Marketing Is Sales Support --SherburneJanuary 2009
This can range widely from development of brochures and lead generation campaigns, to advertising, events and presentation development. Marketing should also play a role in sales training. This is often a function that is relegated to sales management or ignored entirely.
In fact, if marketing performs its sales support functions well, a sales rep should never have to make another cold call. That idea is music to the ears of almost any sales professional I have ever known. Few enjoy cold calling, and it is expensive, to boot. In today’s world of voice mail and automated phone systems, it can be extremely difficult to even reach a prospect live, let alone get them to schedule an appointment.
Pipeline of Good Leads
Thus, with good lead generation and qualification programs implemented by marketing, sales professionals can be presented with a pipeline of qualified leads. But what then? How do you make the most of those leads, remembering that you only have one chance to make a good first impression?
Arriving on the doorstep with your book of samples and a “stop me when you see something you like” talk track simply does not cut it any more. People are busy; they want, expect and deserve to get value out of every moment they spend with a supplier or supplier candidate. By being the organizational champion for sales training, marketing can contribute toward the success of these sales efforts and not waste the investment in generating those qualified leads.
We hear a lot about print as a commodity. In many ways, we, as an industry, have brought that on ourselves. We are often too focused on filling the cylinders and not focused enough on what the customer is doing with the printed piece.
I still remember a discussion I had with NAPL’s Joe Truncale a couple of years ago, where he said, “I am still waiting for the day that a print salesperson will call me the day after a conference or meeting, and ask how we did. They know when the event is; the date is on the piece of printing I bought from them. Imagine if a sales person made that call. It has never happened to me. The sad fact is that too many companies have been doing the same type of work the same way for so long, we fear they are not going to figure this out in time.”
Don’t be one of those companies Joe is worried about. Such a simple concept! The best suppliers to your business do that kind of follow-up; why shouldn’t you?
But even more importantly, the sales approach needs to move from “What printing do you have for me today?” to “Let me understand the business challenges you are facing and, from there, let’s see how I can help you overcome them.”
This is a big leap, and I speak from experience. For most of the 10 years I was at Xerox, beginning in the mid-1980s, but really heating up with the launch of the DocuTech in 1990, the company struggled to convert copier salespeople into consultative salespeople. Today, Xerox is one of the leaders in solution selling, but it was a battle hard fought and took years to do it.
The good news for you, though, is that there are tremendous resources available to help you make that transition. In fact, Googling “solutions selling” turned up nearly 50,000 hits. A similar search on Amazon yielded about 2,500 books. There are tons of resources available.
I recently spoke with an accomplished sales professional, who is giving back to the industry by sharing his solution-selling system. Patrick Morrissey is regional sales manager at EFI and was formerly vice president of sales for Creo Americas. After speaking at a couple of IPA events on the subject, IPA Executive Director Steve Bonoff approached him to see if he would be interested in working with IPA to create an online Solutions Selling course.
Morrissey was up for the gig. He sat down with a number of IPA member managers as a task force, received their input and adjusted his selling process with their perspective in mind. The result? A terrific online 10-step Solutions Selling course that can be accessed at www.ipa.org/solution-selling.
I perused the program, and it is terrific. It includes homework exercises and other resources that will help in learning the process. According to Morrissey, “If you are going to bring value to a sales team, you require a system that you can write down and one that is simple, so you can share it. And it needs to be something you can learn quickly.” This program achieves those goals.
“It’s an effective system that requires rigor and discipline,” Morrissey adds. “If you get off track, you can go back to the steps to see where [it happened], and do it better next time.”
Patrick shares this amazing piece of advice about his program: “On the first sales call, leave your products, services, brochures and samples at the door. You should spend the time listening. Keep in mind that leading up to that vendor meeting, before you were invited in, there were probably six to 10 meetings that had been held in the organization over time, and you missed those first 10 meetings.
“Spend the time learning about where the client is headed; it completely changes the way the call goes and the way the relationship develops.”
Additionally, Morrissey says that too many sales people not only lead with the product, but act as though their lives have ended when the purchase is made. That leaves many opportunities on the table that could be an outgrowth of the first sale.
Whether you choose to investigate the IPA course, find or develop your own, or slog through thousands of Google and Amazon search results, don’t neglect this important aspect of sales support—help your organization put the right training in place and pursue it consistently. PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries. She has written six books, including “Digital Paths to Profit,” and, most recently, “No-Nonsense Innovation: Practical Strategies for Success,” written with Bill Lowe, the father of the IBM PC, and scheduled for publication this spring. Sherburne can be contacted at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.