It feels as though the faster time goes by, the more jargon there is for us to digest.
However, as with all things, there is a time and a place for jargon – if you could even categorise Critical Pillars as jargon.
I suppose it technically is jargon if you’ve never heard that term before, but Critical Pillars are foundational to the positioning and sales process – which should be linked by the way.
So, here’s our take on our very own term – Critical Pillars.
Laying the foundations of your sales process
Every business has (or should have) a sales process. Whatever form it takes, there should be a clearly defined methodology, process, and strategy that underpins all sales efforts – especially outbound.
However, there should also be foundations that your processes rest upon.
These foundations form the bones of your strategy. They could be cues for conversations, or a well-thought-out set of strengths that you can play to (also known as enablers – tune in next week for that article).
By creating foundations and a strategy for your sales process, you’ll have something to lean on when you inevitably start building relationships and striking up conversations.
But it should all be underpinned by Critical Pillars. Let’s explore that further.
What on earth is a Critical Pillar?
We used to refer to these as problem statements, but as our thinking has evolved over the years, so too has our terminology and understanding of what works.
A Critical Pillar supports your entire sales process. It underpins your business. And, as a bonus, they can be used as signposts for your audience – with your products or services falling under specific pillars.
Once you’ve understood your market challenges and what you actually do (rather than what you think you do), you’ll begin to understand what your Critical Pillars are.
For example, if the challenges in the market suggest and services you offer marry up and you sell, say, app development, then one of your Critical Pillars might be Delivering Seamless Experiences.
And when we say they should marry up, what we mean is that the challenges your audience face should be solved by your services.
And the market challenges have to be specific, too. They should be a result of research and talking to your customers and sales teams. It’s crucial that you understand the market challenges your audience face, as these go a long way to determining what the pillars end up being.
Now, once you’ve determined what your Critical Pillars are, they can be used to flesh out your sales process and strategy.
The reason they’re so integral to your new business strategy is that they act as statements that guide your customers. They should be a neat little bundle of “Ah, yeah, that’s the problem I’m having.”
One of the best ways to decide upon your Critical Pillars is by including them in your value proposition process – this is how we incorporate them into any sales strategy we’re producing. Further, if we’re working on positioning alone, the Critical Pillars have other uses – so it’s not just limited to sale strategy.
They can be used as guides for content ideation, sections on your website, a way to categorise services, and generally as signposts for your customers.
The conversation ladder
This is where things get interesting, and we can really get some use out of the Critical Pillars.
You see, when you conduct a positioning exercise, you should always be connecting the whole process back to sales. Otherwise, what’s the point?
When you understand the market challenges, you’ll be able to pull themes out – what are the common denominators? These themes sit at the top of what we call a Conversation Ladder.
Because sales is all about building relationships, and you can’t build a relationship without a conversation or two, we’ve built conversation into the positioning and sales process.
That means that you have a natural hierarchy of assisting elements:
- Critical Pillars
- Sales ladder
These assisting elements give you something to lean on when in conversation with someone you want to, or potentially will, do business with.
The elements above form The Conversation Ladder. Allow me to explain.
Themes are the common denominators that came out of the market challenges exercise, Critical Pillars signpost your products and define the areas that you work in, Enablers are the areas that you’re strongest in that enable you to close deals, Principles are the values that do business by, and Content is the lever that you pull to guide prospects through the funnel.
Phew. That’s a lot of elements. But they all play their part – in isolation and when leaning on each other. Without them, your positioning or sales strategy is weak, unguided, and without a bedrock of information.
Something to leave you with
So, as you can see, Critical Pillars play a part in a much bigger process – but they also stand alone as the bedrock of your business.
Positioning is hard to get right (an understatement), but with supporting hierarchies, it becomes much easier to follow. You can’t just pluck a positioning statement out of thin air and expect it to do the things that you need it to.
So many positioning experts will give you the fanciest, all-singing, all-dancing strap line – but if it’s not connected to sales it’s meaningless.
And that’s just what Critical Pillars do – they connect your positioning to the sales process. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they form part of a wider ladder to assist you when actually holding conversations and building relationships.
We use Critical Pillars as part of our positioning process, and as part of sales strategies – if that’s something you could use a hand with, drop us a message and we can get to work.