6 W Analysis
By : GCE Strategic Consulting -
If your sales force can’t answer these simple questions… You will lose.
No surprise, sales training is expensive. In this case I am speaking of the internal training you provide your salesman on your product and services. Outside training such as Challenger R and the other such courses which intend to make salespeople more effective at the selling process are both valuable and equally expensive and a subject for another day. This internal product and services training is the foundation for the messaging and the level of communication your sales people are capable of having with your prospects. In a sense, it is the training that equips your reps with the ability to make that first impression. And we all know we only get one shot a first impression. In a sales cycle, a poor first impression means you don’t get a chance to have a second impression.
So let’s do everything possible from a training perspective to assure that we are capable of that strong and favorable first impression. Great idea but how do we determine that appropriate level? At a minimum the rep needs to be equipped with enough knowledge to cover any combination of base level questions. Sounds good but what is meant by base level questions. These are the types of questions that prospects use to form a base of understanding about your product or service. It is the foundation for positioning your offering in their minds and is the starting point for their evaluation of your products and services. It is their formation of that first impression.
These prospect questions always take the form of Who, What, When, Why, Where and How. Our goal then should be to train our reps with the ability to answer these prospect questions effectively and preemptively and for each of our major product offerings. Assume these questions are going to be asked and create a talk track that incorporates these into your discussions. This product knowledge training is based on the 6W Analysis.
Each rep is expected to understand the company value proposition as well as specific product and market knowledge based on the Who, What, When, Why, Where and How model detailed below. The best way to illustrate these points is to explore the common mistakes made by sales reps in answering these questions. We will call these the “Bad answer”. It is also best to use a real world product example, not widgets, in describing better responses in the 6W analysis. A good real world example in this case is the CSOS (Complete Sales Operating system) offering provided by our very own GCE Strategic Consulting. The choice of CSOS as that real world example is a bit self serving as the 6W analysis is a component of CSOS.
What: What is it?
What does the product do, what is the value proposition and what are the unique concerns that are being addressed by the offering. What features of the offering are being positioned to address those unique concerns. Describe the features and functions and differentiate the same against competitors.
- Bad answer: We provide state of the art sales solutions that are scalable across multiple organizational disciplines which allow you to scale your business proportionately with your revenue expectations.
- Why it is bad: It doesn’t answer the question, what does the product or service do? It does use many popular marketing words, many with multiple syllables and technically it is true but the description given could fit just about any product or service equally well. You just lost round one as you provided no meaningful description, positioning or differentiation.
- A better answer: CSOS is a methodology for organizing and managing a sales team.
- CSOS is a maturity model and roadmap for building, monitoring and maintaining high performance sales organizations.
- It is a maturity model in that is assesses current capabilities and builds on those strengths.
- It is a roadmap that identifies the gaps between your current state and a high performing sales organization.
- CSOS is the methodology for closing those gaps, based on best practices derived from over 70 years of direct sales management experience and best practices.
Why it is better: It answers the questions, what does the product or service do? CSOS is a methodology for organizing and managing a sales team. It establishes the value proposition stating “CSOS is the methodology for closing the gaps between current capabilities and a high performing sales organization, based on best practices derived from over 70 years of direct sales management experience”.
Who: Who would buy it?
Who is the primary buyer for the product? This is a tougher question than you may think. It is easy to say the primary buyer is the CEO, owner, CFO or other high level executive. This may be correct but it is better to understand that decisions are made by a combination of roles which include minimally an influencer and a decision maker. The influencer does the leg work in evaluating the alternatives and makes a recommendation to the decision maker. The actual primary buyer will be different from case to case but in either event you need to create a buyer persona for the primary buyer and describe the best way to reach that buyer.
- Bad answer: Anyone who is interested in growing their sales organization, reducing cost, reducing risk and at the same time increasing effectivenes
- Why it is bad: Well, in this case, anyone is everyone at the company. I doubt that you could find “anyone” who wouldn’t want the outcomes in the bad answer example. A client wants to confirm that they are in the buyer class in order to determine whether or not they want to commit their time to an evaluation. A reasoned buyer persona is the tool used to prevent the bad answer above.
- A better answer: The visionary is the ultimate buyer.
- Why it is better: It answers the question, who would buy this? If you are talking to a visionary it is easy for them to see that they are included in the intended audience and the ask to them would be to evaluate the CSOS offering. If you are talking to a member of the executive team you have positioned them as an influencer and evaluator of the offering. The clear ask to them is to evaluate CSOS and make a recommendation to the visionary.
Why: Why would they buy it?
Why would they buy these products and what are the buyer motivations. You need to determine the compelling reasons that would drive a buyer to make an acquisition decision. These reasons typically fall into one or all of the following 3 categories. The first is to improve the value to cost ratio, second, reduce risk and the third, attain a desired result sooner. These are the core components of any value proposition.
- Bad answer: The visionary wants to drive the company forward with best in class systems, process and procedures with affordable outcomes.
- Why it is bad: Ok, so who wouldn’t want that? The answer is “no one” which means the question wasn’t answered. Terms like “drive”, “best in class” and “affordable” are high level terms that can neither be specified or quantified. You could drive a bus, no pun intended, through the various interpretations of those terms. The legal department may love these terms but since most decision makers don’t like driving busses you miss the opportunity to define your value proposition in any terms that would influence a buying decision.
- A better answer: They want to reduce both the risk and cost of their sales organization and achieve results faster.
