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What Sales Guys Need to Know About Strategic Marketing

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This paper isn't about marketing, but an understanding of at least the basics of strategic marketing can be valuable to sales people.
It's important we draw a distinction between "strategic" and "communications" marketing.
"Strategic" marketing is about understanding the market sector - buyers, requirements, benefits, competition, influences, etc.
It isn't about advertising, or brochures or web sites.
Too often we're sent out with inadequate understanding of who will buy what, and why they should buy it from us.
This is because the marketing people haven't thought it through.
We get the blame for not making the numbers when, in reality, the tools we're given aren't up to the job.
Really good sales people can get by with mediocre positioning and material whilst the less experienced fail.
But the answer for under performing businesses isn't necessarily better sales people.
There aren't many of them around, they're expensive to hire and they can be difficult to work with.
More capable sales reps will convert a greater percentage of opportunities, at better prices and margins.
But this should be a bonus.
When our marketing is thought through properly, and we're equipped to compete, average ability reps can deliver the revenue our business needs whilst the stars will improve the bottom line.
Our business will be more predictable, with less cost and risk.
For most businesses strategic marketing is the "silver bullet".
We can see this in the high value consumer goods businesses where all of the product/price comparisons are highlighted on web sites, in brochures and point of sale advertising.
The Mercedes sales rep doesn't need a detailed knowledge of BMWs to be able to compete.
She can focus on winning the sale at the best price because all the benefits, prices and relative positioning have been thought through, and explained by the marketing guys.
Unfortunately in less well developed markets (where most of us work) our businesses don't, or can't, make similar investment in strategic marketing.
We tend to base our proposition on what we can offer, as opposed to what the customer wants to buy.
We have a disconnect between demand and supply, and all manner of misconceptions, and bad teachings, arise.
The first, and worst, problem we get is our failure to understand the customer puts him in control.
The second is we're building inefficiency into our sales processes.
We've all heard those "selling" truisms such as "it's a numbers game", " you have to kiss a lot of frogs, before one turns into a prince/princess", "sell benefits, not features", "only ask questions the punter can say yes to".
These all stem from the same problem - the sales rep stumbling over a sale is a happy coincidence when neither he nor the customer know why it's right for both parties.
We have to work on ten prospects to get one sale (we know one of them will buy, but we don't know which).
Strategic marketing takes both the guess and the luck out of the equation.
When we define our offer in terms of the customer need, the profile of the customer, the alternative solutions, and the process we use for communicating the offer, proposing our solution and closing the sale we have our own silver bullet.
Now all we have to do is look for the right customer.
We know, given adequate skills, we'll get the business more often that we won't.
We're in selling paradise.
When the business won't do the thinking, the sales rep has to.
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