A Lesson from the Past…
With all the talk about Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc., it is easy to forget there are some fundamental aspects of Sales and Marketing that we should consider before employing “creative” tactics.
I recently came across a brochure I prepared in 1993 to explain the “Business Development Process,” as I understood it then, to professional services firms. As is no surprise, parts of it have not aged well, but some are surprisingly relevant. This old brochure got me thinking about stuff we used to know but have de-emphasized (and in some cases, forgotten) in favor of modern technology and techniques.
Relationship Between “Sales” and “Marketing”
If we start by thinking about Sales as the thing we did when we were communicating directly with a customer, most often face to face, and Marketing as the thing we did to build brand awareness so that there was a chance a prospect had heard about us when we first contacted them, then it will take us back to the core purpose of these activities. Today, I know those lines have blurred, but for a few moments let’s look back to what the purpose of those activities were. As you look back, don’t lose sight of the fact that today, despite the changes in technology, much B2B business is done in a fashion more similar to the old ways than to the new processes and approaches.
In the “old days” Marketing was focused on brand awareness. Recall TV commercials and billboards that didn’t try to sell you anything but associated brand names with pleasure or satisfaction or status – think cigarette commercials. And even today, much of the internet ads are of the same style and approach. Sales was mostly a phone-and-a-visit process. You would make a phone call to a prospect and request a brief meeting to introduce yourself and your firm. The purpose of the call was not to close a sale, but to “close” the visit. During the visit, you would make a short pitch, during which it helped if the prospect had seen one of your ads. The pitch would be an introduction of your service and how it could benefit the prospect. In most cases, even this was not intended to close the sale. Most often the objective was to be requested to make a presentation to a larger group of interested parties. And even if the presentation went well, the sales work wasn’t finished. A proposal would follow the presentation, then some negotiation and possibly the award of the work.
Now, this process doesn’t work anymore because you can’t even get it started - no one answers their phone unless they already know you. The process, however, is valuable to review because the buyer must go through the same emotional journey, but in a different way. The important thing to understand now is that there is a buyer journey and that marketing aids it but does not replace it.
The Generic Process
Business Development today is much more complicated than it was in the past and, therefore, requires more thought and preparation than it ever did. Gone are the days when you can hire a salesperson, give them a list of services and tell them to go forth and multiply customers. Again, looking back to simpler times can give us some insight in how to prepare for the much more complex sales world we have today.
This simple process diagram shows the relationship between doing and planning. It was originally conceived to convey the need to plan, prepare and develop marketing strategy before just jumping into marketing and sales activity. And while it does that, it also reminds the viewer that marketing and sales are not exact sciences and that adaptation and adjustment to what is being experienced is vital.
The need to gather and analyze marketing and sales data has never been more important. As we invest more in marketing activities of various forms and the training of salespeople, neither activity can be responsibly engaged in without a mechanism, previously in place, to measure every aspect. It also makes the point that when management initiates sales and marketing programs without having previously developed a comprehensive strategic plan, they are risking a lot. The problem is that human nature fights adapting this process. The urge to “do something” is so strong that it overwhelms the logic of planning first, preparing second, setting up a measurement system third, and then executing.
Further, human nature wants to jump into doing things without setting up the measuring system to see what is and isn’t working. Just measuring the final outcome is insufficient. That is feedback, no doubt, but it comes way too late in the process to help the marketer be efficient with the limited resources that are usually available.
Please note that planning is not what happens in a meeting to get everyone’s buy-in. Today, Marketing and Sales are complex processes that require gathering data from numerous resources, determining what approaches are appropriate for the industry in question, what issues are facing the prospects in question, and what benefit the company can provide those prospects.
With a well-designed and detailed plan in place, the necessary resources for implementation can be assembled. While the resources are being gathered, the steps in each process that can be measured are defined, and norms for performance established. With all these components in place and agreed to, only then can the marketing team and the sales staff start doing things.
Before management, marketing, and sales people talk themselves into what to do, they should:
- Understand what they are trying to accomplish,
- Learn what resources they have available, and
- Discover the best approach for deploying them.
“Just do it” is a trap for the entire organization. Gather data, talk with experts, build a strategic plan, and then do it.
If you want to better understand the Strategic Planning process and want a great framework for ensuring success, consider diving a little deeper.
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