- Why it is better: It answers the question, why would they buy? It captures the value proposition in one simple sentence and incorporates the measurable cost differences, the measurable reduction of risk and specifies the goal of getting desired results sooner.
When: When would they buy this?
When is the buyer in the target segment most likely to be a prospect for the offerings. What is the compelling event that puts your prospect in the market? You need to identify the conditions that exist that would put the buyer in the market for needing the offering. If a company just lost their VP of Sales they are in the market for finding a new one. They are now a likely prospect for a methodology to organize the sales division around that VP position using CSOS. Identify events such as executive job postings, venture capital activities, earnings statements or similar that can be discovered that builds a sense of urgency to acquire CSOS now rather than at some undetermined later.
- Bad answer: Right now!
- Why it is bad: This scores high marks for brevity and implying a sense of urgency for an offering that applies to everyone. But in doing so it contradicts the points in the value proposition that narrowed the buyer class and specified the acquisition drivers. Specifically stating the conditions that must exist to put the buyer into a decision making process helps that buyer make timely evaluation plans.
- A better answer: When a sales team is not meeting their goals and whenever a sales management change is contemplated.
- Why it is better: It answers the question, when should they buy? It identifies a simple condition, when sales goals are not being met or when sales leadership changes are considered.
Where: Where is it used?
Where and how is the product delivered. This speaks to the logistics of the offering. Is the offering delivered on site or remotely. Since it is fractional, does that mean M-W-F or some other set schedule. How is this different from a part time executive. This is a simple question for a technology product sale, it is delivered to your site or in the cloud. There can be complexity in how the technology product is installed or implemented, if training is required or if ongoing support is part of the product delivery. Technology product logistics is still simpler than determining the same for consulting services. Consulting services are inherently more complicated when answering the “where” question. There are many variables and options in delivering services and they will be different from client to client. In the case of CSOS it is a hybrid approach that includes both a technology cloud solution and the delivery of consulting services. Each opportunity is addressed by a custom solution. It begs the dreaded answer “it depends”, which of course is no answer and useless to the client in positioning your offering in their minds.
- Bad answer: Delivered by a sales management expert that can assess the unique requirements of your company and scale a sales organization for startup and small companies to high performance sales teams as your company grows.
- Why it is bad: It seems that as the question becomes more difficult it becomes easier to lapse into generic marketing terms with many syllables. It sounds good but means nothing. At this point the prospect does not know what the unique requirements are or how to identify them in this context. They also do not know if they are “grown up” to the point that they need a dedicated integrator or where that point exists. The answer given creates more questions and confusion than clarity.
- A better answer: CSOS lives in the cloud and is delivered over a 90 day period by a consulting sales executive working both on site and remotely.
- Why it is better: It answers the question, where is it used and how is it delivered? It states that the actual service deliverable resides in a cloud based technology solution. It clarifies where the services are performed, both remotely and onsite. The actual combination is to be determined and based on actual client requirements.
How: How much does it cost?
As in How much does the product or service cost. The prospect asks this question to determine whether or not they are in the right ball park. If they have a Toledo Mud Hens budget and are being pitched a Yankee Stadium solution there is probably no match or reason to continue the discussion. This is a qualifying question on the part of the prospect as they try to determine if the price range of the solution is in their, sorry for the overuse of the same term, ballpark.
Every sales training course will teach a sales rep to avoid this question and only provide an answer when the rep has had a chance to clearly articulate the value and after discovery is completed. This is good advice when the prospect is pushing for an exact or binding price quotation, it is bad advice when the prospect is trying to determine whether or not they want to engage further. Providing the prospect with a range of costs or some variant of an average cost will provide them with the information they need on this metric to make the continue, don’t continue decision. The one answer that is always wrong but is most often given in this situation is, drum roll please, “it depends”.
- Bad answer: It depends.
- Why it is bad: It is the only possible answer that is always wrong. The question is requesting a number, “it depends” is not a number and therefore always wrong and totally useless to the prospect. A stopped clock is at least correct twice a day, “it depends” is never correct.
- A better answer: First year costs are roughly $65,000, subsequent annual costs average $12,000.
- Why it is better: It answers the question, how much does it cost? It establishes the ball park pricing of the offering and provides the prospect with the information they need to determine whether or not to invest more time in understanding the solution. It allows the prospect to compare these rough costs to alternatives.
The 6W analysis provides that appropriate level of depth that a sales rep needs to make that all important great first impression. These are the questions that all prospects will have at the beginning stages of a sales cycle. These questions come after they have done their own discovery of the solutions and after being exposed to the elevator pitch from the rep or through advertising. The best outcome from the 6W analysis is when the prospect is provided the information, in the depth they needed, that influences them to invest their time in fully understanding the offering.
The best way to create the training for the 6W analysis is to have each rep responsible for creating the training material for a specific offering in the 6W format. In this example, each rep would be creating a 6W analysis for separate products or services. Once created, that rep then becomes responsible for training the other reps on the offering using the 6W analysis format. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator between reps, reinforce this through in person and an interactive training session. At a minimum you are assured that each rep is extremely well versed in the 6W analysis for at least one of your offerings, the one where they created the training.
The best case is that you now have your sales force trained at the appropriate depth of knowledge to provide prospects with the information they need in order for them to determine whether or not they will pursue a complete evaluation of your offerings. A rep that is able to provide that level of information to a prospect makes a great first impression and great first impressions are the first step in a winning sales pursuit.
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