Thousands of salespeople work in conditions that are stacked against their success. Even though it’s 2019, the belief persists that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Repeated so often, no one challenges them.
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Yet, those six words help explain why salespeople are given “special treatment” by management and barely “tolerated” by others. Salespeople are frequently viewed both as separate and more than equal. When co-workers complain about the sales department, someone says, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” This dismal view has long passed its expiration date. Even so, it’s disturbing since so much depends on the successful performance of the salesforce.
Closely related is another problem and that’s marketing. Unfortunately, it’s still viewed as the handmaiden of sales in many companies, even though it long ago ran out of gas. In this view, marketing does what it’s told to do. When this happens, marketing is rudderless, all tactics and no strategy. Marketing departments become a “do this” dumping grounds, throwing one-thing-after-another against the wall hoping something sticks.
Unfortunately, marketing’s unique mission is often misunderstood or disregarded. Its critical task of creating customers, those who want to do business with a brand, gets ignored. Or, as Seth Godin, the author of This is Marketing, says, “Marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problems; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems.” Unfortunately, marketers don’t have a chance to do it.
If marketing is unable to do its job, salespeople can’t do their job of closing sales. To put it another way, when marketing comes down with the flu, the sales force calls in sick.
Letting marketing and sales do their work
Here are three principles that can help anyone in marketing and sales do a better job and be more successful:
1. Get over the idea that “nothing happens until somebody sells something.”
Forty years ago, those in sales had a point. Salespeople were the link between companies and their customers. Looking back, it’s no exaggeration to say customers were their captives. They depended on a salesperson for product or services information, troubleshooting, and support.
The salesperson had a dual role, educating customers and closing sales. This may help explain why customers were often far more welcoming to salespeople than they are today. They were not only needed; they were essential.
Today, the sales role has been upended. When it comes to accurate sales information, customers are often better informed before they ever see a salesperson. That’s not all. Sales are now so transaction-driven the salesperson’s role continues to erode. On top of this, the task of identifying and accessing prospects is so frustrating, it borders on the impossible.
All this points to a marketing-driven environment quite different from times past. It’s one in which nothing happens until someone decides they want to do business with a company or a brand. Then, the salesperson may arrive to close the deal.
2. Have a clear understanding of why customers should do business with you.
Caution! Don’t blurt out the usual trite and self-serving nonsense: “Our people really care,” “We give great service,” “We’ve been in business since 1979.” It’s all hype. End of discussion.
Take it seriously because a lot’s at stake. What separates you from the competition that makes a difference to your customers? What is your value statement; what your brand stands for? What do you bring to the customer’s buying experience that creates credibility and confidence? Unless your brand makes sense to customers, there’s no sale.