Hey Marketers, Don’t Forget Your Most Important Customer

Are salespeople from Mars and marketing from Venus?  In most companies that are not strictly internet based, the answer may be yes.  Sadly enough, the front line sales force generating the majority of revenue is forgotten by marketing departments.  This is demonstrated in 2013 surveys by KnowledgeTree, a content management software company, and SirusDecisions, a global B2B research and advisory firm.

Information gathered from these independent surveys confirmed that 70% of marketing material is never used by the sales team, and in most cases does not even generate a single dollar.  So why do 84% of marketers that have uploaded collateral to their CRM feel they have done a good job in making content available?  Adding fuel to the fire, 51% of sales teams say the biggest time waste is trying to find collateral.

Collateral can be defined as documents of any type: webinars, videos, presentations or hyperlinks to important information.  In short, it is the collection of media used to support the sales process.  So let’s take a closer look at this disconnect and understand the first avenue of collateral distribution.

The dissemination of marketing collateral occurs through a variety of vehicles.  The first one we will examine are Content Management Systems (CRM), which share drives and intranet websites.  Marketers place their content in one or more of these vehicles and salespeople must retrieve them for use.  Typically they are alerted about content availability through a conference call or e-mail blast.

In following this model a single collateral contributor just created work for the entire sales team.  Falling into the 84% referenced above, marketers believe they have done their job of making content available but must make these assumptions.  These vehicles require access through the company firewall, which means that all tunneling software and Information Technology (IT) permissions are granted to the user.

In the case of new employees this is typically an obstacle that is not remedied on their first day and may take weeks to rectify.  Examining CRM access, another assumption is made that each salesperson has been trained and is competent in search and retrieval of collateral.  In my experience these are not frequent or standardized courses, and there is a wide range of expertise.

There are other obstacles in moving to a share drive or intranet website once inside the network.  First, the organization of the content is driven by the contributors and how they want to market the material.  Unfortunately, this is not always the best way to make content available quickly to the sales team.  More importantly, the assumption is made that the easiest way to find content is the same way you want to market it.

The second avenue of collateral distribution is a little more direct and includes e-mail or folder synchronization to the user’s computer.  E-mail distribution is typically not the only vehicle within a company and seems to add a layer of complexity to the user.  Rather than have a single location of organized material, the user must first read, download and/or set up a file structure for easy retrieval.  This relies heavily on the user’s organizational skills and the ability to remember where it was filed.

Needless to say some sales folks are more organized than others, so folder synchronization brings us one step closer to making the salesperson more productive.  It can be set up through the computer operating system with the ability to store offline content on the user’s computer.  This option saves the company money and provides easy updating and customization.  Commercial software is also available that may provide additional features, but it is somewhat restrictive in meeting all the user’s needs in a multiple team environment and also has associated annual or per person fees.

The sales teams’ top priority is to generate revenue.  This translates into spending as much time in front of the customer as possible with the tools that sell products.  Survey information from 2007 to present indicates that salespeople only spend 20-40% of their time selling either by phone or face-to-face.  This is supported by other responsibilities that include, but are not limited too: administrative activities, travel, lunch, planning, order processing, lead follow up and assisting existing clients.

As a marketer you can only contribute to improving their efficiency and success in a few ways.  First, rather than just run through your check list of collateral needed during a product launch, talk with the sales team to find out what they use and what is effective.  In doing so, this will focus your efforts on revenue generating material.

Second, deliver the collateral to them in a single, localized custom format so they do not have to look for it.  This can be accomplished by interviewing the sales team on how they want to have their collateral organized.  This may require multiple access organizational options, but it will reduce the time it takes to locate content and increase their productivity.

So, “Are sales from Mars and marketing from Venus?” The answer is really no, regardless of company size or diversity.  They are both of planet Earth but need to recognize the need to work in harmony to ensure success through a common goal of supplying the tools to the end user that will build trust, loyalty and success.  Marketing teams need to reach out and understand the sales cycle and what is really needed to shorten the sales process.

So when you’re preparing your next piece of collateral, don’t forget to consult your most important customer, the salesperson.

Mike Troutman | Sales and Marketing IntegrationBy Mike Troutman

Mike Troutman consults in the area of training and collateral delivery systems to field teams, facilitating efficiency and productivity by bridging the gap between marketing and sales.  Mike has won company innovation awards for a novel collateral delivery system as well as a new way of providing embedded software support to users.  He has also achieved best support and sales team awards with his sales counterpart for top revenue generation and customer satisfaction.  With over 17 years of combined internal and external training experience, he understands the needs of all participants in the sales cycle and ensures their success by empowering them with the tools they need in a format they define.

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