The Seven Sins of Marketing and Sales

What if you could isolate the one thing that would make your sales soar? The challenge
is in figuring out what that “silver bullet” actually is – if it even really exists. The
reality is that, for the most part, it is a combination of factors, including the efforts of
both marketing and sales that can increase or depress revenue results. By focusing on a
group of factors, it is possible to improve results without having necessarily to reinvent
the wheel or engage in expensive technology solutions in the name of change.
After working with a range of organizations in both B-to-B and B-to-C markets, I’ve
boiled things down to seven common “sins” that can needlessly impede sales
growth. By identifying which one of these areas is similar to what is going on in your
own company, you can build a simple but powerful road map for increased
effectiveness.

Sin # 1 – The Chicken or the Egg? Sales or Marketing Focus
At the risk of being a little controversial – I have to say I’ve never understood why so
many companies talk about “Sales & Marketing” as a discipline, rather than “Marketing
& Sales.” Often, conversationally and organizationally, the focus is on Sales first – with
marketing placed in an enablement role. The truth is that the process of finding a
prospect and converting them to a customer starts with Demand Creation – and the
majority of that activity begins with Marketing. Marketing is setting the stage, targeting
the most likely segments, honing the right message, and hopefully creating the right set
of sales materials, in addition to customer collateral, to give Sales everything they need
to take that prospect through the sales process. Without this crucial orientation, it’s too
easy to cut marketing when times get tough. Sales people are pushed out the door to
“sell harder,” but not given the marketing support to make that happen. Put the
activities in their proper order. Think about them in terms of an extended and
repeatable progression and you will have gone a long way into aligning and integrating
the efforts of both organizations. They are mutually interdependent – so alignment has
nothing to do with having one department report to the other.

Sin # 2 – One Size Fits All Value Propositions
The amount of time, effort and money that companies spend on value proposition
development leads one to believe that if the company nails it and gets their sales force
to use it – the sales will tumble in. Recently I spoke with a project manager who
confided that her parent corporation had spent $250,000 on their latest version which
was rolled out to all the member companies. When was the last time you bought
something that was “One Size” that actually fit? A corporate value proposition is just
that – a high level statement at a corporate level. For it to work in the field, marketers
and sales people need to customize it to fit each target market and type of prospect. A
tiered value proposition set is crucial to enabling sales people to speak directly to
buyers’ challenges, values and needs. A review of value propositions in your industry
will also reveal another sin: they tend to be about the company and product, and not
the customer. When a prospect looks into the “mirror” of a value proposition and
doesn’t see herself, what happens next? You guessed it – she is left to just compare you
to your competitors and decide based on price and features, leaving value, the only true
differentiator, out of the conversation.

Sin # 3 – The Charge to “Call Higher”
Over the past few years, sales people are being told to spend more time calling at senior
levels. This challenge often founders on the rocks of lack of access, lack of practice, and
lack of focus. The majority of sales people are simply not oriented to a senior
executive’s point of view. When times are good, it’s quite doable to sell to the middle
management tier – it’s only when times get tougher that approvals get pushed
upwards. So lack of practice is one issue. The other is the perennial gatekeeper. Most
folks quit after two strikes and revert to “who do I know that can take me in the back
door?” This isn’t a bad strategy, but it’s not always an available one either. The key is
to identify what’s in it for the gatekeeper, be it an assistant, a middle manager, or a
director, and to bargain with them for that value item in exchange for a meeting with
the senior executive they are protecting. Finally – the most common problem with
calling higher is that many sales people are simply unprepared to converse at that
level. The kind of conversation that a rep will have with a mid-tier player is completely
different than the strategic, business-value driven conversation that a senior executive
wants to have. Bottom line – speak in their language or you’ll be headed out the door.

