Aug 122011

Most people have a feel for the difference between sales and marketing and the demarcation points, but defining them has proven more difficult.

Here are the definitions of marketing according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Marketing: The action of buying or selling, esp. in a market; an instance of this.
Selling: To give up or hand over (something) to another person for money (or something that is reckoned as money).

Marketing is the set of activities that turns a goods or service from an abstract concept into something desirable for the user. Marketing folk are trained to make a connection between goods or service to consumption factors a.k.a promotion.

Marketing is the support and engine for sales. All advertising, collateral, promotions or programs are aimed at creating the awareness, information and encouragements that a customer needs to make a sale happen. This tool arms the sales team to make the correct impression and create alignment between the buyer and the seller.

Marketing needs to ascertain what the company is producing is what is needed and the correct information is available to support the sale. The sales group must leverage that to influence the customer to make a favourable decision and exchange the company’s expertise into money.

Both groups, which are simply different points on the same spectrum, are tasked with explaining to the customer why the exchange of goods or services between the provider and buyer is beneficial to the latter. It is marketing’s job to correctly supply the arsenal of the sales team and provide support, while the sales group is tasked with taking correct advantage and applying and leveraging the marketing program to the fullest. It is critical that the teams support one another and provided two-way feedback.

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Aug 032011

I don’t mean to understate the value of facts, data or rationality, but when selling never forget the power of emotions.
As much as we like to think we make good choices based on regimented and thought-out reasons, emotions are a big factor in our buying decisions and often a bigger criterion than most of recognize or understand.

Think about it. We all make decisions based on how we feel about something. After all, if emotions were not a major buying factor wouldn’t everyone buy the same car with the highest price-to-feature rating based on the class of vehicle one required? Of course, we consider a car’s features, horse power and fuel efficiency, but when all is said and done, we must like the look and image of the car. Wouldn’t the market for CD cover designs diminish rapidly? After all, we would be buying the disc based on its content and its style. Many managers know, but may not openly admit, that they hired a candidate based on a ‘gut feeling.’ There are numerous examples.

What this means is we need to understand the power of emotions when selling. It follows that we need to consider the customer’s feelings. The buyer must be comfortable. They must trust. They must have that ‘gut feeling.’ This is why advanced selling is often called ‘relationship-based selling.’ This is why they say ‘you have to sell yourself.’ Give people a reason to buy from you. Give yourself some emotional appeal. Make yourself part of a story… at least until human beings evolve to more rational beings!
This is not to suggest creating and demonstrating value is meaningless. It is meant to address the need for a balanced (using that word in this context seems odd to me) approach.

Your manager or company will ultimately not care if you made the sale because the prospect felt sorry for you, laughed at your joke or counted the most number of benefits in your service versus something else.

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Feb 022011
  • Are you subscribed to your customer and resellers blogs or tweets? Do you have a Twitter account? Share your partners public thoughts with your own followers. Ask your customers and partners about their posts. Can there be a bigger compliment?
  • Do you monitor their news and websites to see what they are posting, what their news is and what they are most proud of?
  • How could you interact better with them using Social Media?
  • Here is a thought grenade: how about inviting all, a segment of, your partners, resllers and customers to an online seminar where you facilitate a public discussion on profitable strategies and what is happening in the marketplace?
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Apr 172010

Steps To Effective Listening:

1- Listen – yes, oddly enough one has to listen without prejudice or interrupting.
2- Listen For The Main Idea – what is the main and specific idea being put forth?
3- Listen For The Reason – what is the rationale and reason behind the ideas discussed or proposed? Is the premise correct and based in fact?
4- Organize – give the message conveyed an organization and order. It helps results gel and and for the listener to retain the information.
5- Ask Questions – once the speaker has ended ask questions. Be sure that your own biases have not tainted what you heard.

Taking notes is a good idea. It shows that the listener is interested. It also is a better method of keeping record than memory alone.

*Things That Need To Go Away: listening meetings where the decision has already been made and conclusion already reached.


