BLOGS:

Grow Revenues with the Threesome

5

Marketing, Business Development & Sales

I have met over one hundred CEOs of midsize companies and spoken to many more.  I find that people often confuse the three functions that attract prospects, engage them and convert them into customers - marketing, business development and sales. 

Many midsize companies have grown revenues by being in industries that are growing and ‘lifting all boats’, hiring high-priced star salespeople (rainmakers) or hiring influential business development people with excellent contacts.  Yet others have built their business on a handful of big customers.  All of those methods are fine – as long as they are working.  Yes, rainmakers quit and head to whoever pays the most, business development people leave or the big clients decide to switch vendors.  In each of those situations, the consequences can be catastrophic.  You have probably experienced some of these or know people who have.  I know one company whose revenues dropped from $30million to $16million overnight.  How can you, as the leader of you company, ensure that you have a system for bringing in sales consistently and with greater certainty? 

There is a system for to grown revenues consistently and with greater certainty.  There are essentially three steps to the sales process – awareness of your brand (what you do and stand for), developing a liking for your brand and engaging with your company, and finally, transacting the sale.   Sales, business development and marketing are a happy threesome.  Each one does something useful for the business, but together they can make your business more streamlined, fun and rewarding.  Seeking to sell in the absence of marketing and business development often results in failure.  

 

People do business with people they know and trust.  If nobody knows you, nobody can like or trust you.  If a prospect has never heard about your company and does not know what it does well, you will never be considered.

But, let’s look at some ‘shortcuts’ – some may have worked for you and still could. 

I Could Just Make a Quick Sale with a Sales Superstar There are sales superstars who already have relationships and can get quick sales – sometimes.  But, they are very expensive.  And, many of them fail to convert a meeting to a sale because the prospect does not know your company or does not know your company for what you are trying to sell.  Handing them a recently written marketing brochure at the first meeting won’t do the trick.  I have friends who run an IT company in the tristate area who found just such a sales superstar.  This superstar is so well connected and effective that my friends work seven days a week.

We are a short-term oriented instant gratification society.  Most people want results ‘now’.  However, if you try to sell something to somebody you just met, you will meet with failure and it will probably ‘close the door’ for you.  Business is a medium or long-term game.  The only way you can quickly get a sale from somebody you do not know is if it happens by chance or desperation - if you meet them at the exact point in time when they desperately need your product or service.  It’s a lot like winning the lottery.  That’s also why good sales people who deliver are hard to find.  Bad  sales people, on the other hand, are easy to find.  They take the short-term approach without the pre-requisite marketing and nurturing , burn bridges and move to another company. 

I Could Put a Connected Person on Retainer There are people who have a lot of contacts risk ruining their relationships by promoting a commodity product, a bad fit for the prospect’s needs or push for a quick sale.  But, these people are good partners if you are patient and shoot for a medium-term sale.  They can shorten the time spent on traditional marketing and business development because they already know the prospect.  However, these people are most useful when you have clarity of which companies you are targeting – and which kinds of companies you are not targeting.  These connected people can position your company and its services with a prospect and create the favorable situation for your business development people to nurture a relationship before the sales closer (you?) steps in and gets a signed deal. The larger the prospect company and the value of the sale, the longer the process will take (but you already know that). 

I regularly get approached by people seeking to leverage my contacts (relationships) for selling their company’s products or services.  If I am favorably disposed towards the individual and believe that my contacts will benefit from the products or services this person is seeking to sell, I’ll explore it further.  If they do, it could help my contact/s, help the seller and help me.  If they don’t, it does not help my contacts or my credibility.  I spend time trying to understand their products and services, their current marketing and the kind of people who do sales and business development for them.  Most importantly, I seek to understand the individual’s approach to selling.  If they are focused on ‘instant gratification’ and simply looking to sell or doing it without prior marketing or business development effort, failure is just around the corner – I pass on it. 

