Why is it that one of the biggest challenges businesses face today is getting their sales and marketing organizations singing of the same sheet of music? Isn’t it simple, Marketing develops all these beautiful brochures, zippy websites, sexy ads, huge direct mail campaigns, email blasts, trade show exhibits, and more… the customers are going to love what we sell. All Sales has to do is take orders, right? Well, its a little more complicated than that. The company needs to be unified by a purpose for existence with its employees empowered to deliver on the brand promise. So how is it done? It starts with leadership, vision, and culture. Then it fans out to corporate identity, company voice, customer experience, and consistency. Branding, marketing, selling, and delivering naturally devolve from the vision. Read on and I will share my secrets to building a high performance sales and marketing team.The basic problem with most revenue deficiencies is either (1) obsolete or defective products/services or (2) a lack of trust (with the brand). Here, I’m going to address the (lack of) trust problem. Trust creates value through increased revenue streams. When customers trust the brand, they buy the products and services. Trust is the ultimate goal of all selling and marketing activities. Brands like Apple and Coca-Cola are both the most trusted and most valuable brands in the world. The first pillar of building trust is consistency; consistency in messaging, consistency in quality, consistency in fulfillment, and consistency in customer experience. When all arms of the organization work together to deliver a consistent message and consistent customer experience, trust is earned. Consistent repetition of the customer experience teaches the consumer to expect a similar experience whenever they come into contact with the brand. Consistency is best achieved when every person in the organization is innately driven to deliver on the brand promise. Employees are empowered to make decisions based on a clearly articulated business culture; a culture that also aligns with their personal value system.
Next I’m going to share with you the keys to successfully hiring talent that will energize your organization and elevate it to peak performance. Then I’m going to show you how the “right” salespeople can leverage their instinct to reach peak performance using the savvy tools created by your marketing team.
Throughout my career I have been privileged to be coached and mentored by some of the top performers in sales, marketing, and human resources. I worked for companies that wrote the book on branding. I consulted with numerous companies on business processes improvements. I advised senior executives on talent acquisition and retention and I helped companies refocus their company culture. With all this experience, I’ve synergized the best practices from these disciplines into an overall strategy for achieving peak performance in revenue generation and customer retention. It is important to note that a peak performance sales organization can not exist without a peak performance organization creating and delivering the products and services being sold. The organization must support the sale with credible proof of the promises and it must follow through after the sale to deliver the promise. Failure at any point in the process undermines trust and erodes sales performance.
The first prerequisite for a peak performing organization is a strong corporate culture. At the heart of an effective corporate culture is a list of core values, not only stated but practiced by the leadership team. When the leadership team has a set of shared core values they act as a cohesive team. On the contrary when the leadership team has divergent values, they act politically and competitively against each other to obtain power at the expense of organizational productivity. I’ve seen some outstanding organizations (and their brands) destroyed by making a poor leadership decision. As the old saying goes “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch”. Home Depot is a classic example where Bob Nardelli, although an excellent executive at GE, was the wrong choice as CEO for Home Depot. His style (and value system) focused on operational excellence, metrics, process, and cost reduction. He hired into an organization with a culture of customer service where managers were empowered to “break the rules” if needed to make the customer happy. Under the leadership of Bob Nardelli, the Home Depot brand was destroyed, shareholder wealth was diminished, customer loyalty was obliterated and Home Depot became the Walmart of hardware stores. Without going into numerous case studies of good and poor leadership decisions, lest I say more, a values-aligned leadership team is key to developing a culture that empowers employees to create consistency, ignite the brand, engage the customer, and fuel revenue growth.
Contact me if you are interested in learning the techniques I developed to recruit, screen, and place top talent possessing core values aligned to the company’s business culture.)Now that we understand that top performing organizations require a culturally-aligned leadership team, the next step is to understand how that devolves into a company culture that operates at peak performance. The leadership team must develop a set of guiding principles that clearly articulate the core values of the leadership team. Every person should understand and practice the core values in their day to day work practices. All new hires must be evaluated first against the values matrix and secondly against the job proficiencies matrix. Only candidates who score high on values alignment should be considered for employment. Once they are hired, they will innately behave in ways that the organization rewards which in turn creates a more agile and competitive organization as well as a more satisfied employee. I can tell you from first hand experience, recruiting a happy employee is one of the most difficult and unrewarding efforts a recruiter can undertake – even big money opportunities may not be enough to shake a happy employee from an empowered position.
In addition to a set of clearly articulated and practiced core values, leadership must create a vision for the organization’s purpose – a “charter” for existing. All products and services offered must advance that vision. At Apple, “the Apple experience” was all about the role technology plays in people’s lives. Every product served to advance the technology experience. Apple’s former VP of Worldwide Communication explains how the vision about a product, driven by the corporate charter and company culture led to some of the most successful products:
What was important about that is the marketing team was right next to the product development and engineering teams. So we understood deeply what was important about the product, what the team’s motivations were in the product, what they hoped that product would achieve, what role they wanted it to have in people’s lives. And because we were that close, we were able to translate that very clearly in all of our marketing and communications.
