Chapter 12 – Professional Selling
- Identify the ways in which the marketing function supports the sales function.
- Describe how the sales group of a company can support its marketing efforts.
Often sales and marketing departments approach the company’s customers with different perspectives. The key is to work together to achieve the best results for the company. A company’s sales and marketing groups should work together.
Marketing Shortens the Sales Cycle
A company’s marketing activities include developing products and services that meet the customers needs, price it appropriately and ensure that it is consistently available to the business customers, along with creating advertising and promotional campaigns, participating in trade shows, and preparing collateral.
Collateral is specific printed or digital material created for salespeople to use to support their sales calls. It can consist of print or online brochures, position papers, case studies, clinical studies, market studies, and other documents. Although a pharmaceutical rep selling a drug might claim it works faster than competing medications, a clinical study would carry more weight. If such a study existed, the pharmaceutical company’s marketing department would prepare a brochure or white paper to give to doctors that highlight those findings.
Brand awareness opens doors for salespeople. When a salesperson does come by from a well-known company, the businessperson is far more likely to be courteous and listen, however briefly, to see if there is some value in continuing the conversation.
Marketing professionals also support salespeople by providing them with lead management. Lead management is the process of identifying and qualifying leads in order to grow new business. Closed-loop lead management systems are information systems that are able to track leads all the way from the point at which the marketer identifies them to when they are closed. Figure 12.5 illustrates the process and shows how marketing groups use the information to evaluate which of their activities are earning their companies the biggest bang for their buck.
A closed-loop lead management system can result in better investment decisions for marketing managers because they can learn what marketing actions shorten sales cycles and create more sales.
Unfortunately, many companies lack such a system. Closing the loop (meaning closing the feedback loop to marketing) gives the marketing department insight into what works and what doesn’t.
Marketing Improves Conversion Ratios by Scoring Leads
Marketing departments also help their company’s salespeople improve their conversion ratios by scoring the leads they send them. Lead scoring is a process by which marketing personnel rate the leads to indicate whether a lead is hot (ready to buy now), warm (going to buy soon), or cold (interested but with no immediate plans to buy). As you can imagine, someone who has had a conversation at a trade show with a company representative, seen a demonstration, and answered questions about her budget, authority, need, and time, is close to being a prospect already. The more hot leads you put into the sales cycle, the more conversions to prospects and customers you can expect.
Lead scoring is not just a function of asking questions, however. A potential customer who visits a company’s website, downloads a case study about how a product solved certain problems, and then signs up to get a link to watch an online demo of the offering has shown a significant amount of interest in the product. The buyer’s behavior, though, indicates a strong interest, a much stronger interest than someone who just visited the website.
When should marketing pass a lead on to sales? If the lead was generated at a trade show, then the salesperson should get the lead immediately. The people and companies designated in leads generated through other means, could be targeted to receive additional promotional messges before being passed along to a salesperson. Closed-loop lead management systems provide marketing managers with the information they need to know when to pass the lead along.
What Sales Does for Marketing
Without the help of their company’s salespeople, marketers would be at a serious disadvantage in their understanding of business customers.
Salespeople Communicate Market Feedback from Individual Customers
Salespeople are responsible for voicing their customers’ ideas and concerns to the company. Large management consulting companies engage in projects with clients that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. After each sale is concluded, the account management team reviews the process in excruciating detail, win or lose. Questions such as “Did we have the right information to give to the client at the right time?” or “Were our offerings aligned with their needs?” are answered. After the review, executives decide whether the company needs to create new offerings, produce additional marketing material to support it, or follow up on any other ideas generated by the review.
While Customer Relationship Management software is important to track and maintain information about customers, spending time with real customers adds another dimension to the information. Marketers who create promotional communication for tradeshows could speak to salespeople to determine which messages are effective.
Changing the offering can be another outcome of what occurs when salespeople convey information provided by their customers to their company. Perhaps customers are asking for additional product features, faster delivery, or better packaging to reduce the number of damaged products shipped or to meet their environmental sustainability commitments. Many companies are reducing their use of plastic however, the product still need packaging. Coca Cola announced the testing of a paper bottle as packaging instead of plastic developed in conjunction with packaging companies.
Salespeople Monitor the Competition for Large Customers
Salespeople also track the actions of their competitors, what customers buy, and enter the information into their companies’ CRM systems. When marketing managers examine the marketing and sales efforts of their competitors, they are looking for the competitors’ weak spots and strengths. The weak spots can be capitalized on, whereas the strengths need to be minimized.
More specifically, marketing managers need to know which companies are the strongest competitors based on the percentage of deals they win. Knowing this information can help a company analyze its own competitive strengths and weaknesses and develop better marketing messages, sales strategies, offerings, or a combination of the three. Marketing managers also want to know against which competitors the sales force most frequently finds itself competing. If prospects consider the same competitor’s product relative to your product, then the competitor’s marketing and sales efforts may be very similar to yours. In this case, you might need to develop some countertactics your salespeople can use to eliminate the competitor’s product from the prospect’s consideration set. Those tactics could include focusing on certain features only your product has or helping your buyers feel secure in the purchase by pointing out how long you have been in business.