To hear sales tell it, marketing says “no” more often than they say “yes.” Marketing has become the poster child for how to not be responsive to the customer’s needs. In fact, we’ve been called the sales prevention department.
Does that leave sales with only smoke and mirrors? Heck no. Marketing should always be trying to show sales and the customer that we’re trying to profitably grow their business. We can prove it in many ways.
Marketing looks to sales to be the customer’s advocate
Internal, cross-functional communication is a key part of that process. Because communication is a two-way street, every opportunity becomes a chance to “listen and learn” from each other to better serve our customers.
In our view, marketing includes these broad areas:
- Identifying and bringing new products to market through new or existing channels of distribution.
- Profitably manage our current products.
- Developing merchandising and promotional programs for each product segment.
- Helping our customers sell more products to their customers.
More new products, more often
The more “new news” that marketing can tee up for the sales team, the better the customer engagement. Sales won’t need to rely on short-term, tactical promotions that degrade margins. Instead, they will be able to be more consultative and proactive with new products that are on-trend and on-price.
More importantly, new products will help foster account growth and can be used to help everyone make more margin dollars. Your company will be viewed as an innovator and will be better positioned to withstand competitive pressures, especially from those who are really only selling on price.
Marketing needs to remember it’s all about communication (to sales)
Marketing launch kits typically include:
- Market and category review
- Shopper insights
- Current retail landscape
- New product customer presentation
- Competitive comparison
- Promotional plan
- Product specs
Don’t send an email launching a new product and expect success
Accompanying the kit would be product samples, pricing, all new literature and a comprehensive deck of all product features and benefits.
These launch kits are how we communicate all information to both sales and customer service on products and programs. They should not only be read immediately, but also saved for future reference on product availability, pricing, etc.
These kits are so important they should be presented to the sales teams, giving them a chance to learn and role-play the product presentation so they can sell with knowledge and conviction.
Listening to sales doesn’t mean jumping through every hoop
Let’s face it, sales gets input straight from the horse’s mouth, the customer. Each customer is supplying a valuable piece to the puzzle. It’s important that each sales person capture that input and makes sure it gets back to the marketing team.
But don’t expect marketing to act instantly on every tidbit.
Every customer has their own set of individual issues. Marketing is capturing the insights from all of sales. They are sifting and prioritizing those that are important locally, regionally and nationally. From those inputs, plans and strategies are being developed that cover all the bases, not just one account.
Marketing isn’t being slow ― they are being thorough and deliberate. The reason is that Marketing isn’t the only department required to create a new product. That involves most of the rest of the company from ops to finance.
Customer responsiveness, urgency, and speed really are the goals of marketing
Not surprisingly, customers often pick up the phone and call marketing directly. Frequently, it’s to find out “what’s going on” with some issue that they’re aware of. Contrary to what some believe, these phone calls are not just the “big guys.” We’re extremely aware that all customers are looking for accurate information in a timely matter.
Although we do our best to answer every customer request quickly and to their satisfaction, marketing must evaluate every customer’s request with the bottom line of what’s best in the long run for the company. Please understand that it’s not a case of trying to improve margins here and there, but managing our product mix to achieve the established corporate goals.
More importantly, we want the sales team to own the customer relationship. We want to ensure that we not contradicting the information you are relaying.
Hold marketing accountable for delivering what we commit to but don’t commit us without our agreement
Bottom line? The Marketing team can help you grow your sales and we do it with all the tools we have in the toolbox. Hold us accountable for delivering what we commit to but don’t commit us with our agreement.