Doing the Homework Attracts Business

Behind every marketing brochure, email campaign, webinar, and sales call is the unsexy
side of sales and marketing. Homework. Remember that? Going to school all day and
then bringing home more books to do even more work before you went back to school
the next day? Many of us graduated with a major sense of relief that we’d never have
to do that again! Unfortunately, for those of us who market and sell for a living,
homework is a fact of life.

As you read this, look around you. What do you see? Tables, chairs, a glass, a
television set, a pizza, the shoes on your feet, your cell phone. Every one of those things
required someone marketing and selling them to someone else. Up close and personal
– every one of the manufacturers and distributors of these products and services had to
figure out how to market and sell to YOU. All of those things are in your home because
you needed and/or wanted them. To get them to you, each of these sellers had to figure
you out. They had to do the homework involved in identifying you as a good target for
their products. How do you think? Why do you need these products or services? How
do you prefer to buy them? When do you typically buy them? What information do
you need to have to make a decision? What price do you want to pay? How informed
are you about your alternative options? Very little of this information can be figured
out on the fly. It requires gathering and analyzing a lot of information. The biggest
challenge is to boil it down into a message that will resonate with your prospect.

Once the questions are answered, and a message is hammered out – the homework is
done. Right? Not necessarily. How the homework is used has everything to do with
success or failure. If we assume that you have figured out what value you bring to
potential customers – how and to whom are you communicating it? To what degree is
your organization’s value proposition communicated to your customers? Does every
customer get the same message? Do your sales people communicate it consistently?
Since we believe that selling happens both pre and post the actual sale (in the marketing
and customer service realms) – an even more important aspect is how the value
message is communicated internally. To what degree is your value proposition
communicated and understood by your employees? In order to actually deliver the
value that your brand is promising prospects and customers – your employees must
clearly understand what it is, why it is of value – and how their actions directly relate to
its delivery.

Hmm, the homework is piling up here, isn’t it? Do all of your people understand what
business your customers are in? Do they know both the tactical and strategic challenges
that your customers are facing? Can they tell you what the customer’s goals are? It’s
like the difference between selling some tires OR selling the ability to get somewhere
reliably. Are you trying to get prospects to connect to the WHAT of your company or
the HOW and WHY? The last 2 items are more important to your prospect than your
“WHAT.”

Here’s a quick diagnostic to assess how aligned you and your co-workers are with your
customers. Have each person jot down what they think your company’s value
proposition is. Why do customers do business with you? Then look at everyone’s
answers. Do you all have the same answer? How many different answers were
there? Looking at the range of answers as well as where in your organization each type
of answer resides can tell you a lot about what other kinds of homework you need to
do!

A poorly tuned value proposition is indicative of misalignment between the strategic
plans and the tactics of your company. Just fixing the value proposition isn’t
enough. Figuring out where all the disconnects are and aligning them into a consistent
communication and delivery system is key to gaining marketing share. Consider a
Marketing and Sales Assessment. Focusing on and comparing your company’s sales
perspective and your customers’ perspective can be extremely enlightening. Even if
you think you know the answers – don’t assume your homework is done. The only
way to be sure your homework is right is to actually DO IT! I was a student teacher
very early on in my career – and I had a student come in one day with no homework.
He was a good student and usually very committed. I asked him why he hadn’t done
his homework that day. “Oh,” he said, “I already knew all that stuff. I didn’t need to do
it again.” We had a quiz later that week which he failed. His assumption that he knew
the material didn’t hold up. So – how much of what you know about your customers
and prospects is recently studied information? Do you know it all already? Are you
sure?

— Lisa D. Dennis
© Knowledgence Associates, 2005 / All Rights Reserved

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