by Joe McCormack – McCormack Associates
“If a business engages in traditional marketing activity, then that means that the business will end up writing a cheque…..
However, if it proactively engages in selling, then it will be lodging cheques…”
So said Will McKee many, many times over the years in his advice to clients, students and associates. Will openly questioned conventional marketing science which placed selling as part of the marketing process – instead, Will took the opposite view and insists that marketing is really part of the selling process.
“If you don’t sell,” adds Will, “you don’t eat – it’s that simple.
And with many businesses focussing on the use of social media as a marketing tool to create and grow awareness, there is a tendency to forget that while you can create all the awareness you like via social media channels (and often at a zero cost), it is wasted unless the customer buys.
Of course, some customers will buy on impulse once a level of awareness is reached but many more will buy if they are subject to a selling process.
While many small businesses realise and understand how this process works, many larger businesses have apparently forgotten how this works.
One particular company insider told us recently that their marketing department was dominated by what was described as “the cast from an opening episode of The Apprentice.” Earnest, black suited lookalikes who saw the world through Twitter and Facebook and were incapable of lifting a phone to seek a customer’s view or sell them a product or service.
“These type of people have the capacity to wreck a business” added our informant “and we struggle to widen their horizons.”
Now, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review draws attention to the same issue.
CEOs Need to Get Serious About Sales
by Ram Trichur, Maria Valdivieso de Uster, and Jon Vander Ark | 6:00 AM July 10, 2012
With many companies trying to shake off the drag of a global recession, CEOs are eager to find growth. One place they need to look is in their own sales organizations.
In writing the book Sales Growth, we’ve found that CEOs who put sales management at the heart of their agenda have captured astonishing growth — outstripping their peers by 50 to 80 percent in terms of revenue and profitability. However, while CEOs play an active role in driving performance improvement across many parts of the organization — think of the “lean” movement — sales has traditionally been neglected. That’s a big mistake.
CEOs at the best companies are willing to roll up their sleeves and attack the details to transform their sales organization. It’s not enough to set budgets and set goals. The best CEOs call on their management toolkit to transform sales into a growth engine by focusing on three actions in particular:
Crank up the analytics
When it comes to selling, even many hard-nosed executives believe that sales is an art, and artists do their best work when left alone. But winning CEOs demand analytics from their sales organization (much as they do from operations or strategy) to help understand everything from the effectiveness of sales campaigns to opportunity analysis to performance reviews. CEOs need to champion this “sales as a science” approach by demanding KPIs and then holding their leaders accountable for delivering on them.
When tracking trends for future growth opportunities, for example, invest real money (2 to 4 percent of the sales budget is good) to develop analytical tools and teams that monitor trends such as demographic shifts, regulations, and new technologies. Actively track performance and shift budgets to monitor promising trends while killing off tracking projects that aren’t going anywhere. A contract manufacturing company that builds products for IT equipment makers, for example, had a dedicated team of speculative market analysts whose active trend monitoring led to a 15 percent return on investment.
You also need to push sales organizations to find overlooked pockets of growth in “tapped” markets. Demand that your sales organization do a deep analysis into micro-markets — sometimes even down to the zip code or street level — to find the growth hot spots.
Finally, demand that data inform decisions on the sales function’s inner workings. For example, use regression analyses of performance and 360-degree feedback data to determine training priorities.
Build a lean selling machine
CEOs generally don’t want changes to how their sales force operates for fear of killing the golden goose. But cutting cost does not mean cutting revenue. In manufacturing, lean both cuts cost and increases effectiveness (e.g., higher quality, faster cycle time). The same thinking applies to sales. Optimizing sales operations with automated tools or dedicated back-office units for specific tasks can improve revenues by 10 to 25 percent and reduce back-office costs by 20 to 30 percent.
Start with removing waste from front line sales so your reps can do what they’re supposed to do: sell. That means getting sales leaders to develop a comprehensive assessment of current operations before setting up clear back-office processes to support the front line while managing costs. In one global manufacturing company, the CEO set up “sales factories” comprised of specialized sales support for functional tasks and “deal coordinators” to help shepherd deals through the system. Sales reps gained 15 percent more time for selling.
This lean approach can also provide a serious lift in sales effectiveness. Simplified and standardized processes to respond to RFPs, for example, speed up responsiveness, put the most compelling offer in front of customers, and increase loyalty. A Fortune 500 company found that for every two days it cut from cycle time, it increased its win rate one percent.
