Friday, February 22, 2008

Sales Route into Marketing?

Just to revisit this topic. It is a very well trodd path into marketing and other strategic management positions as a first step into a blue tooth. Often without the need for actual high sales achievements because an MBA and some smooching up to bosses gets you out of the ford mondeo.

You should be very careful who you choose to work for and who you sell to. They should be selling value added products which necessitates a meaty marketing department. If you want to go down the sales promo % off route then I guess a good discounter/ promo company is great.

Establishing a route into marketing is not necessary - actually, but it helps. The last person to talk to about this is of course your prospective SM. Keep it to personnel and any marketers you meet. Once in a while companies do willingly take people on a tour of duty in sales en route to higher things. Despite there being less graduates in some areas, there are a plenty as stated in the S&M area and others with a technical background alone who can get into the career via sales e.g. the whole food industry, biotech', motor industry, financial products etc.

If you are really impatient to work in marketing and you aren't interested in product management or becoming an S&M director then avoid sales. You are far better off doing some voluntary marketing at a charity or work placement and getting on the ladder through a marketing assistant position IF YOU ARE PREPARED to relocate or work for peanuts in scotland. Temping or considering a job as temp in this area is preferable because in sales you will really need to do 18 months before you can sell yourself into marketing outside the company. Internally, who knows, you may get contacted after a few months to apply or there may be a position for you at HQ.

Geographically you can ID those few sales and marketing operations in Scotland but be prepared to move and get a terratory near to te HQ of your prospective marketing department.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What are actually the key skills and learning needed to be a successful marketing manager?

Well they are by in large nothing to do with what you read at univeristy. However the smart amongst you will pick up many of the key skills while at university.

1) ability to argue objectively

This is pretty key. You are selling your ideas. This is however why marketeers like to use agencies -- they can communicate their ideas through a visual medium third hand. You need to be able to persuade people about concepts and understand you are taking them from where they stand now, to a place where you want them to stand or at least can live with them in that opinion/knowledege position.

At the end of the day, you need to be able to throw your ideeas in the toilet and stand back up with something new, so objectivity is important. Being huffy if the boss doesn't buy your ideas or the sales managers don't want them is just tough. Move along to the next idea.

So at uni this means maybe debating, a lot of GUU debateres used to go work at proctor and gamble, it means being a class rep or politically active.

( as a subnote I would also add to this the ability to crunch numbers and present convicing statistical arguements, objectively. This may be the one area of hard skills you learn at uni, but for many marketing jobs it is not a pre-requisite.)

2) excellent presentation skills

This doesn't go without saying. I lost a job recently partly because I lost control over the strategy for presentations and they just got messy and impossible to do well.

You need to be able to speak clearly, at a good cadence, pause appropriately adn to some extent entertain with your voice and body. Honestly! Content is a mere third fiddle to style and appearance. You need to be able to put together the best you can for your budget, and even divert budget into making presentations. You need to be a consumate improver through rehearsal.

Marketers get all tied up with content. Stuff content, go for a key message, get it signed off by the board of directors and tell em, tell you've told them it, then tell 'em again!

This is the proof-of-the-pudding for many a marketeer. Your ten minutes presenting to VIPs or sales force per month say, is worth hundreds of hours in actual desk work. "if a branch falls in a forrest and no one is there ..." , get the idea? if you are bad and nervous at presenting then you are unlikely to make it in many branches of marketing, so get good.

At uni this means taking all the opportunities to present your work and group work. Leanign from good lectureres and visiting speakers. Looking at what is good to use in speaces. Giving speaches at societies and things like Burns Nights. Using job interviews which often ask for a presentation.

3) motivational skills with people

generally this means being able to hoodwink coworkers who you may or may not have authority over into doing a good job for you. It means patronising the hell out of them and given choice, picking favourites and beggin favours on the back of choice of sweeties. You must at least have a ruling presence with your suppliers.

Often it is just having the gaul to ask someone in an expectant tone of voice to do something.

At uni this means being one of those annoying little leader type brats. But do it anyway. Leading means getting people around you who will do stuff for you, telling/showing them what to do and following them up. It means avoiding people who don't want to do stuff for you. It means out competing other would be leaders. It means finding a niche where you can organise other people to do stuff. Societies, sports clubs and event committees are ideal - even as a subordinate you should get hold of projects and ask to organise some "resources" around them. Best to begin with some big leaders ideas, build up a gang of youse homies and biaches and then keep them or find your own show to run. By all means learn-the-ropes as a subordinate but take responsibility for delegating and motivating people by sheer will power of your own when you can.

4) being highly organised and precise.

Ability to deliver on time, preciesely is more importatn than content once again. Markeign can be landed with a lot of sales conference and training and material logistiks and this means "give a big shit" attitutude to detail.

Also everything you publish can come back and bit you. Putting SOP systems in place for approval rounds and legal sign off is vital. Getting creative approved at board level early is ighly advisable!

Being a good manager means attention to detail - catching out subordinates and agencies is what gains you respect and authority. Other people's mistakes reflect on you and this can be very destructive all round. Some busy managers use the trip wire and "what I see above the water" approach. They spend a little amount of time catching people out on detail so that people get detail oriented. Or they presume what "bads" they see are only 10% of potential bads from a specific employee and either micromanage them a while, or just sideline or fire them. As a junior PM or assistant to such a "good" boss, you will need to jump and keep on impressing with ability to attend details.

It becomes second sense. The drudge of knowing you must go over things several times. That everyone who supplies you can do a better job- more for the money.

A good place would be the student papers or web sites, or a part time or summer job which involves proof reading or attention to detail in some way of orders or customer service or qaulity control. it's more an attitude than anything else. Also combining this with leading/motivating others is a great idea.


In the lazy marketers career, or the pandered first fewe jobs in a single blue chip boy, at some point you are going to be presented with an up hill struggle to get a marketing department, a campaign, a web site or CRM system back on track from a sloth pool of lack of detail, lack of planning, lack of motivation ..lack of quality in delivery. This will be very uncomfortable for the pampered poodle or the lazy-jack. You may as well learn the whole 'obsession' for detail early.
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.