Whether you have one salesperson or 10, outfitting your front line with the right tools is critical to your company's success. Production of collateral materials often falls to marketing staffs that design in a vacuum, without true insight into the day-to-day operational requirements--and just plain hands-on, grab-and-run nature--of salespeople. The result? Some recent studies suggest that as much as 80 percent of materials created by marketing staffs for the use of salespeople go unused, while salespeople often create their own less-than-stellar tools on the fly. Meanwhile, important branding and selling messages can fall by the wayside, and sales may decline or stagnate.
So how can you create tools your salespeople will love--and actually want to use? It all comes down to these three essential steps.
1. Get frontline input. Eliminate the disconnect between your marketing and sales teams by getting them talking. Salespeople can offer tremendous insight into customers' needs and objections as well as your company's competitive challenges. Ask your salespeople to brief the marketing staff on the product or service elements that are most critical to the customers or clients they meet. Listen to them recount the objections they face most often during the selling process so you can create marketing tools and materials that support their efforts to overcome them. Salespeople should also tell your marketing team about any changes in customer demographics or hot buttons so that old tools can be revised to coincide with the current needs of your customer base.
Salespeople are continually butting heads with competing products and services. Ask them for insight into new, emerging competition to help you create marketing materials that are a step ahead.
2. Add up all the touch points. Your sales force requires a full family of tools that carries a consistent look and message. Each time salespeople make contact with customers or clients, these tools must work to reinforce your company image and support the sales process. Many business owners fail to take into account the true number of touch points throughout the sales cycle--intersections between the sales staff and customers or clients--where collateral materials are needed.
For example, your salespeople may use sales letters, business cards and notecards, company brochures, presentation tools, proposals, contracts, sell sheets, e-mails, printed and online forms, catalogs and other materials. It's essential that all of them have a consistent company message and use your logo or company identity properly. Take the time to investigate and make a comprehensive list of the day-to-day touch points between your salespeople and customers, then supply your people with every item they need to be successful.
3. Enroll salespeople in your mission. Once you've gained all the input you need from your frontline sales force and have created new collateral tools and materials, make a presentation to your sales staff that highlights how all the tools will work to help them win more sales. Rather than merely handing over boxes of tools, share the strategies behind the key marketing messages to get everyone onboard with your campaigns and materials. If they reflect the input the sales force shared with you and your marketing team, your salespeople will be enthusiastic about using the tools you've created.
Schedule ongoing joint meetings with your sales and marketing staffs to obtain evolving customer information and preview upcoming promotions and specials. Let your salespeople know where and when your advertising will run so they can be ready to respond. And include them in any changes in future creative materials and strategies. This will guarantee that the tools you create are positively embraced by your sales staff and successfully support the sales effort.
Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business, at www.smallbusinessnow.com. Her new e-book,Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at www.smallbizbooks.com.