Marketing needs sales, and sales needs marketing. Yet in many firms, senior marketing executives have little or no sales experience so interactions between the two functions are less than optimal. The purpose of this blog is to educate marketers about what senior sales executives should be doing. That way, inter-functional conversations can be more productive. The basis for what follows is a new book based on extensive research with sales leaders in corporations with the most successful sales forces, Sales Eats First http://www.axcesscapon.com/sales-account-management/sales-eats-first
Sales management’s job is to make salespeople successful, and the sales force is no better than its management. All sales managers, junior and senior, should spend time in the field with their salespeople – observing, inspecting, teaching, coaching, and selling. They should empower salespeople to take initiatives by fostering a culture of acting like “it’s your own business.” The most effective sales managers lead by example, encouraging two-way communication with customers, and collaborating with other organizational functions by emphasizing teams and teamwork. They innovate new ways of delivering customer value, drive entry into attractive markets, and spearhead the evolution of new sales models and sales organizations.
To secure the best results, sales leaders treat human resource expenditures as an investment and view selling as a training ground for general management. The sales force gets tough love: performance expectations are challenging and very clear, but support is plentiful. Managers empower salespeople to succeed via a day-by-day focus on their activities. They devote substantial effort and ingenuity to reward and recognition programs and align individual financial incentives with required organizational performance.
Effective sales leaders make fact-based decisions — like allocating sales resources – telesales, salespeople, account managers — across customer segments and sales channels. They match sales models — like generalist versus specialist salespeople — to emerging customer needs and leverage sophisticated intellectual capital by:
Sales leaders understand viscerally that customer success drives firm success, and they continually improve sales information, sales analytics, sales processes, and sales operations.
Effective sales leaders create a culture where failed experiments for delivering customer value are accepted and expected. They celebrate and reward learning from honest mistakes, but penalize repeated mistakes. They hire and develop people willing to try, fail, and learn, and ensure cost effective experimentation by coaching. Their operating mantra is to fail quickly, but to aggressively transfer lessons from failed experiments and pilot programs to new efforts. They discover and develop best practice by following the fail or scale principle.
Effective sales leaders provide a rationale for the sales job over and above financial rewards. Salespeople who internalize a greater purpose build credibility and trust with customers and develop a powerful differentiator for defeating competitors. A well-articulated sales purpose aids alignment of resources with customer needs, attracts the best sales talent, and accelerates training and development. It motivates above-and-beyond the call-of-duty performance, and enhances innovation by increasing openness to new opportunities and serving customers profitably.
So that’s what your sales leaders should be focusing upon. Marketing leaders can use these ideas to engage the sales leaders to figure ways to make the sales force more successful. After all, successful marketing and successful sales drive increased profits and shareholder value. And that’s the bottom line.