THE THREESOME

So, if you don’t want to spend on a sale superstar, don’t have a ‘connected person’ who can make warm introductions and are fed up with the bad sales people, let’s look at a system to bring in a steady stream of leads that could lead to sales.  Let’s look at the threesome – marketing, business development and sales - doing all three in order will make you repeatedly successful.

First of the Threesome - Marketing creates a favorable disposition of prospects towards your company and its products/services.  An important precursor to marketing is targeting. You need to be clear about the market segment you are after.  Many CEOs with cross-industry offerings I meet are unclear about their target market – they’re willing to sell to anybody who will buy.  The sales outcomes will be a whole lot better if the prospects are targeted based on market research and the messaging is specific to them. 

Once you have identified the targets, you need to create and hone your marketing message to them – think advertising, event promotion, email marketing, website content and thought leadership.  For example, advertising establishes what customers can expect from your brand.  You could also publish thought leadership pieces of content to get noticed by prospects and become known for what your company does.

Marketing creates awareness of your company and positioning its products/services.  Part of the awareness is branding, through which your company becomes known for something – what you do, the quality of your offerings, your company culture, etc.  For example, if you are selling IT staffing to F500 companies, and further focus on the pharma sector, you need to target your marketing towards CIOs, procurement leaders and outsourced staffing procurement firms.  Putting ads in a marketing magazine or showing up at a local chamber of commerce would be a waste of money and effort. 

Reinforcing your brand over a long period of time is critical to retain top-of-mind awareness for prospects as well as current customers.  In the hunter and farmer analogy, marketing is clearly farming.  The person who does the marketing is NOT the person with whom the prospect is building a relationship.  It simply leads to the next step in the process – business development.  A major purpose of marketing is to make it easier/likelier for somebody to say “YES” to what you have to offer.

You don’t need to build a large marketing organization to do this but you must market to your prospects as a precursor to business development and selling. 

Second of the Threesome - Business Development establishes and enhances relationships with targeted prospects.  It also educates prospects about your company’s products/services.  Once the prospect knows about you (through your marketing) and knows how your company can help, they ‘consider you’ as a prospective vendor.  You are essentially connecting the prospect to your products/services.  You are also identifying the needs of the prospects that can be met with your products/services.  If you leverage an outside person to make introductions, that will be the beginning of a relationship for your business development person who will build the relationship with the new prospect. 

Activities in business development will include personal emails, phone calls, one-on-one meetings or social events.  These activities move the prospect further in the sales funnel.  Being a ‘top of mind’ contact could quickly get you on a prospective vendor list.  In the hunter and farmer analogy, this is clearly farming.  The nurturing of relationships makes the sales effort a whole lot easier – you will be making an offer to somebody with whom you have an existing relationship (engagement, likability and maybe even trust).  This may or may not be the right time to bring in a sales person.

Another role of business development is to strike partnerships that could be leveraged to drive revenues, distribution and enhancing the offering (services, products or a combination) but that is not the thrust of this article.

Third of the Threesome - Sales closes transactions.  The focus of sales people is to deliver a sale in the form of a purchase order or agreement.  In the hunter and farmer analogy, sales is definitely hunting.  Sales people have a product or service to sell and a target (quota or bogey).  The sale is an activity – converting a prospect with an interest in your product or service.  Sales could be made to new prospects or existing customers and results in revenue for the company.

Sales, business development and marketing are a happy threesome.  Each one does something useful for the business.  But, together, they can make your business more streamlined, fun and rewarding.  When they are done together and follow a process, you systemize the process of identifying prospects, engaging them, building a relationship with them and making a sale that makes them customers.  Companies that have a ‘system’ that includes the three elements grow revenues faster and with certainty.  More importantly, doing the threesome consistently builds your brand builds a number of relationships, goodwill for your company and gets repeat sales (more easily).  How would you like to build your business?

If you want to discuss marketing or business development or sales for your midsize company and explore the various options, give us a call.

You can reach Ram at  ramviyer@midmarket.org or on (609)275-6300.