But marketers also need to spend time with their “other customer” – the sales people. We could argue over the term “customer” but I look at it this way.
One definition of a customer could be someone who uses what you produce to accomplish an outcome. Sales uses the products we produce, from leads to collateral, to achieve their desired outcome – making a sale. By my definition, sales is most definitely a customer.
If you want to design products that your customer will use, you have to understand them and the world in which they use your products.
Here are a few examples:
How do they sell? From the moment they get a qualified lead how do they approach it? Do they research the company before they call? If so, what tools do they use? Do they have a script prepared before they call, or do they wing it?
What are the value proposition statements that they use to open new doors? Forget what the marketing team may have produced. What do they actually use?
Does your company have a formal process for sales or does each rep follow their own procedures? If there is a formal process, is it based on something such as Spin Selling that you can study as well?
What are the easiest parts of the sales cycle for the rep? Is it because it is a strength for them or because they have the right materials to support the process?
What are the toughest parts of the sales cycle? What makes them tough?
Who are the competitors and what parts of the sales process are they particularly good at? Forget product features. In this case it’s not about who has the stronger product, it’s about who has the stronger process.
Which pieces of collateral do they use the most and why? When do they use each piece? You may think, for example, that they use a piece late in the sales cycle only to find out it’s only used in the first visit. Or maybe you think something is a leave behind when it’s really used as a talking point piece.
This just scratches the surface, but hopefully it inspires the inquisitive nature that is fundamental to all good marketers.
You should also notice that some of these questions, such as the use of collateral, relate directly to the products that marketing produces. Others, such as understanding the sales cycle, aren’t directly linked but can provide useful insights. It’s important to ask both types of questions. You want to get input on your current products, but you want to avoid focusing only on a critique of what you are already doing.
Understanding your “other customer” isn’t easy to do. There’s a bit of finesse needed when asking some of these questions so you avoid putting sales on the defensive. You’re not trying to critique their skills. You are just trying to understand their world so that you can do your job better.
And, in this economy, many of your sales people will be under more pressure than ever. They may not see the immediate value in your questions and be reluctant to spend time with you. If that’s the case, gathering the data bit by bit may be your best option.
No matter how you go about it, I think you’ll find that spending the time and effort to get to know your sales team will make you a better marketer.
All the best!
I have worked with a lot of salespeople who fundamentally believe that cold calling doesn’t work. They proactively look for more effective strategies to drum up inquiries in the field.
By the way, here’s a couple of interesting sources for ideas:
Jigsaw Webinars (you may need to sign up for a free account before you can access these)
KLA Group – I have never worked with the KLA Group but she recently ran a webinar on Jigsaw that I thought was excellent. I suspect the recording will be posted soon.
Never Cold Call Again!
What I don’t understand is why these same salespeople, who know cold-calling doesn’t work, will give a list of names to their marketing team to call. Is it because they think marketing is so gifted that they will have success where sales has failed? I doubt it. More likely, it’s because they think marketing doesn’t have anything better to do.
Even if your organization is lucky enough to have a telemarketing team, do you really want them pounding the phones all day in a futile effort to drum up business?
Instead, I would work with the team to make sure that the program for nurturing leads is as solid as it can be. Help them understand how they should be following up with leads that express an interest but aren’t ready to speak to sales. (hint: it involves more than a call to “touch base.”)
Help them understand how they can effectively use email to nurture these leads as well. And, how they can use email as an effective alternative to cold–calling to drum up business in a way that is as comfortable for them as it is for your prospects.
If you are a marketing leader, don’t wait for sales to get the message. Create a program where your telemarketing team uses these strategies and shows sales that it can work. Resist the urge to just “go along to get along” the next time sales passes you a list of names for your team to call. Let them know what the plan is and how they can help you execute by identifying the target accounts for your e-marketing campaigns. Then get to work and make it happen.
All the best!