Make sales a team sport
Sales organizations can’t drive growth on their own: strategy needs to provide insights into future trends; marketing needs to provide reliable intelligence to identify where to compete; IT needs to develop technology to support remote customer interactions and self-serve capabilities; customer service needs to translate customer interactions into cross- or up-sell opportunities. Only the CEO can push this kind of coordination through.
Part of this effort requires raising sales’ profile within the company. Give your best sales performers broad recognition, make sure that sales has a seat at the table when you’re discussing product strategy, and share sales successes and insights throughout the company.
To foster collaboration, find discrete opportunities to bring different functions together such as improving sales and supply chain coordination to better manage inventory. When a major international service provider announced it was leaving the North American market several years ago, for example, the CEO of a remaining competitor instituted a “war room” where his top managers from sales, marketing, strategy, and product development could thrash out a coordinated plan for grabbing these new customers. Marketing provided detailed customer analysis and developed tailored proposals that led to crucial wins in the field.
CEOs will always have to make decisions about where to invest their time to build their company. But if they are serious about growth, they need to get serious about sales.
While the guys in Harvard are rightly identifying a practical growth strategy based on growth, there are many specialists who have preached this policy for many years now.
One such specialist is Ballymena based Colly Graham who takes the view that sales and marketing activity must be aligned.
Is your sales and marketing aligned?
by Collie Graham www.salesxcellence.com
A hundred years ago the term marketing was unfamiliar. Sales was the only game in town and it incorporated everything we now call marketing. The Chartered Institute of Marketing was originally called The Incorporated Sales Managers’ Association. Marketing as a discipline has its roots in sales.
Over time, with the new science of marketing, sales and marketing became estranged.Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy said in a Harvard whitepaper entitled ‘Ending the War Between Marketing and Sales,’ “Salespeople accuse marketers of being out of touch with what customers really want or setting prices too high. Marketers insist that salespeople focus too myopically on individual customers and short-term sales at the expense of longer-term profits. Result? Poor coordination between the two teams – which only raises market-entry costs, lengthens sales cycles, and increases cost of sales”.
In changing times it is forecasted that in ten years from now there will be no such thing as separate marketing and sales departments. There will be one team comprising two interdependent disciplines. However, when we look at our local business schools, do we see a mention of ‘Sales’ on the curriculum?
When you bring sales and marketing together your company will experience rapid improvement in sales productivity. The quantity and quality of leads improve, sales cycles grow shorter and conversion rates increase. Your business will grow faster and generate more profit.
The abundance of web content, white papers, brochures and other marketing collateral effectively document product features. However, it fails to provide sales professionals with the words and concepts needed to:
• Identify customer goals or problems.
• Link your product or service to the capability to solve their problems and achieve their
• Help customers envision how they would use those capabilities to achieve their goals
and solve their problems.
From the perspective of the sales force, one major problem is that most marketing materials stress functions, features, and benefits, things that say what the product will do for the prospective customer. Typical materials include claims that a product or service will reduce expenses, save time or improve productivity.
By leading with features, functions and benefits on a sales call, the sales professional leaves it to the customer to envision how to use the product or service. That’s a leap that many customers cannot or will not make on their own.
While prospective customers certainly need to understand features and benefits, the fundamental questions leading to closing a sale relate to how the product or service will help prospects:-
• Achieve a goal.
• Solve a problem.
• Satisfy a need.
How can marketing create sales-ready messaging which the sales team can use to help prospective customers build a vision and shorten sales cycles and close more sales?
These are the steps you can take to achieve this:
• Study the potential buyer’s roles and goals. Identify the decision maker in the target
company who have the power to buy, fund and implement the seller’s offering.
• Determine each of these executives’ business goals and objectives within the
organisation. What are their missions? What are the obstacles to achieving those
• Consider how your company’s products or services can help each customer achieve
the goal, solve the problem or satisfy the need.
• Develop a set of targeted questions that will lead the prospect through the process of
identifying one or more goals, problems or needs.
• Develop various scenarios that will help sales people guide the prospects to an
understanding of how they or others within the company can use your product or
service to satisfy that problem or need.
• Carry the message throughout the marketing mix, from the company Web site
through brochures, sales sheets, and media relations.
By following this process, marketing can give sales professionals the tools they need to influence and steer sales calls to their advantage.
Our experience shows that companies who arm their sales people with sales-ready messaging have been able to shorten sales cycles, accelerate revenues and improve the profitability of each sale.
Your comments on this article are welcome.