5 Easy Ways to Achieve Excellence in Your Sales Support

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How has B2B Lead Flow Changed?

Recently I have had the opportunity, more than once,  to consider and explain what’s different about today’s B2B marketing.  It seems the standard that exists in the mind of many outside of the marketing discipline is a lead flow where marketing played a much smaller role.  In that mindset, marketing found leads and sent them all off to sales.  Aside from the occasional last-ditch follow up campaign most of those leads fall dormant.

Now, that mode of operation helped grow a number of great companies, some would say.  The time-honored tradition of following up on leads became a B2B pastime.  So did complaining about lead quality and executing poor follow up.

For example, in the “old days” marketing would set up a trade show, do a promotion or devise a game that brought booth traffic, and then sales interacted with prospects in the booth.  Out of a show came a small number of “hot leads” and a larger number of lesser quality “scanned leads”  Of course the “hot leads” got entered in the system and followed up on quite quickly.  The larger number of “scanned leads,” not so much.  Really, marketing’s role was to instantly hand off all leads to sales.

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Enter the 21st century marketer, armed with advanced marketing automation and lead nurturing tools, carefully-created content and end-to-end CRM visibility.  These tools have changed the nature of the game for B2B marketing forever.  Now a “lead” stays in marketing for long periods of time, being nurtured by steady and consistently-applied campaign rules dictate each email, call and question.  This is the middle section of the chart.

Marketing then can “watch” the digital body language of leads and, in a lead scoring environment, can automatically move these to the sales process when they are ready.  The systems can also dictate and advise when a potential customer should be called in the process.  In that manner they can also feed the exact right content for the prospect’s stage of the purchase process.

Within a campaign executed by an automated marketing system, you take different paths based on feedback from the prospect; did they open the email?  Did they click on any links?  Have they visited the website?  All of these actions can be input the lead nurturing campaign and each result can dictate different reactions.

Back in the stone ages of marketing “sales” did these tasks.  Often poorly or inconsistently.  Using a process that was basically untrackable.  But we’re over that now.  Take a deep breath.  We can move on now!

Using one of these systems also allows the marketing team to work on new and creative campaigns rather than executing repetitive marketing execution tasks. It’s all good!  Consider bringing it into your world!

What is the state of your marketing lead engine?  Are you nurturing your leads properly?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Are You a Victim of Sales Lead Leakage? Here are 4 Ways to Tell.

Everyone who takes a new position or gets hired on as a consultant looks for the “low hanging fruit” in order to make some quick wins.  In my experience as the head of marketing, the quick win is often finding leaks in the sales process and fixing them.  It always seems a bit crazy to me to increase lead flow through the expenditure of money if 10%-20% of the leads we have are just plain getting lost.

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What then, are the signs that your company has sales leakage? Here are 4 important things to look at in order to find and stop the leakage of your hard-earned leads.

  1. The handoff between sales and marketing is not clear.  This is often the first place to look.  The rules of lead qualification need to be clear and well-understood by both sides to be effective.  If you find that some of the sales team feel empowered to not follow up on leads without first working issues with the marketing team, you have a problem.  If the marketing team is unresponsive to valid issues raised by sales, you have a worse problem.
  2. Poor lead flow visibility.  There are some really great CRM and pipeline management tools available that allow both sales and marketing to see exactly where every lead is, cradle to grave.  However, in my experience, these systems are often poorly implemented, the staff poorly trained and the result not nearly being up to the full extent of the capabilities.  In one situation on my watch, we acquired and merged with three firms within a year.  During negotiations and due diligence, it was thought a positive that everyone used Salesforce.com as their CRM.  However, none of the other three firms had anywhere near the quality and sophistication of our implementation and in fact, generally were not really using the system as intended.  Disaster was ultimately averted, but with much pain and cost.
  3. Some salespeople use their own tracking system.  A major red flag here.  If you scratch beneath the surface and find that any salesperson or sales region “has their own spreadsheet” to track the pipeline, you can bet there are issues.  The tools and conventions of tracking the pipeline need to be provided by sales management and salespeople need to get on board or frankly, get out.
  4. Perform a quick audit and get the real story.  If you think there are issues, there probably are. Pick up the phone and call upon some dormant leads and ask them what contact they have had. Gauge where they should be placed in the sales funnel based on that conversation.  Many times the results will be illuminating. Sometimes shocking.

This is a topic that always makes for interesting findings in all but the most sophisticated situations.  Almost every company can improve upon the way things are handled.  Be sure to take a look at it and find any areas that need attention.

Lastly, I want to note that I didn’t think up the phrase “sales leakage” nor can I claim credit for shining a light on it.  That goes to my friend Jim Obermayer, who founded the Sales Lead Management Association.  You can visit the association’s website here: http://www.salesleadmgmtassn.com/index.htm#.Uf7CeJI3v-o

Do you have “sales leakage” in your sales process? Does your company have cradle-to-grave lead metrics?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Can Sales and Marketing Get Along?

There are many relationships within a business.  Relationships exist between people, up and down the corporate ladder and between departments.  Often the most important relationship is between marketing and sales.  Many times, this is not a healthy relationship.  Any failures by either side reflect badly on the other and it’s a situation ripe for finger-pointing.  Often it goes like this; marketing notices not all the “leads” they produced have been followed up on.  Sales replies that they didn’t follow up because the leads were crap.  Marketing says, well how do you know the quality of leads you didn’t call.  The battle is on!

Sometimes this battle goes on for years.  It leads to a lack of respect and trust.  And the business fails or at very least fails to reach the levels it could.

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Interdepartmental relationships often take on the style of the respective leaders of each side.  That’s a negative when the heads of sales and marketing don’t get along.  This situation gives license to both teams to dig in, protect their turf and perhaps even see the battle between marketing and sales as sport.  Bad sign.  Likely an unsuccessful business.

But peace and even collaboration can occur between these two parties.  After all, aren’t we on the same team?  In order to have a successful détente it has to start at the top.  The head of sales and the head of marketing must have mutual respect and show that they work together toward common goals.  The leaders should squash any battles quickly and make it clear that fighting with the other group is a serious issue that will lead to negative consequences.

Issues and differences will of course appear in even the closest relationships.  The leaders here must resolve these in private.  Like adults.

One key stumbling point is the place where “leads” leave marketing and enter the sales funnel. This part of the value chain must be managed carefully. The answer is largely in having common goals and defining exactly when the handoff of a lead is appropriate.

It helps also to have marketing that works.  It helps to explain the strategy of each campaign in a kick-off meeting with sales and to have sales at the table in every campaign postmortem. Sales should provide detailed and useful feedback on campaigns, with an eye toward improving the process.  Both sides must work together to continuously improve campaigns.

It’s also the case that some of the best marketing copy and content ideas come directly from the sales team’s experience in working with prospects, answering their questions in selling the product.  If you can integrate or even feature their learning in your marketing, you’ll be well on your way to earning the sales teams respect.  Sales can respond by updating marketing on new messages that are working, or ones that seem to have stopped.

I’ll answer the question in the title of this article one more time: Yes, marketing and sales can get along.  But it’s much more critical than that: for the business to be successful, they must get along.

What is the relationship between marketing and sales in your company?  Do the leaders “get it?”

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm