Friday, January 06, 2006

A Different Take on Field Sales Kick-Off Meetings

It’s field kick-off season. Marketing guys are spinning like dervishes to put the finishing touches on the most important internal event of the year while sales guys are wondering how much higher quotas will be, how much lower commissions will be and if the CEO will come in on a motorcycle and imitate Mick Jagger like he did last year. Yet this annual winter "rah-rah" ritual usually ignores crucial but absent participants – clients and prospects.

The perspective and focus of most field kick-off meetings is internal NOT external. The field kick off usually focuses on what we are selling, how we go-to-market, our calendar of events, our latest and greatest, our new organizational structure, our new bonus and incentive plan, this year’s President’s Club destination and what we intend to say, do and sell to them. It never addresses what tasks, steps, anxieties or constraints prospects and customers face. And so to some extent it perpetuates a disconnect between sellers and buyers.

Even after the second coming of the consultative sell, most marketing and sales organizations still push stuff at customers and prospects rather than integrate or synchronize their activities with what clients are doing. That’s why complex selling is so hard. Sellers are constantly 180 degrees opposite from customers because they can’t align their agendas. Sellers are trying to jump onto a moving train.

There is another way. It begins by understanding that buyers have a definable and often predictable series of steps they take to get from identifying a need to closing a contract. Assuming that a seller can access and influence sellers at each step in the process, sales and marketing teams need to articulate the steps in the buying process and map or orchestrate their messages, activities and resources to the process. Done well this exercise will optimize persuasion and minimize the cost of sale by adroitly deploying the right message and sales tools, using the right channels and leveraging the right people at the right time.

Taking the perspective of the buyer and facilitating the buying process is a subtle but significant nuance. The seller is not attacking the castle. Instead the seller is inside the castle a participant in the process; an advisor with relationships and credibility that is helping to solve customer problems. It is access that is not easily granted.

It also means that marketers must align their messages, their sales and demonstration tools, their media, their events, their websites and their activities on a larger playing field over a longer time horizon – from the initial recognition of need to and through the implementation of a contract and delivery of service. It requires a different tone and manner, a more informed understanding of business processes, an integrated contact strategy and a way to keep track of who is doing what to whomand when. It also demands a set of sales tools and collateral that can be customized by industry, segment, company and individual.

It’s about them not about us. But ultimtely it is much more effective and memorable than the head of sales dressed up like a character from “Men in Black” singing the blues.


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