A seven-step guide to launching new propositions through your salesforce
The tensions between sales and marketing departments are evident in many organisations. That these tensions exist is not surprising, as the departments compete for budget and rely on each other for their success. Because of this interdependence, they can blame each other for failures.
Salespeople are under more pressure and/or outside their comfort zone, and need much more support and direction from marketing, but the processes and culture are often not in place to provide or understand what support is required. Symptoms of this dysfunction include:
- Salespeople failing to find early customers for the new proposition and reverting to selling what they are used to and comfortable with;
- A resistance among salespeople to introducing the proposition to their best customers amid excuses as to why it’s not possible or appropriate to sell it to these customers;
- Inconsistency in sales approach leading to highly variable success rates;
- Meetings between sales and marketing focusing on ‘blame’ rather than problem solving and customer feedback;
- Marketing changing the four ‘Ps’ in an attempt to find a ‘magic’ solution that will increase sales. Where price is changed, this normally leads to an erosion of margins;
- The failure of proposition launches that should have succeeded;
- Confused customers with a growing sense that the company does not understand their needs.
The result: fewer sales, longer sales cycles, lower margins, dissatisfied customers and a fractious relationship between two key departments. The remainder of this blog provides seven practical ideas for how, with sensible planning and well-targeted investment, this scenario can be avoided.
The Seven Steps
- Build a cross-functional team – Salespeople need to be involved in the earliest stages of the development of new propositions. A proposition ‘team’ should be brought together that includes at least two salespeople with deep experience of the target customers and credibility within the sales force.
- Marketing must be ‘present’ – The more a B2B marketer puts into their relationship with the sales teams, the more support and feedback they will receive. When there is too much of a gap between the marketing and sales functions some of the energy and insight is lost.
- Marketers: Remember the Buying Cycle, it takes time to sell new ideas – It is often better to launch fewer propositions well – with proper focus and sustained support and resource – than to throw too many poorly supported ideas at the sales force and their customers.
- Don’t skip the beta tests and case studies – Case studies are a great support tool for salespeople. They show that someone who has purchased the proposition has found that the proposition met or exceeded their needs. The best case studies are written with the specific intent of moving customers around their Buying Cycle.
- Develop proposition training and communications that SUPPORT the sales process – The aim of any proposition training is to accelerate and improve sales performance. Providing detailed technical and product information is important but not enough on its own to ensure success.
- Deliver the training in a way that enhances sales skills and accelerates sales – If a new proposition launch is important to a company, it should properly plan and invest in the training it gives to the sales team. It is reasonable to assume that all else being equal, the company that invested in this form of enhanced product training would benefit from shorter sales cycles, higher conversion rates and higher margins as the sales teams are equipped to sell on value rather than price.
- Keep the communications alive – When a new proposition is launched, it is the time when good propositions can be refined into great ones. It is also a time when sales teams can share their experiences and learn from the successes and failures of their colleagues. Marketers who remain close to their sales force, by attending meetings, calling review meetings of their proposition team and running a proposition forum on a website or blog capture this information and are in strong position to manage the lifecycle and performance of their proportion. They are also in a position to learn from their successes and failures and analyse the return on investment of their various marketing activities – meaning both they and the business are strongly placed to do even better when the next proposition is launched.