China Watch Blog has learnt that people’s fear of sales and marketing, which has long been viewed as a mysterious art, is unfounded.
According to Richard White, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WiseTech Global, if there’s one thing all companies struggle to measure, it’s the relationship between marketing and sales, and how these business units affect new revenue creation.
“We all know that there’s a connection, but actually tracking a prospect from the time they know nothing about you through to the point where they are a revenue-generating customer, who is happy to recommend your services, continues to be a challenge.
“Part of the problem is sales staff and their work methods,” White explains.
It’s in their interests to wave their hands mysteriously, and suggest their innate skills and talents are the secrets of their success, and the way most businesses operate ensures that it remains in their interest to behave in this way. Their success is measured based on how much new business each sales person wins, and little attention is paid to the amount of business they have lost, or failed to win on the way. Even less attention is paid to the contribution made by brand, the product itself, price or all the other inputs which ultimately affect the outcome.
Because we don’t ultimately know what contributes to success and failure, it becomes impossible to learn from what we’re already doing. It therefore also becomes impossible to improve. Failure is always put down to outside influences, while success is ascribed to the mysterious talents of the sales person.
The other part of the problem is the way most companies remunerate sales staff. They’re usually paid on a very narrow measure of personal success, with no reference to what the organization achieves overall. Little attempt is made to track their day-to-day activities, interactions with customers, or the correlation between marketing and sales. As a result, we lose the link between what they do, and what they achieve.
We understand that there are talented, successful sales people, but what makes them successful is routinely misunderstood or misinterpreted; and as a result, we create a situation where real improvement through learning is impossible.
Most companies manage this issue by employing sales staff based on what they say they’ve done, put them on trial, and fire them if they haven’t met expected sales goals. But this method does not provide any business insight into the steps involved in transforming a prospect from a complete stranger into a customer willing to pay for, and promote, your services.
The central problem, however, lies not with the sales people and their methods, or with the way they are remunerated, but with the way we think about the sales process itself.
We think of it as a process – as an ongoing flow rather than a series of discrete stages. We focus on the movement rather than the points of interaction. As a result, it becomes impossible to understand what happens at each of those points; how people change and what changes them.
If we were analyzing a factory process, we wouldn’t look at the conveyor belt which moves the goods, but at each of the points along the line when the good is changed or modified.
In marketing and sales, there is movement from one state to another, but it is perhaps more useful to consider it as a series of points rather than one long continuum – and here’s why:
There may be tens and perhaps even hundreds of tiny points of transition where the customer is ‘touched’ by either sales or marketing – so many in fact, that it may look like an impossible task to first quantify them and then measure their effect. Good sales people will personally make many attempts to ‘touch’ the customer, as they qualify, understand education, inspire, and ultimately create the confidence that converts a “lead” into a “customer”.
However, it is possible to identify and measure many of the small transitions that occur, and it’s well worth the while of each sales person to track them, because they are able then to plan for when they need extra inputs like an email, video, phone call, automated message, or detailed personal interaction.
The process may sound overwhelming, but when you begin to do this you will also be able to figure out that there are many small stages that can be skipped, and others which could do with more focus in order to properly manage the sales cycle.
Once you divide the activity into discrete stages, you can also begin to use software to track and manage the progress of leads into customers; you can design and target your skills toward particular customer types, and most importantly you can turn the sales process into something which is predictable and therefore scalable.
I can already see sales people all over the world lean in closer to the screen, narrow their eyes, and grow angry at the assertion that part of their magic can be clearly, logically deconstructed and managed by software.
However, it is possible to create a highly successful and scalable sales and marketing system that grows your business even in times of economic turbulence or downturn, assuming your base product and pricing is right.
By focusing on the points of transition rather than the movement, it is entirely possible to create a predictable, and measureable set of steps specifically targeted to your prospect no matter where they are in the sales cycle.
The ‘magic of sales’ is about giving people what they need, when they need it, so they can respond to the needs of the prospect as they develop into a customer … simple really.
Armed with such a tool marketing teams can create a succinct plan, and build content which boosts the effectiveness of the sales team, enhancing their confidence to respond to high-quality leads through a well-designed set of targeted stages.
Effective sales people can become more productive because they have access to all that they need, and weaker sales people can be stepped through the different stages without having to double-guess what is needed to advance the sales process, and when.
By Identifying, quantifying, tracking, measuring and training, you ignite the torch that brings light into the dark art of sales and marketing.