerations when defining the proper use of data sheets in your sales enablement plan:
- Understand the legacy of a product-centric culture. The product data sheet has been used for decades. It started out as a technical specification sheet listing an explicit set of requirements satisfied by the product. It was the go-to asset when marketing was product centric. It continues to exist in organizations with both product-centric and audience-centric cultures. We see marketing teams continue to produce them. Why? Because sales teams continue to use them. It’s the responsibility of portfolio marketing to produce assets that support the buyer’s journey and sales process, and work hand-in-glove with sales enablement deploy it.
- Align to the buying decision process.The buyer’s journey is a three-phase process, starting with buyers’ education on the need for change. The next phase is when the buyer evaluates different options to make the change. Vendor selection happens in the final phase. At each phase, the buyer has specific information requirements. Providing information tailored to the specific phase tells the buyer that their needs are understood. In fact, it is a differentiator to satisfy the buyer’s knowledge requirements relevant at each stage.
- Deploy during vendor solution and evaluation. An information-dense data sheet is overwhelming during the early education phase of the buyer’s journey. It’s better suited for the middle phase, when vendor evaluation occurs. The ideal data sheet can be used both by users and decisionmakers when committing to a solution.
- Use the right content at the right time. Assets (such as the product data sheet) used at the right time support the buying cycle and empower sales reps. Whereas using the wrong asset can distract the buyer and delay the buying cycle.
Clients of SiriusDecisions’ portfolio marketing service have access to the brief “The SiriusDecisions B2B Buying Decision Process Framework,” that provides guidance on content strategy to enable buying decisions. This will help organizations understand the buying process as well as relevant content asset types across the journey. Non-clients can access summary details about the buying cycle by downloading The SiriusDecisions B2B Buying Decision Process Framework. Spoiler alert: There is no “one-size-fits-all” asset.