Sin # 4 – Going Out Into the Territory Without a Map
Armed with a sales quota that would make a horse choke, sales representatives often
head out every year into their territories and spend the majority of their time trying to
either identify “low hanging fruit” or ping ponging around their territory based on the
leads marketing gives them. Very few sales people have a clear plan and map of how
they will penetrate their territory – including net new opportunities, installed base or
renewal opportunities, and strategies for more consistent penetration across the
territory. Often you will find wide swaths of territory that simply have been untouched
because there was not plan or strategy that identified where the quota was going to best
come from. Companies that enable their sales representatives to truly grow their
territories give them the territory planning tools and process to make reasoned and
educated plans that will insure consistent revenue growth. Furthermore, many
territories have a handful of customers that are really much more strategic and bigger
than the rest. Handling a major account is often quite different than handling the rest of
the opportunities available in that territory. Large national or global accounts are
territories unto themselves. In order to reap the true profits available for these
accounts, they need the focus of a Major Account Plan that clearly identifies the growth
strategies and opportunities to penetrate deeper.

Sin # 5 – Suffering from “Premature Proposal”
What is the easiest way to make a sales person go away? Ask them for a
proposal! Many of us run eagerly out the door, flushed with the excitement of telling
our sales manager that we’ve “got one.” It’s rare for a sales person to ask the following
very important questions:

  • “Was it too easy to get this opportunity?”
  • “Do I know enough to actually write a very targeted, tailored proposal?”
  • “Do I know how many other companies are also writing proposals for this person?”
  • Is it a real project, with a real name and an already funded budget?

Pushing back to ask more questions and to request more information is one of the
easiest and smartest ways to find out if this is a true request or a “get lost, kid, you’re
bothering me!” Instead, field the response with a request for more information,
another meeting, perhaps an interview or two with key stakeholders. Depending on the
responses to these requests, it should be easy to find out if this is worth the time and
resource investment. It should net out the “real” proposal opportunities from the chaff
that will sit in the sales pipeline for months.

Sin # 6 – Bait & Switch: Technology or Sales Process?
Any sales manager can tell you that there are as many ways to sell as there are numbers
of sales reps in your organization. What is the right way? Often a sales manager will
decide that “their way” is the most optimal. Many of them have been promoted from
the ranks because they were top flight sellers. (See Sin # 7). Therefore, they work on
imposing their own method on the reps. When that doesn’t work – instead of
developing a consistent sales process, many companies simply revert to a CRM
software tool, such as Seibel, or Salesforce.com or Goldmine. The thought is that if
everyone uses the same piece of software to track opportunities and sales, then by
definition, everyone will adhere to the same process. However, what a sales tool will
not do is often the crux of the issue:

  • What are the specific characteristics of a truly qualified prospect? How does the
    software support those characteristics?
  • Do the steps in the pipeline map to the actual way your customers buy?
  • How accurate is the roll-up of the forecast if each salesperson has their own
    “method”?
  • How many “work-arounds” to the system are sales people engaging in?

Sin # 7 – Return of the Body Snatchers: Cloning your Super Star
Seems like an obvious choice – who better to lead, manage and mentor your sales force
than a star player? Many companies feel like this “cloning” strategy will result in a
team of stars – installing the “best practices” of their rainmakers throughout the sales
teams. The wake-up call comes when the newly minted sales manager spends more
time in the field closing deals, than they do in managing or mentoring others. The skills
that made them a star are often in direct opposition to the skills a manager
needs. Coaching skills are not innate. In the interest of coaching, sales managers will
close a deal, thinking that the rep will “learn how it’s done” and then be able to repeat it
later. What happens instead, is that reps are trained to rely on their sales managers
when the going gets tough – and revert to bringing in “the big gun” when a prospect
doesn’t close. For a transition like this to work, a sales manager fresh out of the field
needs to be given the tools and methods to enable them to successfully lead their reps
towards sales quota fulfillment. Training that focuses on how to coach, how to
evaluate, and how to manage process – including having a consistent sales process that
a sales manager can enforce across the sales force, is key in taking a sales star and
enabling him or her to be a sales leader.

Conclusion
So how many of these sins is your organization committing? Typically there is usually
one problem that is primary, with two or three others that also are in play. Increasing
marketing and sales effectiveness is about tuning all the key activities that make up the
path to the customer. By adjusting a few specific areas, the whole can be greatly
improved. What this implies is that it isn’t just a marketing challenge or just a sales
challenge. It needs to be a shared responsibility to get to an integrated and revenue
generating state.

– Lisa Dennis
© Knowledgence Associates, 2006 / All Rights Reserved

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