Describe the relationship your company has with your customers. Does this align with how your customers describe the relationship they have with your company?
Alignment between customer expectations and reality is achieved when there is alignment between marketing, sales and the departments that support the customer's experience. If a sales person makes a realistic commitment to a delivery date and manufacturing fails to ship the order on time, a breach of trust occurs. If however, there is an issue securing materials for that order and the customer is informed right away, the integrity of the relationship is maintained because the customer was properly informed and was given an opportunity to decide how they wanted to proceed.
All departments exist to delight the customer. A happy customer generates ongoing revenue streams and higher profitability.
Sales success is predicted on two fundamental elements: 1) the ability to persuasively communicate the brand promise and 2) flawless execution. Without a clear and compelling brand message, underperformance consistently results. Sales people can't sell what they don't understand or can't communicate.
To find out how strong your brand message is, call members of your sales team and say to them: "I am conducting some research and I'm wondering if you could help me. I only have one question to ask. As background, let's assume that you submitted a proposal to a customer who you really, really wanted to do business with. I am the CFO who has been charged with the final approval. If I asked you this question: 'Why should I hire you over your competition?' How would you respond?"
If the sales person has you salivating by their answer then you know that you have a compelling brand promise. If you are not at the very least, emotionally engaged, then you have upside potential for improving your value proposition.
The problem with not having a clear and compelling message is that you bleed away potential market share and profitability. Sales people get to the table talking to the right people, generate enough interest that they are invited to submit a proposal, but they lose out to the competition because they can't or don't communicate your company's value proposition in such a manner that you win out over the competition.
These four strategic components must be in alignment for true market potential to be realized:
Investment: What level of funding is required to support: Business development? The direct sales organization? Sales channels? Marketing initiatives?
Message: What is your brand? What differentiates your brand from the competition? What image / perception do you want to create and reinforce? What messages and media will best accomplish these goals?
Relationship: What type of relationship do you want to have with your customers? Why? How will that relationship differentiate your company and generate revenue?
Value: What value do you provide to your customers? How it that different than the competition?
Once these elements are clearly defined, sales strategy is then developed and internal processes conform to support flawless execution. This is the hallmark of visionary companies and where many companies with great potential get stuck. They allow the existing structure to dictate the boundaries of the sales strategy when in fact, just the exact opposite should be true.
Human capital, technology, marketing and fulfillment (all aspects, accounting, operations, production, shipping, etc.) should be focused on how they can best support sales excellence and delight customers.
The challenge I see with most companies is that they don't have a true marketing department. Rather, they have a promotions department whose personnel is charged with handling copy, ads, whitepapers, the branding of their website and managing trade shows/conventions/major events.
A true marketing department identifies how to strategically penetrate and expand new and existing markets. It is responsible for conducting competitive market research and developing a competitive playbook that details competitors' strategies and tactics so the sales organization understands the appropriate counter-moves. A true marketing department equips the sales organization with strategies, tools and the language (value proposition) for generating leads and winning business. Without this research and insight, sales people struggle and ultimately under-perform. A lot of effort is expended but at half the expected return.
Today, most sales people are saddled with marketing responsibilities that they are ill-equipped to handle and therefore can never optimize their performance potential.
And sadly, a tug-of-war between sales and other departments results from confusion about roles and expectations.
To begin the process of optimizing sales results, pick up the phone and ask a simple question. The responses might just surprise you. Hopefully, in a good way.