Thursday, February 21, 2008

For the Budding Marketeer from Strath Uni

Managing to at Least Coexist with your Sales Managers

Sales management vary but by in large they are the middle aged overweight, overpaid and over-pushing types. They have a certain personality profile which includes a very high dominace factor, without necessarily the social skills to negotiate with any subtlty.

On the surface and for the new marketing employee they can appear freindly and worth talking to. You will however notice that your elders and betters in marketing talk AT sales managers and avoid them whenever they can.

The easiest way to draw the borderline between sales and marketing is to say that any communication that is published is marketing and anything which is verbal is sales. A one-to-one/one-to-many ruling is too vague on this count.

In a sort of high techish or value added goods sector, or even in some rather dreary sectors, margins can be in excess of 50% and this is all sales managers want to have as a tool. They like nice brochures with a good little story in them, and they love sales leads from DM and web. But the obnly tool they use in winning business is discount. All the personality selling, personal influence, customer loyalty etc etc boils down to " if you can give me te order today, I'll knock 10% off".

So the two sources of conflict between marketing and sales management are

1) maintaining margin ( hence % spent on marketing per product)
2) their need to dominate people

If you have to relinquish price to them, do so and use accounts as the policeman for the more extragavent discounting attempts. Accounts will probably do their best to hide GM actuals from sales, and give them a far tighter discount regime than would be possible of a marketing departements sphere of influence.

If you on the other hand, own price, then you need to send someone senior in against SM to set in tight discoutn guidelines. It may be worth pricing via the web, POA, to be near the actual fighting market price if you control this channel. You can pick up quite a lot of the price oriented buyers and the mid volume deals this way and let sales get on with bigger deals and value added service selling! In fact with older product lines, you may be able to regain complete control and manage to either milk them or establish market share and a given economic scale of production that accounts and manufacturing can agree to.

With value added, highly differentiated products sales are still to be treated wit kid gloves. If they are for example scientific, then they can be either out of date in the lab or actual to clevery-clever to effectively win the personal trust of the customer on these credentials. Better to have them as walking, talking ad' placards giving out a key USP message that is actually unique and holds water against what the competition are up to.

In terms of discount for new and value added products, package it into some form of a basket, in print. This adds value to the sale whilst hiding actual single product level discounts. You probably need to keep something in reserve, like price breaks. Keep this to retro discounts ie. they only get their juicy price as a discount once they make the volume of sale, not on a running price break. Many customers will expect some form of negotiation on a new product and this should be on volume targets. Many won't thereafter take up that volume and so you can earn good GM on a spread of customers who buy actually at full price.

Free samples should be just that- a sample of the product and not free wares. It is worth investing in smaller packaging or some form of demonstration kit. If this is too restrictive, then spend your cash on wonderful freebies and product demo videos. Don't give out free stock if you can possibly avoid it. It completely devalues the product and the first sale. Often it means that your new, gleaming product, sits on a shelf because it has no precvieved value. In organisational buying then something with no cost has no value and therefore no risk in not using. This is why SPIN selling is so effective these days- risk is all that motivates a lot of people to actually change anything or get things done better than before.

Sales managers are usually in the field and too busy to interfere with your plans. Take "running it past sales management" with a pinch of salt- maybe test some ideas with sales people or the more clued up sales manager or two. Otherwise it as to be a fait accomplis. As long as it sales material and advertising etc are within the realms of what has come before, what is not very risky and what is generally done in your industry or comsumer sector then Sales Managers have no bloody right to either complain about it or actually influence how you spend your cash. Remember their key message to customers is "if you buy today...if you do a bigger volume for me I can do something on the price..:" Thatt's it. You have to actually persuade the sales force as an internal audience as to your message and how it is used verbally.

Talk Sectors and Segments and Shares

Sales managers usually have a big blind spot when it relates to actually what size their market is and what share they have. This is becuase for one they don't care and secondly they don't have the information available, collectively as a nation for instance, or the resources to gather it. This is an area you should own. The national market share and te EU or US or Aust' % and the size and growth of the markets, the sectors and the chaning comsumer behaviour and useage patterns.

