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As the Recession Deepens, Sales and Marketing is Failing the Turnaround Test

During 20th Century recessions, sales and marketing people were often heroic. As companies came under financial pressure sales people often started selling like crazy. And marketing people launched innovative advertising, promotions and public relations campaigns. As a result, 20th Century sales and marketing efforts often got turnarounds turned around. They reversed sales and profit declines and built a foundation for continuing growth.

Without a doubt, sales and marketing folks often saved the day during 20th Century recessions. But, that was then. This is now. And here in the first business recession of the 21st Century most sales and marketing efforts are failing the turnaround test.

The problem is that what customers want (and in fact demand) here in the 21st Century is almost the polar opposite of what they wanted back in the 20th. Back in the 20th Century customers often welcomed sales and marketing efforts because they wanted and often needed the information that those efforts provided. In appreciation, they frequently rewarded information providers with lucrative sales.

In contrast, here in the 21st Century Internet wired and inspired customers often know more about what they buy than the sales and marketing people who attempt to sell it to them. They resist and resent being marketed or sold to. And, they often punish 21st Century sales and marketing efforts by paying only the lowest possible price (which seldom yields a profit) . . . and they hop from one competitor to another in a heartbeat.

So, facing today’s recessionary pressures what is a CEO to do?

According to Dr. Bob Roth, founder of the BPI for Sales(TM) sales and marketing method (BPI stands for “Business Process Improvement”) what a CEO and his or her sales and marketing team need to do is to connect their “dots.” They need to connect the cross-functional business process dots that Promise, Produce and Deliver what their customers want (and will pay for).

They need to recognize that the sales and marketing people are only one of three dots that need connecting. The people who produce (or purchase and stock) what the company sells are the second business process dot. And, the people who deliver what the company delivers are the third dot.

Simply put, here in the 21st Century it takes a cross-functional sales and marketing team to provide customers with value, make them feel important and build strong and lasting bonds. Doing that is the only way to increase sales and profits and to build a foundation for growth here in the first 21st Century recession.

Fine in the Past: Hindered by Antiquated Sales and Marketing Policies

I call it Fine in the Past. It refers to all the sales and marketing efforts, ideas, policies, principles, techniques, and strategies that worked well in the past, but are no longer effective. The past is everything that’s pre-2010. I still recall a poignant moment with an attendee at one of my corporate sales training and business to business sales seminars. During the break he came up to me and said this: I’ve been in business for seventeen years. And we have done well. But now, it seems like everything is changing, and I do not know what to do.

He went on to explain that he had built his formerly thriving tool and die business on certain core principles: Quality workmanship, competitive prices, and good service. Those principles adhered to with discipline and conviction had brought him word-of-mouth business consistently over the years. But they were no longer working, and his business was floundering. The pain and confusion were written all over his face as he contemplated the prospect of seeing his business wither away.

Those principles are some of the most common examples of Fine in the Past Business principles and policies that were sufficient on which to build a business, but today are not. At one time, you could distinguish your business from others on the basis of these and other Fine in the Past principles. Now, however, the bar has risen. Because there is so much churn in our marketplace and the competition is so fierce, the kinds of service and quality that were sufficient to distinguish yourself from your competition are no longer sufficient. Your customers expect previously outstanding levels of service and quality from every supplier. What was sufficient a few years ago is still necessary today, but no longer sufficient. That reliance on quality service and word-of-mouth marketing is an Fine in the Past principle. When viewed from the perspective of effective sales and marketing approaches, these principles are passive. They rely on your customers coming to you, recognizing the superiority of your product or service, and then talking about you to others. Your job is to create an attractive operation that will pull customers to you and then keep them coming back.

When everyone else operated in similar fashion, which was Fine in the Past But when more and more competitors appear, and they make the same claims as you do, your reliance on passive marketing methods relegates you to second choice. I have seen literally hundreds of businesses of all sizes who never reached their potential because of an inability to do sales well. We learn in corporate sales training and business to business sales seminars that they were perfectly capable of rendering outstanding service at competitive prices but struggled to survive. These Fine in the Past principles were so deeply ingrained in their mindsets that they never learned to do sales as well as they could, and their businesses never reached the level of prosperity and success that they could have reached. The economic landscape is littered with the remains of businesses who were excellent in providing their product or service, but mediocre in selling it. Here are some other Fine in the Past practices. See if they apply to you.

Creating sales by relying totally on outside sales people.

It was OK to hire a number of sales people, give them some basic training, and then charge them with Go forth and sell a lot. This was the standard for corporate sales training. Sales territories were geographically based and each sales person was a clone of the other. Accountability was a nasty word that no one repeated. Alas, this Fine in the Past practice is a prescription for inefficient sales practices. The better approach is a variety of sales methodologies, based on the potential and dynamics of the customer.

Sales management by pay plan.

In other words, pay them straight commission and everything will take care of itself. There was a generation for whom this worked. Unfortunately, today’s work force is rarely motivated by just money.

Reliance on on-the-job training.

Everyone can learn how to be an effective sales person. Just put them out there in a sales territory, and sooner or later they will figure out how to do the job well. When the job of the sales person was simpler, and the customer less sophisticated, this was OK. Today, of course, it positions your sales force as the less educated, less competent one in the market.

Hiring by feel.

When it comes time to hire a new sales person, find someone who has some experience in the industry and about whom you feel good. This is a prescription for a group of clones who please the boss but are rarely what the job demands. There are far more sophisticated and effective hiring criteria and practices than this one. The list of Fine in the Past positions can go on for quite a while. These are the most common. If they apply to you, it is time to rethink your position and move your sales and marketing efforts into the 21st Century.

Sales and Marketing Training – 4 Reliable Secrets to Explode Your Training in Sales and Marketing

Here’s how you can make your sales and marketing trainings more effective and more impacting:

1. Know the problem. Sales and marketing trainings are usually being conducted when there is a noticeable decrease in sales. Check the sales processes that your sales team is using and know where the problem is coming from. Perhaps, clients are annoyed when your sales people are cross selling or when they are unable to answer product-related questions. Knowing the problem and its root causes can help you create a training program that is tailor-fit to the needs and demands of your sales people.

2. Find solutions to the problems. If your sales people are losing sales because they are not very competent when answering product related questions, conduct trainings that can help them better understand what they are selling. If possible, get these people to try the products and services so they’ll get first-hand experience. By addressing the problems of your sales team, you can be assured that your sales will soar high in no time.

3. Follow-up. Send your sales people with email or audio-based training programs that they can use during their free hours. These must contain insider tips and techniques that they can use to easily convince prospects to make a purchase.

4. Make your training programs interesting and interactive. You can speed up the learning process for your trainees if you make your programs interactive and interesting. Don’t worry as doing this is relatively easy. Start by using visuals and incorporate stories and experience on your discussion. You can also incorporate fun activities all throughout the program so your trainees will not be bored.