Sales and marketing have a great deal of overlap. From a business operational view, sales is viewed as a revenue center and, sometimes, marketing is viewed as a cost center. This is seen in times of economic downturn as costs get cut and marketing is tasked to do more with less.
However, logic and metrics demonstrate that the impact of marketing and advertising increase the funnel volume for sales, provide consistent messaging, and help target the right audience for conversion. Sales force management tools and CRM systems are a great place to start in establishing the ultimate question, “Who is our best customer?”
Typically, there is not a single answer. And, the road to converting a prospect to a customer can be more difficult if there are many decision-makers in the process. I’ve used salesforce.com, and one thing I particularly like the designations of a prospect’s role in the decision-making process on an opportunity.
- Business user
- Decision maker
- Economic buyer
- Economic decision maker
- Executive sponsor
- Technical buyer
While salespeople are working the room at a targeted industry association networking event, the marketing team is busy building that relationship with advertising, lobbyists, PR, blog posts, and so forth. The labels used by salesforce.com to help identify decision-makers are part of the same process used by marketing, only our ‘labels’ are full customer profiles known as personas.
More than just a label, a persona is a demographic and psychographic profile of the ideal customer that is used to help envision how that type of person will respond to a statement. This can save a great deal of money prior to focus groups or even sales calls on the wrong prospect. The key to a marketing persona is that it is based on the statistically significant audience data. If your decision-making buyers are 98% Hispanic males age 56, then don’t portray a 30 year old Caucasian female because you are afraid that this picture might be perceived as biased.
Who is currently buying and in what volume is a statistical fact. By seeing that picture, you are able to develop a strategy to engage untapped audiences… prospects that might be attending very different industry association events, or who might respond to a different advertising campaign.
Every company has a unique sales process with a certain number of touch points to get a formal meeting and proposal. A sales organization’s goal is to shorten the time it takes to get to proposal and convert the sale to commission. Mailing lists, cold calls, sales letters, networking events, trade shows, industry events, stopping in at the front desk of a prospect, emails… these are all ways to identify and get the attention of the prospect. Marketing supports those initiatives by identifying list resources, helping write sales scripts and letters, providing visual support before, during and after an event, providing collateral to hand out, and email templates that support brand.
Your Website: Sales and Marketing 24/7
The most accessible place where sales and marketing converge is your Website. With economic pressures, many companies look to cut corners and I get asked, “How cheap can I get this done? We’re really facing budgetary constraints.” I’m not so much put off by that statement because I know everyone is facing economic pressures today.
But I am put off when I consider the power and automated metrics of the Website and the many jobs it is actually doing 24/7: brand and product message, lead generation, e-commerce, customer service, recruiting, investor communications, competitive differentiation. When that unknown prospect is really interested, the Website is the first place they are going to go to qualify the company. What would be the combined salaries and benefits of the people the site is helping to support? In any company that has a marketing person, a salesperson, a person to answer the phone, a PR person – how can they effectively do their job if the very best Website has not been created to support them?
A site can be ‘designed’ to ‘look’ like anything: clinical, economical, friendly, elegant, rugged, techie, etc. But is the design a reflection of the designer’s preferences, or the marketer’s preferences, or is it a true reflection of where the identified persona interests are? Does it match the overall brand and the business goals, vision and mission? Is it generating leads? Are they leads that match your desired prospect/customer profile?
The rest of the Internet
A good Web presence goes beyond the Website. It extends to blogs, myspace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so many other social media sites that are picking up tidbits of information on your company.
For example, a financial salesperson did a seminar in our area which one of our partners attended. Using soft pressure engagement, he pushed to meet with us right away since he had time, but was flying out on business in a couple of days. We did meet with him, and it was the perfect sales pitch: he was comfortable, seemed trustworthy, knowledgeable about the financial market, could articulate his knowledge, used supporting collateral and articles torn from renowned news sources, and even hand drew diagrams to help us understand. After he left, we talked about the perfect sales performance and outlined the techniques he had used: economic factors beyond anyone’s control (pressure to act now), identifying our personal goals for wealth, understanding our personal loyalties, well-timed quality collateral support, and more.
Then, we went online and did our homework. The only information available on the company was what had been seeded by the marketing department. The articles published were, in fact, written by the company. The company had gone through a recent name change for no apparent reason. There were three BBB complaints, two of which had been resolved. What was striking to us was the lack of information. Right or wrong, we declined to convert on lack of trust in the company because of the way they presented online.
And, the perfect salesperson, he moved on to new prospects, just as a perfect salesperson should.
This post has rambled on a bit, but it is a blog, so please forgive me if it was all over the place. The point is: sales and marketing have to work together every day to identify customer point of pain, changing trends in the sales territories, emerging competitors, and where sales might feel a need and why. Sales should be looking at the company Website and asking themselves, “Is this helping me? Where can it be better?” Then they should let marketing know where they are feeling a disconnect. Marketing has to attend sales status meetings, shadow calls, and attend the sales networking functions to experience first-hand what reps are encountering. Marketers are the conduit for verbal and visual expression that combines the best-of-the-best in the field, and the attributes of the brand, to make it most appealing to prospects and customers.