I have always believed that one of marketing’s most important activities is to provide the sales team with support. A large part of that support takes the form of sales materials; leave-behind brochures, email attachments, case studies, PowerPoint decks and the like. These items touch every sales prospect at some point.
Often, I have found that these items are forgotten about and are older than they should be or have been modified by the sales team with less than perfect results. I vividly remember the look in the eyes of my partner, the VP sales, while on a train ride outside of London. We were on our way to a major presentation, one that we had traveled 5500 miles to present. He was reviewing (and trying to fix) the presentation his salesperson had put together for the meeting. It was horrid. The salesperson modified my team’s slide deck with different fonts on each slide and a real lack of proof reading. Needless to say, he wasn’t our salesperson for long after that.
How then to turn sales support into an advantage? Try these 5 tips to get started:
- Listen to the sales team and address their needs. Some of the best marketing materials can come from salespeople asking for something in detail or explaining to the marketing team what the elements of their pitch seem to resonate most with customers. I recommend listening to them and their experience and creating materials they know they had a hand in creating. It goes a long way to make them feel supported.
- Gently coach them on basic branding. The basics of branding do not come naturally to many people. I find it helpful to explain in advance the full story and reasoning behind every tweak of the tagline or change in the look of the website. The sales team must buy-in and assimilate these things for them to fully take hold.
- Keep top-quality presentations in your sales team’s bag of tricks. Whether your sales folks are road warriors, forever visiting potential customers’ offices or they do what they do over the phone and WebEx, PowerPoint presentations are often a key tool for them. They establish credibility for the company and present an structured overview of product offerings. I believe it is marketing’s job to keep these fresh, up-to-date and on target. I have gone to the extent of changing the PowerPoint format and background every year, so that both I and sales management could recognize out of date presentations immediately.
- Focus on having excellent follow up materials. Again, whether after in-person meetings or phone conversations, salespeople can emphasize key points when they have the right follow up brochures, case studies and article reprints. A steady supply of good content helps them do this.
- Make sure salespeople actual get the message. I experienced one extreme situation where I went into a company 6 months after a poorly-executed name change. I walked around the sales area and realized that some salespeople where still using their old-name business cards and announcing themselves on the phone using the old name. When I asked, I was told “Well they don’t know us by the new name.” I’ll leave you to guess my reaction to that.
The marketing team has the same responsibility to the front line salesperson as our armed forces has to our fighting men and women at the front lines of battle. They must have confidence that they are armed with the best possible tools. Make sure your team is doing their part.
What has been the best sales support you’ve seen? Where does it fall down the most?
You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/
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