Friday, November 14, 2003

Justifying my Existence: Marketing 104 - Sales Support

There are several epic battles that endure the eons: good and evil, God and Satan, Marketing and Sales. This battle is also referred to as "Field versus Factory" and is seen in a lot of old business sayings:

Sales Saying: "The toughest sale is the Factory"

Marketing Saying: "I wish sales would work for us instead of the customer"

Part of this issue is that there really isn't a hard/fast line between the sales and marketing functions. The line is fluid and can move depending on industry, customer, design cycle, or even between products at a single customer. This chart is a general overview showing this dynamic:

The vast area in the middle between marketing and sales is what can create conflict, confusion, turf wars, you name it (note that the far right side is covered under business development). But the bottom line is this: sales support is an important component of the marketing function.

So, what tasks should one do in marketing to support sales?

1. Know your salesforce - that personal connection can go a long way to resolving conflict.

2. Support your salesforce - Salesperson wants a presentation? No prob. Free sample? Okay. They are the warriors on the front line, so don't pull a Black Hawk Down and deny them the weapons they need. Marketing also has the job of creating "collateral", which includes brochures, data books, or any other materials that a salesperson puts in a customer's hands. Don't be stingy on your collateral budget, since all salespeople want a reason to call/go see their customer ("I thought I would stop by and give you the newest brochure out of the factory").

3. Don't keep the salesforce in the dark - This is one of the biggest complaints of the field to the factory. I have been in situations where the field is selling an item at a customer the same day an announcement is made that obsoletes the product the salesperson is pitching. (You want to see some pissed off people, try this). If you want to have productive, happy salespeople, pull them in periodically and let them know what is going on - or ideally include them in your strategy formulation. Some companies don't like to do this since they want to sell off old inventory, want to sell what they have today, etc. This sort of thinking doesn't give the salesforce credit. If you communicate what you need (and incentivize them appropriately), these sorts of issues won't be a problem.

4. Drink Heavily - Okay, this is somewhat tongue in cheek, but has an element of truth in it. A lot of sales is conducted through entertaining and wining/dining your customer. This means great meals in great restaurants all over the country or even the world, but also means a lot of late nights of heavy drinking with your salesman and customer followed by business meetings with bad hangovers (yes, I have pitched to senior executives while wondering if I would heave in front of them).

This aspect is especially true in Japan, where business is NOT done at the meeting - it is done later at the "hostess clubs" and karioke bars. Rorschach has agreed to do a post at a later date on doing sales in Japan, and I think it should be pretty interesting, as well as funny.

Note: I skipped Marketing 103 - Branding - since there are books and books written on branding out there and I really have nothing to add to the discussion.

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