Sales support

Lots of companies confuse marketing with sales support, especially when you are a small- to medium-sized firm. There is a very big difference and if you are treating your marketing people as sales support, you are seriously hindering your company.

As a marketing person, I was often called upon to not only help sales on accounts but also join them on customer visits.  Personally, I loved it.  I love visiting both customers and prospects. It keeps me in touch with the market and helps me both identify possible new product/service offerings and fine tune value propositions and messaging.  However, the down side is that all the time I spend on a single account is time away from doing true marketing – getting the message out to a broad market.  It’s a catch-22. You need to get that revenue in the door but the time I spend on one account could have been used to generate hundreds (if not thousands) of new leads.

So what this gets down to is roles and tasks – and understanding the value of marketing.  For software firms in particular (but also, many other firms), the framework laid out by the Pragmatic Marketing group can be helpful.  And you can customize the framework to your organization to help you better define roles and tasks. In my opinion, it is very good at the interaction between product management and sales but misses the mark with marketing and lead generation.  But you can fill that in on your own as I have in the past.

Using a framework like this, you can quickly see that sales support is not marketing. Marketing needs to be implementing campaigns that deliver brand and solution messaging – and result in lead generation. For more information on where marketing should be working, check out my post on the marketing to sales funnel.

Why does marketing get dragged into these sales engagements?  There are likely many reasons but here’s a big one:

  • Marketing people would like to think that sales people are lazy, they didn’t learn the new product/solution, don’t use the collateral you created, forgot or didn’t pay attention to the training, etc.

Some of that may be true.  But if I were a sales rep and knew a marketing person would spend the time to customize a presentation or even go on a customer visit, I’d use them.  The deeper issue likely is, the sales rep doesn’t have the materials they need to close the sale.

Take a step back.  Maybe create a task force of marketing, sales, and customers if you can. Map out the buyer’s journey and figure out what you need at each step to meet their need or concern.  And if you are selling to a group (like most B2B), add a third dimension of target audience to this.  Then your whole organization will better understand what the buyer is going through (the gatekeepers, the hurdles, the due diligence) and you will be able to have something prepared for each step.

At the end of the day, marketing, product marketing and product management should only have to step in on a small percentage of sales engagements where an extra push is needed.  Otherwise, they should all be spending their time in what their jobs are designed for; just make sure sales are enabled with all the tools they need to close the deal.

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