Know Thy "Other Customer"
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!