There are few distinct viewpoints in business that are as polarized as those of marketing and sales professionals. Marketing is glamorous, sales less so. Sales are measurable, marketing less so. The uneasy relationship between sales and marketing is widespread and infects almost all types of businesses, particularly technology companies that provide high value solutions to large corporations. Marketing folks decry the poor sales conversion rate delivered by the sales team, who in turn abhor what they would characterize as the risible value delivered by expensive marketing campaigns.
As I’ve met with many sales and marketing professionals, the polarity of perspective was striking. “Sales people are just quick-talking, quota-driven snake oil dealers” was the cant of the marketing quarter, while the sales constituency responded, “Sales draw the picture and marketing color it in!”
Like many opposing forces, however, their true interdependence is understated and sometimes unclear. The strategic marketing function (not marketing communications) believes that it sets out the game-plan, sometimes only to find that there are no players who understand the strategy. Sales execute plays, without understanding where the corporate goal is. On today’s playing field, successful selling, and the leading sales professional, encapsulates the best of strategic marketing, but at an individual customer level. Today’s sales winners eschew their previous role as vehicles for value communication and take responsibility for value creation, delivered to carefully chosen prospects – to convert them to customers.
Principles, once seemingly engraved in stone, now reveal themselves to be more fluid than rigid. In a world where ‘value creation’ is a necessity, and the foundation upon which profitable sales relationships are built, activity alone no longer suffices. The old adage of ‘sales is a numbers game’ rings hollow in a world where information is everywhere, and customers are frequently as knowledgeable as you are about your products, and those of your competitor. Unless you create – rather than just communicate – value, customers will look elsewhere. Professional selling has evolved beyond a “Go get ‘em, Tiger!” approach, and a good listener will beat a fast talker anytime. Customers now look to a sales professional to be their partner in developing a future vision for their organizations. They expect actions – not just words. The winning professional salesperson is becoming a customer confidante, a trusted advisor in his industry, and the person who leads his colleagues to President’s Club, year after year.
Bringing Sales and Marketing Together
For sales and marketing to work together, there must be a common framework, a blueprint of the deal, a shared perspective of the ideal customer, and single understanding of typical problems that customer is trying to solve. The function of any such blueprint should be to equip anyone selling or marketing high value, complex products to large corporations with a defined process that can be molded to an individual salesperson’s style but which also takes much of the uncertainty out of the sales process. I tried to do that here. It combines high-level, strategic marketing principles to draw the map, with focused tactics to complete each journey, addressing the practical stops along the way.
Its purpose is to help you grow revenue. We have all spent too many hours in airports, traveling to sales calls, to focus on anything else. Selling is an honorable profession – but a tough one. Marketing is no less honorable, but is absent the rejections in sales that are many and varied, or the highs which are sometimes not as frequent as the lows. But when sales is good, when you close that big deal, or win a really competitive bid, there is almost nothing to compare. If we can construct an environment where sales and marketing are fellow travelers on this journey, sharing the same map, and headed to the same destination, it is more likely that the destination reached will be a treasured one.
I have set out here a defined repeatable sales process that is pragmatic and usable. It is focused around the sales process and highlights what the sales person needs to do, and how the marketing organization might think about how to support the sales process, each step of the way. The process sets out key principles, and arranges them into a series of six manageable, actionable steps – a framework that you can adopt to aid your efforts:
- Select Target Customer.
- Understand Buyer Need.
- Qualify the Opportunity.
- Plan and Manage the Pipeline.
- Execute the Sales Plan.
- Negotiate and Close.
In following posts, I will go into detail on each of these steps in the sales process, outlining the respective and interdependent tasks for sales and marketing. But, in the meantime, if you want to create a customized sales process for your own company, you can do so for free at DealmakerGenius.
Update: You can now read the second post in this series here.