The other day, I was listening to a very interesting discussion among a number of talented marketers. They covered a number of topics I found to be very interesting.
They spoke of great things they were doing to create great awareness in the market place. They spoke about what they were doing to create demand, to bring in leads. They spoke of the great content they were developing, the programs they were developing to inform and nurture potential customers to the point of buying.
It was an interesting conversation, but something was missing — sales never came up in the conversation. Somehow, the conversation was about all these things marketers were doing to attract, inform, and develop, customers, but then the concept of “what’s next” was missing. It was almost as though I had been taken to the edge of a precipice—and there was nothing beyond. It wasn’t just this group of marketers, I get that impression in many of the conversations I have with marketers.
I don’t mean this to be an attack on the marketing function, in fact it’s a plea for help. There is so much marketing can do to help sales–not just providing us great leads. But you have to look beyond the precipice into what a sales person does.
Borrowing a concept from the telecom world, one of sales’ responsibilities is to focus on the “last mile” of the customer’s buying journey. We need a lot of help in that last mile. I think marketing can do this — in the form of tools and other support to help us be more effective in that last mile.
The last mile is an interesting conversion in the customer’s buying journey. All of a sudden, it the customer transitions from a market, an industry, a segment, a persona to a person. The customer moves from the abstract to an individual with a name–Bob, Jill, Andrew, Susan. Even in complex B2B sales, the sales person is dealing with a collection of individuals–each with a different set of needs and priorities, each driven by different goals, each with a different experience base. These individuals are struggling to work together to make a decision. Markets, industries, segments, personas, even companies don’t buy–people, individuals buy.
Sales people manage that last mile—our job is to work with each person involved in the buying decision, addressing their various needs, concerns, and fears, hopefully bringing the group together to make a decision for us. Great sales professionals are good at managing this–they understand how to listen, probe, how to respond, how to help facilitate the customer’s buying decision. Great sales people are adept at working with individuals with people to help them make a decision. Every sales person is clear that’s their job.
But there is so much marketing can provide to help us–to make us more effective, efficient and impactful.
Marketing spends a lot of time on value propositions–carefully crafting statements that create awareness, excitement, and interest—enough to attract customers to say, “I’m interested in considering your solution.” Sales must then take the customer, understanding specifically what they value, presenting a value proposition that is unique to them–each individual–at a moment in time. Sales must do this for each individual involved in the buying decision–since what each customer (individual) values is different. So value propositions that attract customers’ interest are good, but sales needs more. For example, we need questioning guides to help us more effectively engage customers in understanding what they value–in quantifying and qualifying each element. We need justification guides to help present our value in a differentiated manner. We need tools that help us move from a set of statements that present value to a certain persona, to translating those to statements of value to Bob, Jill, Andrew, and Susan–because while each fits into the “persona,” what each values is ultimately different. It’s our job to figure that out and present compelling value in terms meaningful to each–but you, marketing, can provide us tools to help do this.
We need marketing to help us move beyond value propositions to value creation. Afterall, value propositions tend to focus on our solutions and differentiating them from our competitors. But the greatest source of differentiated value is the value we, as sales people, create in the buying process–creating a differentiated customer buying experience. There are tools and other areas, where marketing and others in the organization can do to help us create value through the buying process. It’s our job to do that, but you can help us do it better.
Marketing creates fantastic content, focuses that content on creating meaning for specific personas. Help us take the next step in translating these to specific companies and to specific individuals with these companies. Provide us tools to move from a general case to the customer’s specific case, whether they are justification guides, proposal generation tools, benchmarks, customized demos, whatever. Buyer Personas are great, how do I leverage these in my conversation with Jill?
The last mile, the translation from the general to what each individual needs is the responsibility of sales. But marketing can’t stop at the edge of the precipice. Marketing must provide us tools to help us bridge the precipice.
So marketing, we need your help. We appreciate what you do to get leads to us, to create the visibility and awareness so that when we call a customer for the first time, they are aware of our solutions. We appreciate what you do to get customers to want to consider us. But we need your help on the last mile.