Are you setting up your sales team to fail?

If sales are in a slump, does your sales team care about branding?

If sales are in a slump, does your sales team care about branding?

Whenever we have a large marketing initiative or campaign for one of our clients, we always ask to speak to their sales team as part of our discovery process.

To us, that’s frontline information. We hear direct accounts of what customers are saying, wanting or experiencing. And it’s those real-world tales of triumph and failure that help fuel our creativity and strategy.

But in many of these journeys, one of the biggest complaints we hear from marketers is the disconnect they experience with their sales team. Likewise, the sales team has their issues with the marketing group, too. It often sounds like this:

MARKETING: Sales doesn’t listen. All they care about is their quota. They’ll say ANYTHING to get the sale—on brand or not. They don’t promote our brand message. I make all these materials for them, and they don’t even use them. I’m trying to bring in revenue here!

SALES: Marketing is up in their ivory tower, and they have no idea what’s going on down here in the trenches. They give me all this stuff about branding that doesn’t help me sell at all—it just wastes my time. I’m trying to bring in revenue here!

There may indeed be a distance between these groups in many organizations, but for real branding and sales success, they should actually be two of the closest groups working together in a company.

The good news: There is common ground between marketing and sales. In fact, it’s a pretty wide-open pasture where things can grow quite nicely. How do you find that magic place?

3 ways to help marketing and sales play nice

1. USE SALES TO GATHER REAL INTELLIGENCE. As I touched on before, sales people have direct contact with your customers. A sales person feels, quite directly, when a sale is lost, and his or her commission evaporates after days, weeks or months of work it took to land it. Hearing about that pain and its cause can help you craft messaging that works in the real world—oftentimes much better than a customer survey.

2. MAKE BRANDING PRACTICAL. The truth is, sales people will only use what will help them make the sale. Period. They see everything else, often, as just getting in the way.

As marketers (and I’m WAY guilty of this, too), we love to talk about identity systems, brand essences, unique selling propositions, the deeper meaning of our brands and lots of other heady stuff. That’s all good, and it’s needed.

But to make your branding useful, too, you have to understand the sales process, through and through. Then, apply the brand, messaging and the right tools where they’ll help the most. For example…

  • Craft some sales objection messaging based on your product’s USP
  • Use buyer’s personas to develop target lists and openers
  • If appropriate, offer varied messaging, based on different buyers or markets
  • Prepare case studies geared toward certain buyers/demographics

3. HELP SALES SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE. Often, sales folks are out in their territories, making sales calls and keeping busy servicing their heavy-hitter accounts. All of that tends to keep them out of touch with HQ and what’s going on in the company. It’s easy for them to become islands.

Involving sales people in the development of marketing materials, asking them about customer feedback, and sharing practical knowledge of your branding can give your sales team a better sense of connection and allow them to feel part of a bigger movement or team. As competitive folks, they generally respond to that pretty favorably.

We’ve seen many clients follow this formula with success. They examined the sales process closely, really listened to customers, and created branded materials that made sense for it. That gets marketing and sales paddling in the same direction and rekindles the love fest. And, as we’ve seen time and again, that combined continuity, strategy and energy can bring sizable upticks in both leads and sales. It pays to play nice!

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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