As a salesperson, you are trying to get your prospects to do something – buy your product. But, have you ever thought about the rest of your colleagues in your organization? You spend your days trying to get them to do something too. You want accounting to process an order. You want shipping to ship your product. You want marketing to generate more leads.
When you are selling to your prospects, you try to figure out their motivations. Part of the equation is the business motivation. For example, they may want to improve the bottomline of the organization with your product. But, there’s a personal motivation as well. Perhaps they want your product because it will look good on their resume. Or, maybe if the project succeeds, they believe they can get promoted. If you are successful at determining motivation your chances of closing the deal are much greater.
The same goes for your internal customers as well. So what motivates a marketing professional? Or, that accountant, or the shipping clerk? It’s obviously not money for most of these people or they wouldn’t have chosen the careers they did. It’s often not to stand out through achievement – or at least not the way the salesperson does when they achieve their quota for the year.
These are people in roles of service to others in the organization. What motivates them? In my opinion, it’s gratitude for the role that they play in your success. It starts with a polite request to process your order so that you can get the deal in before the end of the quarter. A simple thank you when something goes right is important too.
You can think bigger too. Perhaps a sales sponsored pizza party after accounting and shipping stays at the office until midnight on New Year’s Eve processing your orders so you can afford your Lexus for another year. A small personal gift to show your gratitude for those who really go above and beyond is really appreciated.
Same goes for marketing. Yes, they are hired to create the leads and sales support materials that help you reach your goals. Maybe you shouldn’t have to say thank you. But, there’s an old saying. You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
There’s a big difference between going through the motions of your job because you have to and doing it because you want your salespeople to succeed. Make your colleagues feel like part of the success and chances are they will put in the extra effort needed to help you succeed – without you even having to ask.
I am being hounded by a marketing firm that specializes in product management and product marketing tools. I’ve been responsible for both of those in the past so it’s no surprise that I ended up on their mailing list. I really wouldn’t mind the occasional offer to download something of value such as a white paper in order to keep my skills up to date.
What I do mind is the emails I am getting asking me for an appointment. I have repeatedly told the rep that my responsibilities don’t cover product direction or messaging right now, yet he still keeps sending me similar emails over and over.
I am guessing that the emails are automated and hundreds or thousands of people just like me are getting the same “personalized” email. It’s also probable that the emails are being sent by a vendor, maybe an appointment setting vendor, and not the actual company. But, that doesn’t excuse the company for this shoddy practice.
I hate to completely opt out of all communications with this company. As I mentioned, I like to read the occasional white paper on product management issues. Clearly I have no value to them as an immediate prospect, but you never know when I will get back into product management so keeping me on their list is of value to both me and them.
In the end, I do get something of value out of this interaction. I get to use it as an example of how not to engage in email marketing. Here’s what I take away:
1. Marketers should get themselves on mailing lists. You get to see the best and the worst of email marketing practices and learn from them. It gives you a chance to see them from your prospects’ eyes.
2. Save your appointment setting emails for your A level prospects. If someone tells you that they are not in your target market, do not continue to ask them for an appointment.
3. Prospects like me should be kept on a B level list, but when you communicate with me, send me something of value. If I download something you can send me an email. I’m the type who actually replies even if it’s just to let you know that I was just curious.
What’s your take?
I recently read this on a sign at Caribou Coffee. In a tough season it hit me at just the right time.
My marketing team is doing better than most. However, the pressure from sales is increasing. The old qualified lead to close ratio no longer applies as their prospects’ budgets get slashed and sales cycles get stretched. My budget has been cut and sales goals have been adjusted, but our qualified lead goals remain the same.
I pondered this sign a bit as a sipped my cinnamon latte. We’re facing the kind of challenges that we haven’t seen since 2001. But, nobody said marketing was easy. (At least nobody who’s ever been responsible for it.) If it were, they wouldn’t need any of us.
As I left Caribou I made a resolution. I will enjoy the challenges because if they weren’t there we wouldn’t have an opportunity to celebrate our victories.
All the best to you and your colleagues and families in 2009!