Also another area you can own, is Mr. Average customer. By the wonders of statistics you can indeed have a nice bell chart with Mr. Average right in there in the middle. He may well for any given product, not actually buy on price but be buiying purely on repeat or from "off sales" contact--- ie. the often sizeable amount of sales driven by marketing, customer services and plain old word of mouth and nothing to do with sales people "influencing" anyone. Mr. Average customer is useful because it tells you what size of organisation buys for instance which makes it easier to target at all points of touch including sending sales in the "SME" market or just corporates. Mr Average customer also tells you how often they buy, which relates to how often they need to be reminded. How much they actually use and how that pattern is changing. How long Mr Average stays a customer, given repeat purchase is likely, is also a telling figure as to the price elasticity of the market or your customer base at least.

your other key ownership is share of voice. Sales care about this in terms of call-rates and numbers of sales people versus the competition. This takes no actual qaulity criteria into account. Some sales forces make a living for themselves "selling" to customers who would have bought "off sales" regardless. How much of this time in front of the happy-to-buy punter is wasted and how muc actually acheives cross sales or what ever is very doubtful. Hot-to-trot customers are what sales reps actually want delivered to them by marketing or customer services. Often they achieve little more than bringing a whole load of stock forward making the deal even borderline profitable. A well known company did enough of this to actaully block the whole market for a production solution. They had been at it bailing out the top line for a wall street giant, for about 2 years and in the end reached their waterloo as all the forward planning and warehouse space that could be taken was actually overbooked. This lead to some very bad quarters and a resulting price war as all suppliers had to fight for te first new orders in the market. Meanwhile NPI and new customers were largely ignored and the base for growth was therefore cut away from under their own feet.

In this case in hand, to some extent the same-old-same-old happened- in bad times sales management blame marketing. In good times, perversely and not conversely, they pat themselves on the back and sneer at marketing. So you can't really win.

However you do have another battle field where you often can win, and we have touched on this already. The one verbal comms you need to make is the one-to-many training and pep speeches to the sales force and other internal workers like customer or tech services. In a sciency company about half the sales force at least will havbe ambition to work in marketing, up with the gods as they believe. They are far more "sold" on what you say than the sweaty visitations and car park harrangings of sales management. The fatty brigade, sales managers, may own their shoe leather but it is quite easy for you to own their soul.

So as far as using them as walking-talking advertising placards, they will bite on your every word.

You are in dangerous water if you tell an experienced sales force how and who to sell to, but then you have anoter area which you own- the competition. You own their NPI, their advertising and their USP messages. You need to listen sharply to sales on these matters but keep feelers out there all the time.


By in large you can't really win with sales management because as said, they blame you in bad times and ignore you in the good times. You will notice that in terms of exhibitions and sales conferences, experienced PMs and marketing people will tend to get everything set up, do their blurb and then leave the bar bill to sales managers ie. not fraternise very much with the troops and make it a very one way traffic in terms of presentations. Some PMs will even just waft in for a given speech and vapourise away back to HQ meetings.

It is well worth keeping out of the way of regional sales managers at all costs and making clear channels for communications with those internal to HQ. Functioning as a group and letting the senior marketing people handle them is the best way to defend yourself from a marauding sales director. Don't what ever you do let them cut you away from the pack or worse, ambush you in the first place.

If it is a small company and you carry the marketing can, with an unfriendly sales management you are really up shit creek. You have to go in for dirty tactics in avoiding them and any decisions or support they want. You have to fight to keep any of your marketing assistants and own them if they came out of sales. Generally it is best to sound them out and see what they liked and what they felt really worked before from marketing. After that it is all about being positive and managing expectations and not expecting to own as much as you would in a bigger company. With web these days, small company marketing can be very rewarding and you can really own the corporate brand.

The very best type of companies to work for are probably fast growing medium sized anmd innovative businesses who are very marketing oriented. By this I mean most growt is "off sales" and they use a lot of marketing channel and material work. Usually this is now IT heavy, which is a draw back to those of you who like all the briefing ad agencies and repositioning stuff in FMCG ( dream on, you ain't gonna get a job in FMCG PMing if you are from the Tech- don't bleet on to me!) Sales forces hear tend to be very light in management and concentrate on being KAM and also tell-sellers supporting your message in the market.

No comments:

Post a Comment