I still remember standing on stage in front of 600 people, as famous sales trainer Tom Hopkins quizzed me on power closes. It was a close competition and I knew that I had no room to miss even a word if I wanted to take home the trophy as the champion salesperson at boot camp.
Well I cruised through the closes (the Colin Powell close, the Ben Franklin, the take back, etc.), won the trophy (to this day, it’s still the largest trophy have) and realized I had two problems:
- How was I going to get it back on the plane, and
- Where was I going to put it when I got back home?
I certainly couldn’t put it in my office. Can you picture that?
Sure Mr. Client, have a seat as you look at my four-foot tall trophy proclaiming me as the champion salesperson! I can just imagine how the prospect would feel.
Think about that for a moment. How screwed up does a profession have to be that you go out of your way to hide your accomplishments and victories. I think that was the beginning of the end for me. It was then I realized that the entire foundation of the sales profession was flawed.
That was October 1993. 20 years ago!! What’s scary is that not much has changed in the sales profession. Sure, the language has gotten more sophisticated. Today we talk about total cost of ownership, gross margins and lip service is paid to partnering and collaboration. But, at the heart, the underlying process is still overly manipulative, product-centered and devoid of value creation. Just imagine how’d you react if you heard the salesperson were in the lobby to see you.
A Sea Shift Is Taking Place
The good news is that over the last three years I’ve seen more progressive developments in the sales world than I’ve seen in the last 20. The promise of technology has stepped up allowing the sales and marketing function to be fully aligned, behind a central value proposition of creating value throughout the entire sales and servicing process.
This emerging approach, one that I’ve been advocating now for almost 20 years, offers great promise for those organizations willing to meet its demands. Among the benefits:
- Predictability surrounding sales growth, forecasting and profitability.
- Faster growth at stronger margins.
- The hire-ability of sales functions for small and mid-sized companies (SMEs).
- The scalability that SMEs have sought for years.
- The comfort and confidence that comes from creating collaborative, reinforcing relationships.
To gain these results, it cannot be “business as usual.” The approach is different in kind, not just style. It’s not simply implementing a new campaign, redesigning your comp structure or recruiting a superstar. It requires discipline and focus. Most important it requires – absolutely requires – that you fully align the sales and marketing functions of your business.
3 Principles to Aligning Sales and Marketing
Three important principles to building such alignment and creating a sales system that creates predictability, sustainability and scalability are:
1. Transparency. Stop hiding your most important information. The days of hiding your price until the end are over. Customers never liked it. What’s frustrating is the very fact that sellers make it so hard to find pricing is one of the main reasons buyers negotiate so hard today.
2. Clear Definitions of Your Pipeline/“Funnel Stages.” You can’t have transparency without clarity in your process. You must define each stage a customer goes through from first awareness with your company to interacting, engaging, investigating, buying, being delighted by and becoming a promoter (and by the way, suspect, prospect, customer doesn’t cut it).
3. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) & Accountability. The reason you need clear definitions is that you must create SLAs between all aspects of your organization, and especially between your sales and marketing efforts. Whether you have formal departments and staffs, or you are the sales and marketing department, you need to create clear agreements and expectations. Further you must monitor, track and manage the results manically.
It’s not enough to say marketing is responsible for leads, and sales is responsible for revenue. Marketing and sales must work together to define:
- What a good lead is.
- What a good lead isn’t.
- What contributes to making a good lead?
- How a good lead should be handled.
An effective sales and marketing SLA is a two-way street. Marketing commits to delivering a certain quantity and quality of leads each month. The sales team commits to follow up with the leads within a certain time, to manage them in a certain way and to ensure that certain steps are taken before a lead is abandoned.
While there are more things to do to enjoy the benefits I talk about here, get started with these three. Many of the mysteries of growth will dissipate and you’ll see the traction you desire to grow.