Archive for October 22nd, 2007

Sales Support. Part 2 of a series asking are you effective as well as efficient in selling?

Last post on this topic discussed lead generation as one of four marketing roles in the Precision Sales and Marketing program . Today I look at Sales Support, leaving Prospect Nurturing and the Customers for Lif for future posts.

In my early years of selling this is the only area I believed I needed marketing. I have a prospect ( more likely a suspect) who has evidenced some interest in what I am proposing ( again if they had a pulse I may have thought that equaled interest). So now marketing where is my magic closing tool, that implement of pure product speak that causes entire companies to open their treasury to me, the Brochure? Like a bandaid on a four year-olds owie, the brochure fits everything. The casual booth visitor at the trade show, the telephone prospect ( Send me your brochure)., the leave behind after a sales call (Check out our brochure for more information) , the passerby at the website ( Download our brochure!). Yes this piece of collateral is essential to ensure that I can, perhaps, will possibly be able to do exactly what?

Take off the rose coloured glasses, despite everyone having one, brochures are an example of waste, waste, waste. Who buys anything significant from a brochure? How do you build a sales relationship with a brochure? What do you learn about the customer needs with a brochure? They are glanced at and tossed, just tossed, thrown on a shelf, dropped in a file – then tossed later, left at the show tables, on the floor and on the hotel bar. The last thing sales needs is a brochure. Bad brochures even slow the process down, as they introduce complexity and confusion.

Sales needs much much better support . Market research on customers, segments, appealing offers, compelling messages, the clients markets and their competitive pressures. Research on your competitors and their products, how they meet the market, their sales and marketing approaches, strengths and weaknesses, who are their top sales people, how do they operate? Heads up research on your market, where is it going, trends, opportunities, rough patches, good ideas, bad ideas? Should you even be in this market? How much of the market can you really address this year with your resources? Is that stretch goal completely out of line? Marketing needs to backstop sales in telling what is really achievable.

Customers need to hear success stories. How you helped people like them , in their job, their business , their country solve similar compelling business problems. Marketing needs to be able to pen stories in the languages of the market you are addressing such as specific tailored sales white papers for the business manager, the technical guru, the operators, the CFO.

How can marketing make it easier for the sales reps to know to call the right people, get the call taken, the voice mail to be returned? What are you doing on the referral marketing, the testimonials that sales needs to show that the product is truly great! Do all parts of the marketing mix drive the prospect toward the act of raising their hand that they want to talk to sales about this problem “Now that I know about it I can not ignore it any longer.” You will know that this is working, because the prospects move through the sales cycle faster and deals close more quickly.

BUsiness growth

You can’t leave the design and selection of marketing material up to sales. Sales can describe the ideal lead to marketing, they can talk about their clients, how they talk, and what they look for. Sale can give anecdotal info on the market trends. But for sales to be truly successful they look at one call at a time, one client at a time. Marketing needs to have the scouts out and the research dept always working to help the army know the terrain well before it gets there. In this part of effective selling the details and the execution are essential to get right as the alternative means the sales manager and marketing manager lose their jobs. If if continues to go badly, the CEO is next to go.

The Sales Managers Success Manual. Wayne M, Thomas.

The Sales Managers Success Manual. Wayne M, Thomas. 2008. ISBN 9780814480502. Another superb book from Amacom. This publisher never puts out “just another book”. Thomas brings insight, great research, experience and an easy writing style to the subject. His comments rang true to me in every chapter. This is pure gold.

Chief Sales Officers have a corporate life expectancy shorter than CEOs these days. Its quite unlikely that hiring a new sales manager will “fix” your sales problem. Thomas gives the new and seasoned execs bags and bags of strategies and ideas on how to do this perilous job. The no. one killer behavior? A sales manager who over promises and under delivers is on a dead man walking route. Thomas can show you a fact based approach to forecasting that is very quick and effective.

Thomas also reinforces one of our lessons learned, any change in sales approach, marketing, new training, new product, new market entry requires two full customer sales cycles to measure if it is working or not. Sales managers need to show patience and build up a reputation for being a predictable business partner to the CEO.

Near the back of the book Thomas does a very good analysis of how dead your opportunity is if the product or the market are not compelling. He also presented the clearest explanation of anchoring I have read to date. Anchoring is the basic human nature to fix on a price which then anchors all other discussions. All salesmen know they have to be very cautious about when and where they set the asking price. His explanation is clear and thoughtful and worth the price of the book.

Sales people are optimistic by nature. Thomas gives the sales manager tools, attitudes and approaches to match the optimism with success. He is also deeply into working very closely with marketing for sales effectiveness.