When a prospect describes their business problem, the salesperson usually jumps into “selling” their solution, describing the features that will overcome the problem and listing the benefits of their solution.
Seems normal, right? After all, isn’t this what a salesperson is supposed to do? If the problem is very simple and straightforward then this may work. If the prospect has done deep exploration and research about their problem and has determined the ideal solution for the problem then this approach would work. In a typical B2B sales opportunity, however, none of these assumptions are true.
Consider the following questions:
- Does the prospect know the root causes of the problems they are describing?
- Does the prospect know about the consequences of not solving the problem?
- Is solving this problem a high priority in their mind?
- Do they know what is the best way to solve this problem?
If your sales team begins selling your solution before taking the prospect through this four-step journey then there is a huge risk that the prospect may find your offering as either irrelevant or undifferentiated from your competitors.
There is an essential content piece that will help the salesperson leverage this initial conversation to align the prospect’s problem-solving strategy with your offering and uniquely position you with respect to your competitors. We call these content pieces Explainers.
What is an Explainer?
An Explainer is a content piece that deeply engages a prospect to partner with you to solve their problem. In order to achieve this, an Explainer should:
- Explain why the prospect may be experiencing the problems they have indicated. Understanding these root causes is essential since it helps them relate to how the features of your offering uniquely overcome them.
- Describe the dire consequences of not solving their problems. It should include a framework for determining:
- Quantitative analysis in terms of loss of profits, revenues, market share, business effectiveness or efficiencies.
- Qualitative considerations adversely affecting prospect’s and other stakeholder’s careers and emotions. This is essential to ensure that the prospect and other decision-makers perceive solving this problem as a high-priority activity.
- Identify, at a very high level, alternative approaches to solving their problems and highlights how your approach (not the features) is best suited to solve their problems. This is the most important part of an Explainer since it aligns the prospect’s thinking with your vision and makes them receptive to your offering’s features.
A well written Explainer never mentions your offerings. It focuses exclusively on educating the prospect on understanding their problems and building a mental framework for solving the problem that is aligned with your offerings.
An Explainer establishes your relevance to the prospect and encourages them to perceive you as a trusted partner.
If your offering solves multiple problems, you may want to consider creating a different Explainer for each specific problem.
When do you use an Explainer?
You use an Explainer when a prospect has demonstrated some level of awareness or interest in your company or its offerings. In response to such an awareness or interest, your salesperson would have followed up with the prospect to identify what problem they were trying to solve.
As we discussed earlier, in response to the identification or description of the business problem by the prospect, the salesperson should either present the Explainer in person, via online meeting or share it for offline consumption.
After presenting or sharing an Explainer, the salesperson should get the prospect to confirm their agreement on the root causes of the problem. The salesperson should then offer to collaborate on determining the quantitative and qualitative consequences of the problem specific to their organization. This enables them to identify all the decision-makers and build a Loss Calculator that quantitatively summarizes the problem and builds the groundwork for procuring the budget to acquire a solution to the problem.
The salesperson should encourage the sharing of the Explainer with as many stakeholders and decision-makers in the prospect’s organization as possible.
It is very likely that the exploration of one problem may lead to the identification of additional (and possibly higher priority) problems. Having ready access to Explainers for each such problem greatly helps the salesperson maintain the forward momentum of the sales cycle.
With a deeper understanding of their problems and the right approach to solve them, the prospect will be very curious to learn how your offering solves them. This is where Guided Tours come in handy (we’ll discuss those later!).
Key components of an Explainer
- Enable your sales team with an Explainer in two formats:
- As a presentation for in-person confirmation of the problem and explanation of the root causes, consequences and alternative approaches to solve the problem. This could be a series of 4-5 slides as a part of your presentation library.
- As an offline content piece that can be consumed by your prospect when and where they want. Preferably, it should be a 2-5 minute video. If that is not possible then a slideshow with infographics and a voiceover works too. As far as possible, avoid lengthy textual descriptions since most readers will not go through it.
- An email template or a script for soliciting the collaboration for determining the quantitative and qualitative consequences of the problem specific to the prospect’s organization.
Explainer Best Practices
- Explainers deepen the sense of pain and urgency. They do NOT talk about your customer success, use cases for you products, special offerings, or capabilities.
- Explainers provide a moment of reflection and a new way of grouping pain-point indications into a generalized problem that warrants further diagnosis.
- Explainers strike a conversational tone. They invite the prospect to enter into a low-pressure conversation with a sense of dignity, curiosity, and humility.
- Explainers should not sound or feel promotional, overly confident, or inauthentic.
- Explainers should not exceed 2-5 minutes to consume. This encourages the recipient to view it right away as well as share it with relevant colleagues.
Remember that Explainers play a crucial role in the early stages of a customer-driven buying process, emphasizing the prospect’s strong desire to be in control of a do-it-yourself discovery and learning journey.
To learn more about other engagement objects, please see "9 Engagement Objects that fuel B2B Sales Enablement".