The company culture and its purpose for existing form the umbrella under which all the products and services are fleshed out into distinctly branded offerings. Each offering extends the overarching brand promise into a specific proof statement of how the promise is fulfilled. There is a brand which we all know that promises “good times” in all its marketing. The company makes is a point to have its logo (and products) available at “fun” events (concerts, movies, sports events, etc.) and almost anywhere people and their families are gathering for good times. One of their most recognizable ad campaigns starts out with “Things go better with….” Yes, you guessed it, Coca-Cola, another one of the world’s most recognized brands. Refreshment coupled with good times strengthens the brand experience and creates brand loyalty. I worked at Coca-Cola during the era known as “the Cola Wars” and people became fanatical about their brand of sugar water. Was it driven by flavor or was it the experience that people came to know as “The Real Thing”? Now think about all the related brands offered by Coca-Cola. Diet Coke, Tab, Cherry Coke, Mr. Pibb, Coke Zero, etc., they all promise that you will have a fun time with their refreshment and they add a special demographic promise for each of the related products. The lesson to be learned from Coca-Cola and other super brands is that “the promise” is inherited by all the products and that promise must be fulfilled and extended by the product offering. In addition to culture stemming from shared values at the top and a clear vision for the organization’s existence, the company must speak with a common voice — that is where sales and marketing enter the picture.OK, so we’ve developed a brand that reflects the culture and purpose of the organization and we’ve hired a band of people who love and live the brand, now how do we turn that into peak sales performance? Your probably saying just have the sales people tell the story that our marketing gurus crafted and the customer will be throwing themselves at the salesperson like midnight madness shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday. If you have the advertising budget of Coca-Cola or Apple Computer that just might happen but for the small and mid-size business that is not going to happen; it takes more sophisticated selling. The sales team has to serve as the mouth of the organization educating prospects about why they need the products and this is where it gets challenging. Salespeople must be good listeners before they can be effective brand representatives. One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make when they confront a prospect is to start spouting off a list of features hoping the list is long enough that the prospect finds one that interests them (think ice cream shoppe). This approach only works when the prospect already knows what they want and the salesperson merely directs them to the correct size, color or flavor.
More complex sales require the salesperson to evolve a latent need into a conscious need then match the company’s offering to that need. During the sales process, the salesperson must articulate benefits using the lexicon developed by the marketing organization. Just as an advertising campaign repeats a slogan over and over to create recognition, the salesperson must speak the proper lexicon when describing the offering to leverage and reinforce the brand. The salesperson is most likely to internalize and articulate a specific selling lexicon when the lexicon was developed from a business culture that aligns with his personal value system. Salespeople, like everyone else in the organization must be hired to a values-based profile, they must understand the company’s purpose for existing, know how the products improve people’s lives (fulfill the promise), and they must have an empathic ability to understand people’s emotions.Complex sales require two types of motivators. These motivators are referred to as “public” and “personal” motivations. Public motivations are logical reasons to buy and can typically be justified in writing such as in an RFP analysis. Personal motivations are by definition kept secret and hidden from public view but play just as powerful a role in the decision process. For a sale to occur, (1) There must be “pain” – the prospect must have and understand an unfulfilled need, (2) the prospect must “feel the pain” – prioritize and consciously understand the consequences of going without having that need fulfilled, and (3) The prospect must want the “painkiller” – believe the offering fully satisfies the unfulfilled need above all other options. In addition to developing the pain and providing the painkiller, the sales professional must understand how to unseat the prospect from his comfort zone. The effective sales professional must find the proper positive and negative emotions to move the prospect to action. The pain-painkiller solution provide the logical or “public” reasons for the purchase decision but only the emotional triggers will move a hesitant decision forward to action. The emotional triggers are personal, intangible pains that need to be satisfied. The painkillers can include recognition, love, patriotism, self esteem, pride, altruism among others. Once a salesperson has mastered the process of developing the pain and motivating the prospect, they must be able to execute with an internally directed set of values that reflect the company culture, brand and product offerings using the company voice and related tools. A professional salesperson will have helped a customer make a sound business decision as well as fulfill their higher level personal needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy.
There are numerous sales models for different industries whether B2B or B2C. Each customer and industry has unique dynamics to consider when developing your sales methodology. This article is intended to discuss sales and marketing in a general manner, your organization should implement a sales methodology that incorporates these general concepts but adapts them to the specifics of your business environment. Contact me for more information on tuning your sales and marketing organization for peak performance.
Check back here for my next article which explains how social media is used to develop trust and discover prospects.