Three tools sales should swipe from marketing

If you are a plumber, you will have a full toolkit of the specialist equipment you need, maybe pipe-benders, blow torch, adjustable wrenches etc. But every now and then, you might come across a different type of job, say fitting a heated towel rail – which needs connecting to the mains electricity supply. For this, you will need some different tools, perhaps some wire strippers, a electrical soldering iron perhaps, or maybe a voltage checker.

You have the option of getting an electrician do that part of the job for you, or buying/borrowing the right tools and using them yourself.

And so it is between other professions, where we need to borrow other tools and techniques. A good example of this being sales people borrowing tools from the marketing toolkit.

Here are my three recommendations of things to swipe from our marketing colleagues.

1. Segmentation
2. Market research
3. Marketing communications

Let’s start with segmentation:

1.Segmentation

Segmentation is the process of defining and subdividing a large market into clearly identifiable groupings which have similar needs, wants, or characteristics. The objective is to address each segment in the most efficient way, using approaches that best suit its particular characteristics. If we can find ways to group our customers and prospects into segments which make sense for us, we can be more efficient in our sales activities.

Why is it important?

Let’s look at an example. For instance, we might segment according to procurement process – such as dividing our customers into those which follow a formal open procurement process (e.g. public sector) and those which can do things on a more ad-hoc basis (e.g. the private sector). If we tried to pitch a special end of quarter deal to a public sector organisation in order to get a quick order, we will most likely be rebuffed and our reputation could be tarnished as a result. Public sector organisations like to be approached in a certain manner.

2. Market research

We’ve all seen examples in the high street of market researchers stopping people to try and get them to fill in a questionnaire, perhaps offering some sort of incentive to encourage a response. When we talk to people in that way it is what the marketers would term Primary Research.

The other type of research is known as Secondary or Desk research. This is where we do a trawl of available literature (increasingly using search engines) to find out about a particular target area.

Our marketing departments may or may not do this on our behalf, but, often there are specific issues we would like to know about for our particular customer or group of customers. We are actually probably better placed to carry out a lot of this research anyway, as we will most likely have better lines of communication into the customer base than the marketing department.

A good example of why we should do some research and ‘know our onions’ before going in to visit a prospect, comes from the SPIN Selling methodology developed by Professor Neil Rackham. The ‘S’ in SPIN stands for Situational. It is under this banner that we collect all the background information about prospect, how big, how many, how often etc.

I had the privilege to interview Professor Rackham a couple of years ago. One of the topics we discussed was the value the sales person can bring to a client meeting and which types of question were perceived to be good or bad at raising our prospects perception of the value we bring.

Sales people asking the more basic situational questions were held in much lower regard that those that asked more of the ‘I’ (Implication) questions. And of course this is true, who wants to sit there answering a whole bunch of questions that could have been researched in advance? It is far more impressive to just seek a quick validation of your researched answers, then move into exploring the prospects problems (the ‘P’s) and the implications of those problems.

Basic research skills will stand us in good stead here.

3. Marketing communications

Being able to quickly send relevant targeted communications to our customers and prospects will help us with our prospecting activities and to move opportunities along our funnel. This is something that many sales people struggle to get marketing support for.

But it is all very well saying we should do it ourselves, but how can we bring some structure and process to it rather than it be a series of ad-hoc events?

One way is to work like a marketer and produce a marketing communications plan (or marcoms plan as they like to call it). This is actually pretty straightforward and quite logical, but in my experience, not something that most sales people do well.

It combines elements of segmentation (who are we trying to communicate with) and research (what are the issues and context relating to our message) along with a few other things such as our objective, method for communication (e.g. phone, letter, email) and copywriting.

Knowing the process and having a rudimentary knowledge of some of the key skills involved (and of course a bit of practice) will soon start reaping benefits as the pipeline starts to fill and opportunities move to the right.

But I don’t have time for all this stuff, I need to make calls!

We all have pressures to hit call rates, arrange meetings, fill the pipeline etc. But at the end of the day, there are only so many hours we can work productively. Using tools & methods which increase our efficiency and improve our focus can only be a good thing to help us meet demanding targets.

Summary

The three marketing tools I recommend are:

1. Segmentation
2. Market research
3. Marketing communications

If you want to know more about these tools, I will be publishing more articles shortly. To make sure you don’t miss them, why not add this blog to your RSS reader (click on the icon below), or sign-up for the free email alerts

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