Sales 2.0 and Marketing Too

Sales 2.0 is a big deal both because it is causing us all to take a new look at selling — along with all of the social networking ideas and technology that is changing our work habits — as well as for what it says about marketing.

To be frank, Sales 2.0 is actually more about marketing than selling. However, the reality is that marketing solutions don’t sell as well as sales solutions and, consequently, we have the situation before us. I long ago gave up on trying to convince anyone about the value of marketing because the people who buy marketing really want sales, and the surest way to sell marketing is to call it sales.

These days, I tell my marketing-oriented clients to get as close to sales as they can to ensure that they close deals. I have even gone so far as to draw a crude bull’s eye target on a white board. The exact center is labeled “selling,” the next ring is where you want to be if you are not a bona fide sales force automation product and a third or outer ring is no man’s land — conventional marketing and companies squarely positioned there have a tough row to hoe.

How did it get this way? Is it a good thing? First things first.

Planting and Harvesting

Marketing is seasonal — like planting — and so is harvesting or selling. Our Bronze Age ancestors discovered that the trick to an annual harvest is annual planting. While we might like the harvest idea, the planting idea is a tougher thing to get your head around. If you recall the story of the Little Red Hen, most of us would rather harvest than plant. Actually, the story shows that we’d rather enjoy the fruits of the harvest and leave the planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing and baking to someone else — just ask a 5-year-old for the details.

Truth be told, many of the people who want closable leads, deals won and upward-trending graphs don’t want to be concerned with the details of attraction, nurturing and hand-off as a distinct process. (They have quotas and tee times, dammit!) Too often that results in, “Just gimme the list, I can close anything!” However, as Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer observe in their masterful annual sales report, only about 59 percent of commissioned sales people made quota last year. Yes, indeed.

Here’s the thing about marketing — sometimes you need a little and sometimes you need a lot. You need a little when a market and the category it represents is young, the market is fragmented and the world has to have that thing of yours NOW. You need more marketing when markets get tired — they already have the whizbang in question and they don’t have a compelling need to get another, spiffier version. Yesterday’s iPod is just fine, thank you very much.

So marketing it is, but not too much: We already (smugly) know that half our marketing budget is wasted so we want that number to remain small. Ironically, we make no distinction between money spent on the wrong programs and money wasted by incompetence. We could look for ways to improve that 50/50 ratio, but we don’t seem to get to that point very often. That’s why I say that smart selling is a lot like marketing, and great marketing bridges the gap with sales.

Marketing in Disguise

If you look at Sales 2.0 right now that’s what is going on. There are a lot of solutions that a prudent person might allege to be marketing. The social networking concepts we use to identify likely prospects and the Web 2.0 technologies we use to go after them all smack of marketing — Peppers and Rogers’ 1:1 marketing to be precise.

In a neat trick though, we let the sales team use those tools and therefore claim that, hey, this is selling — a new kind of selling with a shiny 2.0 in the title. Well, maybe it is, and maybe it’s a difference without a distinction. Sales 2.0 is, at the end of the day, about incorporating 1:1 marketing into selling (finally!). It’s about using tools and techniques that either were not available when 1:1 marketing was first proposed or that were in their infancy — think about where the Internet was circa 1993.

Al Gore did what?

The next thing you know we might be using words and phrases like “learning relationship” in selling — that’s when you’ll know the trip from sales to marketing is complete. And you know that saying about 50 percent of the marketing budget being wasted? Perhaps at some point in the near future sales will invite marketing professionals in to help out and maybe that number will begin to budge.

Anyone ready for some planting?

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • Dennis,

    You make some really good points in your post, especially about marketing getting close to sales and taking a new look at selling.

    I disagree, however, with your point about Sales 2.0 being more about marketing than selling.

    More often than not, salespeople got the very short end of the stick with respect to CRM. CRM was looked at as a universal elixir by many managers who were unable or unwilling to effectively implement a selling methodology within their companies. What they wound up doing by deploying CRM was automating the very chaos that they had themselves created.

    Forced to pound data into a system that provided a sales person little if any benefit, many salespeople were left distracted and resentful. CRM was designed for and sold to managers. Salespeople were an afterthought–in fact, when you think about it, their role was limited to data entry. What a terrible de-motivator for any salesperson.

    We have something to look forward to in Sales 2.0. It’s a new opportunity for software developers to put their focus where it should be: helping salespeople win business.

    My firm has looked at companies with early Sales 2.0 applications. In general, we’re quite pleased. We can see how some Sales 2.0 capabilities will enable sales and marketing to work more closely–possibly even moving those two functions toward the ever-elusive "Sales and Marketing Alignment" that has been discussed for almost two decades.

    Most important is that salespeople we speak with see a direct link between use of these new Sales 2.0 applications and winning business. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

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