Most organizations invest in educating their salespeople on the company’s products and how to become better at time management, qualifying, managing the sales process (i.e., overcoming objections) and closing. However, I have yet to encounter a company that felt the same way in regards to instructing their sales force in marketing skills.
Why is that? Aren’t sales people by definition ‘outbound marketers’ actively involved in the direct promotion of goods and services for our companies? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines marketing as “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” That reads like sales to me!
Like most product markers or business developers, a core part of my responsibility has always revolved around ‘improving sales.’ As part of that process, I the focus is on strategies involving competitive differentiation, partnering, and the identification of new market or product opportunities in which a company’s existing core competencies can be leveraged into. Why is that? Because by definition, marketing creates the sales process based on an understanding of a company’s markets, product, positioning, messaging and customers buying process. Marketing functions produce the MARCOM and sales tools, generate product awareness, and drive lead generation. Inevitably I find a spot or two in the marketing process which can be improved with some guidance from the sales team, which then leads to improvements in lead generation, pipeline management and subsequently more sales. Only then do I turn my attention to the sales processes in an attempt to maximize those and better align them with the messaging, marketing methodologies and sales tools that are now properly defined.
Right about now you might be noticing that a few of these marketing processes might have been skipped at your own company in the excitement of getting your innovative new technology to market. Or perhaps you dont have the marketing talent on board to execute those functions but the thinking is once you get some sales, youll have money that you can use to hire on these types. However, once the money is there to make new marketing hires, it is very likely they will get deployed on lead generation. Thats because at that point there is an urgency to improve sales and if the lead generation process can be improved, more leads can be generated, which can be fed to the sales force, which by reasonable inference more sales will inevitably follow.
Those who don’t have the budget to hire some marketers to generate more leads may typically ask the sales force to generate their own leads. This seems reasonable as isn’t prospecting part of ‘sales?’ In this case, the sales persons that are successful at prospecting are called ‘good’ sales people, or as they are affectionately known in management and sales circles, hunters.
Wouldn’t it be great then if all of our sales people were good hunters or if we could train them all to be good at hunting? What skills would be needed? Well, hunters seem to have a keen sense of a companys differentiating advantage, how to leverage that to solve problems and how to message this one on one to prospect and sell. They are good at forming prototypical customer profiles so they can seek out prospects that look just like their company’s best customers. When hunters find prospects they ask lots of questions to discover the problems their product was designed to solve, and they know just the right way of formulating the messaging to get that point across. Finally, they are quick to understand each customer’s buying process (rather than the pipeline stages as defined in sales CRM systems), and know just the right thing to say and do at every step of the buying process to keep moving towards a sale.
And there you have it. Effective sales people internalize and utilize good marketing methodologies. They are being devised and deployed 1-on-1 not 1-on-many, but they are most definitely marketing related activities.
So, that brings me back to my question, should we be training our salespeople to be better marketers?