“Sell What You Use, Use What You Sell”
I have to admit, this post is targeted primarily to vendors of Sales/Marketing tools, services, and consulting. I guess being a consultant in this space makes me a target for more than my fair share of poorly thought out marketing and sales approaches. Frankly, I think any person with sales, marketing, business development in their job title gets inundated with the same crap I have to wade through daily.
To make my point, I have to step back to the 80’s At the time, I was an executive in the Manufacturing Industry segment of IBM. We had responsibility to sell IBM solutions to engineers and manufacturers of everything from toys to semiconductors, automobiles, airplanes. As you might guess, IBM was a very big manufacturer itself. In trying to grow our business, we noticed customers asking some very interesting (discomforting) questions.
“What systems and tools does IBM use for these functions?” It could have been engineering design, process control, manufacturing systems, classic ERP functions, and many other things.
In many cases, the tools we sold were not the tools our plants and labs used. In some cases we had our own “proprietary” tools, in others the plant or lab selected a tool different from what we sold. Upon discovering this, some of the more challenging customers (read huge/mega manufacturers) would ask, “If the tools you sell aren’t good enough for your own plants and labs to use, then why do you expect us to buy them?”
Remember the Proprietary Days?
This single question shifted our thinking about both what our internal plants and labs used, as well as what we sold. IBM was (is) a great design and manufacturing company. We could, in fact, become the greatest reference for best practices in many segments. We also realized that many of the “proprietary” tools IBM plants and labs used, might be commercialized. Finally, we recognized our own facilities might get tremendous value from using the tools we sold.
As a result, we came up with the thought, “Sell What You Use, Use What You Sell!” It was a huge internal and external initiative, producing stunning results–both in selling to our customers, as well as improving our own operations.
Flash forward to today. Based on the majority of marketing and selling I see from the vendors of Sales/Marketing tools, services, and consulting, I wonder if they “Sell what they use or use what they sell.” I read their websites and am informed of things like targeting, research, relevance, impact, putting the customer first, understanding the customer needs, priorities, goals. You know what I’m talking about—great professional sales and marketing practice/execution. I read how their tools are supposed to help all sales and marketing people be much more effective in doing these things–that is executing marketing and sales at the highest levels of professionalism, driving higher levels of engagement, effectiveness, and efficiency.
But then I see what they execute…
Here’s the Pitch… (Yet Again)
Emails and phone calls that are nothing but product pitches. Outreach that is irrelevant to me, but I happened to be on the list they procured, but didn’t scrub. Calls where the sales person knows nothing about me or my business, but claims he can help me solve my problems. When I ask the question, “What am I doing wrong,” they freeze.
Over a year ago, a SDR suggested I didn’t understand how to maximize the performance of my sales team. When I asked what she knew about my business and what I was doing wrong, I could hear her fingers on her keyboard, then I heard her mutter, “Oh sh*t!”
Or they aren’t prepared for the simplest issues: At one time, as EVP of Sales, my team was looking to buy about $2M in sales training. An important part of the training program was sales call planning and execution. When their sales people met with me for their final presentations and closing calls, before the meetings started, I asked each person for a copy of their sales call plan (One would think a call to close a $2M order would justify a sales call plan). Of the 4 vendors presenting, only 1 had call plan. You can guess who got the business.
I’m on the “list” for one of the major marketing automation vendors. Every 3 months, like clockwork, I get an email stating, “You haven’t opened a piece of correspondence we’ve sent in a year, we are dropping you from our list…” But I continue to get their mailings, I continue to get the same email every 3 months and I think, “How are they using their scoring on me? How come nothing they send me is relevant to me? Isn’t their tool supposed to help with this?”
The marketing and sales execution of too many of these vendors are far from the practices they espouse and what their customers should execute, yet my and too many other’s email boxes continued to be filled with pointless, irrelevant, messages. Alas, 95% of the phone calls are simply product pitches and requests for a meeting/demo, without any questions about why I might even need the solution or what I’d like to see.
Consider Yourself Warned
If you are selling Marketing/Sales tools/services, your prospects/customers are examining how you market and sell to them. If it isn’t consistent with what you are “selling” to your customers, they will–and should throw you out!
If you are buying Marketing/Sales tools/services, watch how the vendors sell to you. If they aren’t executing what they preach, then ask why they aren’t. If they aren’t leveraging their tools to improve the quality of engaging you, then think about whether you can really get the value from what they are selling.
Yes, we all make mistakes. I’ve done poorly thought out prospecting and mediocre calls, far below my personal standard or what people should expect. It’s not the occasional mistake I’m ranting about, it’s the systemic cluelessness of many sales and marketing programs, focusing more on volume and velocity, and not on engagement.
Many friends and colleagues working for these companies will think I’m betraying them. I think there can be great value from lots of these tools–properly implemented. But you owe it to your customers and to yourselves to make your own marketing/sales approaches those that your customers aspire to emulate.
David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more.