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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Enjoying the roller-coaster ride

One common element in sales is the frustrating lack of predictability -- and even more frustrating variability between reward and effort on individual files. In other words, selling can involve thousands of hours of hard work, dedicated effort, and struggle, to end up with nothing. Then, the next minute, a whopping big sale arrives with not the least bit of effort.

Of course people and organizations temperamentally suited for sales know these circumstances exist, and accept their circumstances with maturity and confidence. Then, well-run organizations (and well-disciplined salespeople) do what they can to minimize the roller coaster; at least the downward ride part.

This is where marketing comes into the picture -- marketing effectively integrated with sales. Marketers can use various metrics to evaluate their success in generating leads and interest for the sales team; or they can set the stage so that salespeople will receive a warmer reception when they approach them. Separating the two elements of marketing and sales and building institutional walls between them is not a good idea; but expecting operating personnel in other areas of the business (for example professional engineers and architects not carrying the 'rainmaker' designation) is asking for trouble. Simply put, putting the wrong person in the wrong job is not wise, and in most cases the traits required to be a good salesperson, marketer, or professional service provider are quite distinctive. A few people have common traits (ie, a salesperson who also appreciates marketing disciplines, or a professional person who is very good at sales -- the classic 'rainmaker'); they of course are exceptionally valuable to any organization.)

So yesterday, between four and seven p.m., our sales team found themselves recovering and seeing ascendancy. Sales efforts coupled with marketing were paying off; people were saying, suddenly, yes (one person called apologetically to explain the reason she hadn't returned earlier calls).

We traced some of the successes back -- and found good marketing at the root. And then, further, we saw ways we could integrate sales and marketing for future projects. Adding to the fun, as publisher, I use my technical and journalistic skills to help set the stage here -- combining some journalistic integrity with good strategic marketing (it is also how I am most effective at selling.)

In conclusion:

  • Think of marketing, sales, and operations as integral and interconnected activities;
  • Don't ask someone to be who they are not; if your best engineers don't want to sell -- don't make them do it; but if you have people with combined abilities (and especially if you have professional skills you combine with sales/marketing skills) encourage that combination.
  • Enjoy the ride. It can be bumpy.

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