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Feb 172010

I was recently part of a discussion on CRM and the best way to choose a Customer Relationship Management package. With CRM/SFA/contact management becoming mainstream and accepted more and more questions come up about which one of the myriad of options is the better one.

I have been part of sales team for Oracle CRM and Sage CRM. I have also been the user, competed against or part of the buying process for Siebel, SAP, Salesforce and Sage. Here are my thoughts.

First and foremost, the starting point should not be the features and functionality of the technology. The departure point is the needs of the buyer, the existing processes of the company, how they need to change and improve and the goals that need to be realized. If these factors have not been mapped then the company is not ready for a CRM purchase.

Moreover, which software has proven capability in the buying firm’s niche, vertical or broad industry?

Next, remembering that CRM is there to enable the company to know itself and its customers, how does the productivity tool play with the company’s actual data and processes? This is where a customized demonstration including the aforementioned information is very helpful. No, not a generic demo and no not a downloaded sample of the program. Can one see the needs fulfilled in the CRM and can one see the desired improvements fulfilled in the potential package? If any integrations are required, can this be demonstrated? What about the reporting capabilities, formats in which the reports are available and, crucially, their ease of use? Which vendor gives you the best training for their product?

Incidentally, avoid paying for features one does not need and will not use.

I don’t want to get into the hosted versus on-site flavours of CRM discussion here, but should one be considering a hosted or SAAS (Software As A Service)/cloud software (the cloud refers to the nebulous Internet mode of delivery) the question to ask is what happens at the end of the contract period. Who owns the data? How can one receive it from the hosting company? Is there an additional fee attached to these stipulations?

Of course, cost is a factor. SAAS operates on the leasing model (low up-front costs/potentially more expensive overall), while the traditional method gives you the software in perpetuity (except there is an installation cost and time-line that needs to be factored in). As I said, won’t get into this aspect more at this time.

The technology’s capability will only follow the determination of wants, needs, processes and desired outcome strategies. Mastering these has the added benefit that they necessitate consulting and working with the end-users of the product, thus helping obtain their buy-in. What is the purpose of buying CRM if sales, service or the marketing department really do not want to use it?


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Jan 162010

Most serious salespeople know that asking questions is better than talking when selling. The most elementary type of questioning is what I call Level I questions. Example, “How much do you have to spend?” or “what features are you looking for?” Standard stuff, but better than telling a customer your cars are $30,000 or that they come with three DVD players inside without caring to find out about their budget or needs in the first place.

Level II questions are posed when the salesperson goes beyond the obvious, customizes and probes deeply. I have never come across better Level II questions than what SPIN Selling offers. “How much lost produce would not having an irrigation system result in annually? Could you quantify that?” Level II questions address implication and consequence in a personalized manner.

Most people in sales, however, are not aware of the Level III. These questions relate not so much to what you need to do as they do what the buying person/firm/group needs to do. Politics, Personality, Proof, etc. are all reasons a sale either does not happen or is postponed.
A Level III questioner asks about the buyer’s internal processes recognizing that there are always internal processes at play. Level III questions ask what is going inside the labyrinth the buyer lives in. By knowing this, the seller can begin assisting managing the internal issues. Just because the sales team has done an outstanding job producing compelling reasons for the sale to happen with which the buying team has no argument it does not follow that internal buyer mechanisms have been triggered. Be a Level IIIer and ask how you could work to take agreement to a Purchase Order.

While you are it review the below article.
The Other Side

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Nov 122009

Back in November of 2006, I talked about being “specific” with your prospects and customers. In order to achieve the desired results one has to go beyond generalities and delve into precision.


In a May of 2007 post, I discussed the ins and outs of marketing and keeping ones customers. In the same post, I briefly mentioned asking for referrals.


How about combining the two?
How does one ask existing customers for referrals? One asks by being specific about who those referrals would be. Instead of asking, for a referral vaguely (”would you be able to refer me to one of your contacts who might need my services?”) say something like “I would be grateful if you would refer your contacts to me. The ideal contact would be a Florist (or whoever needs your service) that is the owner of the business and has at least three employees.”
Notice how direct the request is?
Follow up your request in a week or so for additional emphasis.

