Secret Sauce: Sales and Marketing working together
Monday, October 15, 2007
I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference last week in Chicago and being in the presence of about 200 senior sales and marketing executives, as well as high-caliber thinkers in the area of sales impact.
Rebecca Wettemann Vice President from Nucleus research and Joe Galvin from vice president from Sirius Decisions a sales research company. Great crowd--full of smart and insightful execs from top companies such as JP Morgan, American Express and GE. A lot of probing questions and good conversation. SAVO Group, a partner of the Phelon Group, and event host invited me to speak about listening to the voice of sales and the Phelon Group’s methodology. SAVO provides technical solutions for sales organizations allowing them to increase sales effectiveness through the use of a central system for enabling sales interactions. For many reasons, I believe SAVO is on the cusp of something incredible. The company has passionate and customer-centric leadership team, an innovative product that solves a real and growing set of concerns, and a renewed focus by companies on what is truly required to enable better, more value-oriented selling.
At the event, I shared our method and provided the audience with best practices for how organizations should listen to Sales. For the past six years, we’ve spent a lot of time helping company’s listen to customers. In 2003 or so, we started listening to sales and applied some of the voice of customer guiding principles and concepts to listening to sales. Our experience has shown that marketing and company resources can be better utilized if the organization can make fact-based and objective decisions about what sales needs replacing assumptions and gut-feel with real data. Further, once it’s known what sales needs, that insight must be contextualized by how your target customers and prospects make buying decisions. Both of these factors help companies better understand where to point the arrow.
During the presentation, there were two points that resonated with the audience and I thought I’d share here:
1. The existence and importance of two types of sales insight. Today, when most companies and marketing teams talk to sales, they are looking to inform mostly tactical decisions. Unfortunately, the questions that get asked are around a specific events or activities—let’s say what should be on the agenda for sales kickoff, requirements for a new tool or portal, what are your needs, how you use these tools, what did you think of the field marketing program that was launched, etc. These are utility insights or data. On the other hand are strategic insights which rather than gathering usage information or requirements data, treat sales people as a conduit to the marketplace. Questions become: how are customers making buying decisions, what is our competition doing to de-position us, how is our new branding campaign and messaging impacting customers, what pain are customers feeling around new regulations in their industry? To juxtapose them: strategic insights help identify and inform strategic and complex decisions the company will make or should consider about go-to-market, positioning, etc. Utility insights, where 80% of currently sales listening focuses, is oriented toward making tactical adjustments. Both sets of insight—strategic and utility—are important, but there is an important distinction both in when you gather it, how you gather it and from whom, and how that intelligence gets used. B2B Marketers especially need to be cognizant of this distinction and be sure to gather strategic insights.
2. The need for an actionable framework that aligns marketing and sales. Over the last few years, everyone from Harvard professors to frontline marketing managers has talked about the lack of sales and marketing alignment and its implications on revenue. Through our focus on customers, the disconnect is absolutely clear. Instead of blogging about it and over-analyzing about the why of misalignment, we focused our energies instead on developing a framework or tool that would help our clients address it. As you will see in the last few slides of the presentation. We’ve created a Heat Map tool that does three things: 1) represents the customer and their “needs” as an anchor point by which to align marketing and sales; 2) visually represents, in a common language, the real challenges and areas of misalignment from a seller’s perspective; and, 3) provides a sense of the specific and budget-impacting actions that can be taken to get on the same page. We invented this proprietary heat map to give companies a singular tool to see what sales needs, how customers buy and where marketing does and should invest.
Working with companies to listen to sales has created opportunities for marketing and sales-supporting group to spend in areas that not only increase sales effectiveness but enhance the company’s ability to sell to customer pain and buying habits. The idea of talking to 2-3 sales people before making an important strategic investment is no longer enough. The challenges that marketing faces today in demonstrating not only to sales that it’s there in the trenches, marketing must now bubble up its impact to the CEO and CFO—tying significant investments in marketing to corporate performance and top-line results. Here is a quote from Harvard professor Benson Shapiro—Shapiro is the Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School.
If marketing and sales do not cooperate, the company's strategy will be inconsistent and weak; and execution will be flawed and inefficient. In today's hyper-competitive world, the sales and marketing functions must yoke together at every level—from the core central concepts of the strategy to the minute details of execution.
