Let me first illustrate my point with something from my own experience as a marketing and advertising consultant to Fortune 500 companies. I was called in by the VP of Marketing of a very large, multinational banking institution, headquartered in New York City. The bank had developed proprietary software that was geared towards their larger business clients. However, the software was very expensive, and, thus, the buying decision had to be made by the CFOs of these large corporations; not exactly an easy target to reach with sales messages and promotional efforts.
I suggested that I be allowed to speak to members of his sales team, who were the bank’s key customer relationship people and, thus, in closest contact with these CFOs. He said, “Oh, we don’t ever consult them. Our job is to create the marketing programs; their job is to sell them through.” I told him politely that I couldn’t accept the assignment without getting their first-hand perspectives, and he finally relented.
What I learned was that no two relationships with these CFOs were the same; some were frequent, some were seldom, some were more personal, some were strictly professional. The resulting campaign was a direct mail piece with a voice chip, featuring the voice of the actual relationship manager (salesperson) speaking to each specific CFO. Each message was timely, reflecting the current status or nature of each relationship. Messages ranged from “We’ve just added a new upgrade” to “Hey, you owe me lunch!” This degree of customization was unprecedented, and the result was $14 million in incremental sales in the first 3-6 months.
You get the point. Your salespeople can be your most direct access to timely information and your best “ears to the street.” Their existing customer or new business insights are invaluable to your company’s ongoing marketing efforts.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider before you strategize your next campaign:
1. What are existing customers saying to your salespeople?
Customer needs change, and there may be new programs, products, services or technology you may want to investigate offering them before they think about going somewhere else to get them.
2. What is the competition doing?
Salespeople deal with this every day. They must prove that what you’re offering the marketplace is better than what anyone else has. Believe me, they know what you’re up against, because they hear it from both new prospects and existing customers all the time.
3. Have salespeople found that your current marketing efforts are easy for them to deal with or fulfill on?
Are they hearing a lot of objections? Are there promises being made that are unrealistic for them to deliver? Have they been adequately trained to answer key questions that arise from the information they are tasked with disseminating? Make sure you’re continually on the same page with them so you can create programs that have the greatest chance of success.
4. Listen to experience.
Experienced salespeople are a vital part of any market research efforts you may need to conduct. To be sure, there’s a lot to be learned by pulling previous articles from industry publications and by reviewing surveys, opinion polls and focus groups. But some of your salespeople have been doing it for decades, and they may have insights no focus group will ever tell you.
Marketing professionals who are worth their salt should be able to draw from a broad base of tactical experience. But when we team up with our salespeople, our most experienced face-to-face ambassadors with new and existing customers, what results is far more potent and targeted messaging. This is what’s going to deliver the most quantifiable metrics and ROI for your company every time.
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