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Oct 012009

The news is bad and there have been companies that have been severely affected in the midst of the current recession, but a Canadian-specific report today highlights how the downturn has not been uniform.

We all know what the economy has had to endure in the last couple of years. We also know that companies like Nortel, GM, Chrysler or Sun Microsystems have not fared well recently. Along with the downturn have come lay-offs. Several of the more familiar stories of workforce reduction have come from the aforementioned car giants, Microsoft and a myriad of firm on Wall Street.

A report from Deloitte today, however, highlights some positives. Look at the report and find companies that have grown anywhere from 312% to a whopping 18,070% in 2009. Yes, eighteen thousand percent. “ProSep Inc. designs, develops, manufactures and commercialises a wide range of process equipment to separate oil, gas and water.”
Surely, this proves that a good management, good product and motivated employees can triumph over a downturn. Moreover, these companies are probably in a hiring mood (or is that mode?).


Here is the report:


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May 202007

Marketing, in recent years, has morphed into a jumbled exercise of costly practices with next to no identifiable result or return on investment. Marketing departments spend lavish amounts on ‘analysts’ and far-flung exhibits and seminars during which untargeted masses float by uninteresting vendors. Gaining new customers should be a more targeted exercise. Step one, find out who your current ones are and keep them.

More customers should mean better profit, better income and job security. That much is obvious, but do you have a method to identify them? It all starts with information.

Gather and go over data for the past two years on all your sales. A longer record may be needed for higher dollar value sales that would limit the quantity of transactions, while a shorter time span might be considered for smaller ticket sales.
Identify the customers’ industry or vertical and map it to their NAICS* (which is replacing SIC), employee count, location/geography, revenue or even their age and gender if appropriate and available. Note all commonalities. Use a public or paid private database to find more customers of similar demographics. is one example. Company websites and government records will also help.

If using software then do not forget to leave space (in CRM, spreadsheets, PIM, etc.) for notes about their particular likes and dislikes and significant milestones so you can input the information into your a calendar for reference. This idea is more valid the bigger the transaction size. Use your reminders to dispatch a call or a card. This is the customer retention side of your effort.

Always ask for referrals from your current customers. They typically know their industry and have contacts therein.

Focus your efforts and pursue business where you have been successful in the past. This approach also allows you to conduct reference selling. It is less difficult and more fruitful to do targeted work than casting a wide and expensive net. Make your existing company data work for you. Never mind the expensive booth, at the expensive conference that modern marketing types prefer. You know better if you are on a budget.

*NAICS is used by business and government to classify and measure economic activity in Canada, Mexico and United States.

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Mar 032007

It is increasingly understood that sales professionals need training to begin and advance careers in sales. The old adage that ’salespeople are born’ is now partly debunked. Most organizations realize this and dedicate a lot of time and money training employees in soft sales skills and target market specifics.
What is more difficult and less understood is how to train, or shall we say re-train, senior and experienced sales staff. What is meant by training to begin with?

Here are suggestions on how to choose targetted training for senior sales staff:

1- Be specific and zoom in on one particular topic.
Be it ‘Managing Meetings With CFOs’ or ‘Understanding The Needs Of Service Companies’ the experienced salesperson would probably benefit more from and appreciate a targetted lesson more than general topics.

2- Share insights
With all the accumulated wisdom within the company by the senior salespersons and management is it not time to share the wealth? Why not organize regular sessions where the team can expand on each other’s experiences?

3- Buddy up
When senior and junior salespeople embark on a day (or more) of joint sales calls and meetings everyone learns and benefits. To further the concept when was the last time the senior salesperson shadowed his or her VP of Sales?

While training can be useful forcing sales staff to go through basic or repetitious training could result in resentment and the feeling of wasted time. It is time to get creative and motivate the sales staff instead of forcing employees to undergo hours of unwanted training.

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