Promise.Phelon @ Phelongroup.com
Labels: marketing, Promise Phelon, sales, SAVO
Are Your Customers' Purchases Having Strategic Impact?
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Let’s get personal
I last blogged about the most effective way to market and sell into IT, which is still through high touch methods. Coincidentally, Eric Kintz of HP blogged not so long ago about customer centricity and making the relationship personal, but I am not sure if he includes high-touch selling in his perspective. I suspect many enterprises believe they are addressing customer centricity with strategic customer programs, one-to-one ratios on account management, executive sponsor programs, client loyalty programs, etc. Customer centricity, making it personal, and high touch sales methods hopefully enable us to better understand how our customers feel and think and show that we understand their business, their challenges and how they want to be treated and sold to.
Face-to-face meetings, personalized communications, exceptional support, digitally touching the customer through support, chat, affinity groups and the like, are all good ideas but, let’s face it, none of these tactics are relevant if your customer’s purchases have no strategic impact to their business or if they perceive no impact.
So how do you ensure that your customer’s purchases are having strategic impact? By understanding how your customers create and get value from purchasing from you. Through this understanding, both parties (seller and buyer) are sure to derive the greatest value out of the relationship. THEY – superior return on their investment, competitiveness, better relationships with their customers, increased market share, productivity, increased profitability. YOU – the same. Your company becomes strategically relevant when you can effectively articulate, build and deliver to a model based on VALUE.
For IT investments in particular, all stakeholders—finance, technology, business buyers—are looking for and want to be able to distinguish and derive the maximum VALUE that your solution brings to their company. In order for you to communicate and demonstrate value, a deep understanding of the customer is needed by the entire organization (read “high-touch”, “intimate understanding”).
From there you can begin to build a Value Model, but it requires that you understand your customer at multiple layers:
- The Customer’s customers layer – the individuals and organizations that buy from your customer
- The Customer’s corporate value layer – the ways your customer adds value to the businesses of its customers
- The Customer’s business process layer – the business functions that enable your customer to deliver value to its customers by delivering its value proposition more productively and efficiently
- The Solution layer – the products, services and support that you offer to your customer so they can solve a business problem within one of its business processes
- The Product layer – individual products that you offer to your customer to fill an operational need.
For more on this email Debra at email@example.com
Debra Colombana, Vice President of Client and Market Development
Labels: customer-centric, customers, loyalty, value selling, voice of the customer
Create Accountability for Voice of the Customer
Monday, July 16, 2007
Our experience working with companies of all sizes and in multiple industries tells us that when companies neglect having a separate budget line for voice of the customer, when controls and methods, guiding principles and accountability are lacking, and when insights are not gathered holistically from the customers’ point of view, then money spent on gathering customer insight is a cost, not an investment. It is flushed down the proverbial drain each and every year.
See my previous blog which discussed how to retool your customer listening from the customer point of view. However, knowing how to structure your customer listening is not enough. You must have a master budget and build accountability to the budget in the areas of customer retention, repurchase, and referrability.
If you want to become a truly customer-centric company, if you want to be able to measurably tie corporate actions and decisions to customer insight and back to what matters most – investing every dime in growth and keeping your team focused on the dials that create value – you will also need to institute methods, controls and accountability around the dollars your company spends on gathering and leveraging customer insight.
Start by asking yourself, who on your management team is staying up at night when a customer defects, does not renew or only buys in piecemeal? Who’s on the frontline when a customer de-positions your company or detracts from its brand with negative word of mouth? You already know that sales to existing customers are faster and more profitable. Retained customers not only contribute to growth; they co-invent and co-innovate. Your very reputation and ability to enter accounts, let alone new markets, is contingent upon the building a foundation of credible customer advocates.
To drive the correct investment and organizational behavior, retool your budget so that there is a master line item coupled with centralized ownership for capturing voice of the customer. Make voice of the customer a corporate versus a departmentally driven mandate. The net is that if voice of the customer is to make a difference in retention, repurchase and referrability –the three essential, revenue-driving customer metrics, it needs a formal line item in the budget with executive ownership and accountability across the management chain.
David Ambler, Vice President of Client Services David.Ambler@phelongroup.com
Labels: accountability, customer advocate, customer retention, customers, reference, repurchase, revenue, voice of the customer, word of mouth