Marketing pros…wake up call!

Hi readers,

As a hard core sales professional with 18 years of experience , I have had my fair share of run ins with my marketing team members and animated discussions with my CMO on more than one occasion. The theme of these discussions with my marketing team was just this-

Create Marketing Materials With Your Salespeople in Mind !!

During my stint as the P&L head for a CPG business in Africa, I kept marketing to myself and led that initiative, because I wanted my sales team to succeed from the word go..otherwise I knew that the KPIs that I had pledged to achieve would NOT be achieved, come what may.

I was in no mood to NOT learn from my years of experience working with my marketing teams; focused, clear approach to marketing would ensure success to the sales team ( driving them further with positive enforcement) and definitely help me achieve the business KPIs!! simple!!

Key job of marketing is to help sales achieve their KPIs- the numbers. Give them a toolkit that helps them out during every step of the sale.

Whether you have one salesperson or 10, outfitting your front line with the right tools is critical to your company’s success. Production of collateral materials often falls to marketing staffs that design in a vacuum, without true insight into the day-to-day operational requirements–and just plain hands-on, grab-and-run nature–of salespeople.

The results of this 11th hour hurried work, with out clear comprehension of the consumer, the value prop and the market dynamics is poor to say the very least. Sales sees this effort by marketing as a patch work , they pay little or no attention to this input, and its back to business as usual….so it brings you back to square one…why did you have this done in the first place, AND worse, for senior executives to question, WHY DO WE NEED A MARKETING DEPARTMENT in the first place?????

This is dangerous territory!!

So the question is….how do you create quality marketing material that engages the sales team and generates quality results?

1. Get frontline input- 

Eliminate the disconnect between your marketing and sales teams by getting them talking. Salespeople can offer tremendous insight into customers’ needs and objections as well as your company’s competitive challenges. Ask your salespeople to brief the marketing staff on the product or service elements that are most critical to the customers or clients they meet. Listen to them recount the objections they face most often during the selling process so you can create marketing tools and materials that support their efforts to overcome them. Salespeople should also tell your marketing team about any changes in customer demographics or hot buttons so that old tools can be revised to coincide with the current needs of your customer base.

Salespeople are continually butting heads with competing products and services. Ask them for insight into new, emerging competition to help you create marketing materials that are a step ahead.

2. Add up all the touch points. Your sales force requires a full family of tools that carries a consistent look and message. Each time salespeople make contact with customers or clients, these tools must work to reinforce your company image and support the sales process. Many business owners fail to take into account the true number of touch points throughout the sales cycle–intersections between the sales staff and customers or clients–where collateral materials are needed.

For example, your salespeople may use sales letters, business cards and notecards, company brochures, presentation tools, proposals, contracts, sell sheets, e-mails, printed and online forms, catalogs and other materials. It’s essential that all of them have a consistent company message and use your logo or company identity properly. Take the time to investigate and make a comprehensive list of the day-to-day touch points between your salespeople and customers, then supply your people with every item they need to be successful.

3. Enroll salespeople in your mission. Once you’ve gained all the input you need from your frontline sales force and have created new collateral tools and materials, make a presentation to your sales staff that highlights how all the tools will work to help them win more sales. Rather than merely handing over boxes of tools, share the strategies behind the key marketing messages to get everyone onboard with your campaigns and materials. If they reflect the input the sales force shared with you and your marketing team, your salespeople will be enthusiastic about using the tools you’ve created.

Schedule ongoing joint meetings with your sales and marketing staffs to obtain evolving customer information and preview upcoming promotions and specials. Let your salespeople know where and when your advertising will run so they can be ready to respond. And include them in any changes in future creative materials and strategies. This will guarantee that the tools you create are positively embraced by your sales staff and successfully support the sales effort.

10 Rules for Effective Strategic Planning

Hi readers,

I have been sharing my knowledge in the area of sales management and marketing with you all for the past few weeks. I think I did chip in with elements of strategy that I shared with you.

So in order to further this discussion on the subject of strategy , I decided to share this blog with you.

Strategic planning is a time consuming and very challenging process- I would know it because I have had to lead my team in such sessions during my stint as the P&L head for a CPG business in Africa!

I figured that in order to deliver a workable strategy through and iterative process, there were certain fundamentals that one has to be mindful of in the process of strategic planning and delivery.

These 10 rules are

  • The definition. First things first. Strategic planning is any process meant to determine a company’s future direction, including its key goals, strategies for achieving them, and business plans.
  • Executive owner and facilitator. You need a member of the executive staff to own the process from start to finish, plus an objective facilitator from outside the company with expertise in this sort of thing. 
  • The team. The team must be committed to participating in the entire process from start to finish. It’s usually executive management. There can be additions but there’s a size tradeoff: bigger equals more ideas but harder to manage.  
  • Rules of engagement. The facilitator or executive owner sets ground rules or rules of engagement, i.e. attack the problem, not the person; be quiet unless you have something material to add; don’t beat issues to death; no cell phones; that sort of thing.
  • The problem and process objectives. You’re doing this for a reason. Agree on the problem statement and objectives of the process. You can also give it a name if that will help galvanize everyone.
  • Situation or SWOT analysis. Takes time, but it must be brutally honest and objective with no sugarcoating. If you don’t know where you stand versus the competition, the entire process is a waste of incredibly valuable executive time.
  • No sacred cows. Executives get too close to and emotionally wrapped up in their groups, responsibilities, programs, and products. The team has to get beyond all the subjectivity to achieve open and honest perspective. Everything’s on the table.
  • Brainstorm. Be completely open to any ideas. When they’re all listed, have each person pick their top three ideas (weighted first = 3 points, second = 2 points, third = 1 point), then add it up, take the top x ideas, assign each to an exec who develops a business plan.
  • Coalesce. Present the plans, debate, coalesce on company direction, key goals, strategies, etc. Several meetings and iterations are fine, including bouncing off the next level of management and a controlled group of outsiders to get feedback (optional).  
  • Plan and execute. Develop a set of plans for communicating the new direction down through the organization and externally, affecting organizational and behavioral change, product development and launch, marketing and sales, etc. The devil’s in the details. 

My sincere thanks to my teacher, Dr. Daniel Deneffe, Global marketing strategy director, Arthur D’Little, who inspired me to research on the subject and to present this to you all.

Thanks also to all my teachers who taught me at my alma maters, the HULT School, Boston, and IMI, Delhi.