Do You Secretly Think Your Sales and Marketing Plan Is A Waste of Time?

This is often the time of year that I’m asked to help clients prepare a Sales and Marketing Plan. They usually pull out a somewhat dusty binder, and I often cringe when I look inside.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been taught the academic version of a Sales and Marketing Plan: the 4P’s (or in some cases 5), revenue forecasts, and so on. Instead of focusing on the “same old” boring stuff that really just documents what we already know, or guesses at what results will be, I want to encourage you to develop a Sales and Marketing Plan that drives results.

What’s missing from conventional Sales and Marketing Plan binders are 5 Winning Marketing Objectives and Strategies:

1. What Customer Profitability Management Strategies will we use this year?

This should include a Customer Profitability Analysis that ranks your customers from most profitable to least profitable. If you don’t currently measure profitability per customer (and its tough to do that in many industries), then start with your revenue numbers. Adjust them on a “gut feel” basis to identify customers who always negotiate aggressively for discounts, only buy the less-profitable products in your mix, who have high service demands. That customer segmentation will help you make good decisions about how to invest to:

• Retain existing customers: Retention is crucial and you should have a formal retention plan for at least the top 20% of your customers, as they’re your make or break segments.

• Regain lost customers: You have a much higher possibility of bringing back a lost customer than closing a new customer, so ensure that you’re finding out why they left, fixing the problem if it’s fixable, and then giving them a compelling offer to return.

• Reactivate inactive customers: Do you have customers who used to do business with you but you haven’t heard from them? They’re either “dead” (have no further need for your products/services for some reason) or sleeping (they could do business with you again). You need to find out which is which, then stop any marketing spending on “dead” customers, and re-awaken sleeping customers with an attractive offer that meets their needs.

• Regenerate profits from unprofitable customers. Look at this from two perspectives: Are they unprofitable because of their own behaviors, i.e. buying, negotiation, or service patterns? Or are they unprofitable because your pricing policies or service practices are out of alignment? Re-think how to better serve unprofitable customers to return them to profitability. If you absolutely cannot return them to being profitable for you, fire them gently by sending them to the competition, and let your competion lose money on them.

2. What Growth Strategies will we pursue this year? What are our goals?

• How well do you leverage the Loyalty Accelerator? No, I’m not talking about whether you have a Loyalty Program of some type. The question you need to ask is whether or not your customers give you referrals and testimonials that help you build your business faster. If they don’t, the first strategy is to find out why not. Ask them about their experience with you – not via the usual “customer satisfaction survey”, but in person.

• Migrating Customers to a Higher Share of Wallet. When you complete your Customer Profitability Analysis above, pay special attention to the 80% of your customers at the bottom. Your “top 20%” may already be doing all the business with you that they can. Research shows that there’s a 5-30% probability that you can grow your business with smaller customers. Find out what your current “share of wallet” is with them. Do they spread purchases amongst several suppliers? Could you save them time, save them money, solve a problem or give them peace of mind by consolidating their purchases?

• Dominating your Ideal Client space: You Ideal Prospects are those who look like a lot like the ones at the top of your Profitability Assessment, and there are a limited number in any market. Take the time to define that Ideal Client, and then determine how you can better reach them – with alternative distribution strategies, messaging, or tweaks to your existing products and services.

3. What is our plan to fine-tune our Strategic Pricing this year? What are our goals?

Getting your pricing right can add 25-60% to your bottom line, but often gets ignored, because none of us were ever taught different pricing strategies that are easy to implement. Look for less-visible prices such as after sales service, and increase them modestly to reflect the value you provide. Consider bundling or unbundling to change the playing field on your competition and allow you to price for value without a direct comparison. Always ensure that updates to your pricing reflects value you deliver, not gouging.

4. What is our Customer Service plan for this year, to increase efficiency and effectiveness?

What are our goals? You can save a bundle on your service costs, just by eliminating what I call “self-inflicted wounds”. Those are the costly service issues that result of some failure on the part of your company. Late or incomplete orders, unhelpful staff, and just a couple of other categories drive most of your service costs. Figure out the most common service issues, fix them for good, and you’ll see savings drop right to your bottom line.

5. What Profit Levers can we address this year by re-thinking how we’ve always done things?

What are our goals? Profit levers are hard to explain in a short paragraph, essentially you need to look at all categories of marketing costs and eliminate any that no longer add value to you or to your customer. Expensive glossy catalogues when a value-add link to a website would do is a common example. Outdated yellow pages ads are often a culprit when these days many of your customers may simply do a google search. Revisit every “we’ve always done it this way” expenditure, and you’ll find savings that drop right to the bottom line.

Next Steps

Now, answer those questions, and your Strategic Marketing Plan will take on a whole new meaning and purpose with customer-focused products, services, and business development plans, and with pricing that reflects the real value you offer. Now THAT’s a Strategic Marketing Plan that delivers bottom line results!

Getting Sales and Marketing to Work Together in a Business

We are aware that companies by default operate through the makeup of various functions such as

Supply chain / Logisitics
Human resources
and of course that of Sales and Marketing. Now, both sales and marketing play vital roles in the running of the business. Without one, you are not going to be able to run a business successfully and see the results that you were hoping to see. They both require a lot of time and effort, which is why so many businesses are investing so much into them and rightly so. To gain even more, though, it may be a smart idea to get them to work together as we often see conflict between the two functions when we delve into the day to day operations of a company.

Often the sales force blames the marketing department for not providing market intelligence that is of a high enough quality that will enable them to get the results that the business needs to grow. And on the other hand we see that the marketing department apportions blame towards the sales force for not developing the sales leads effectively as identified by the marketing plan.

When the business is working as one, instead of having everything separated, it is possible to work like an efficient, improved machine. There is a lot more to gain for future growth and there is a lot more money to be made.

Having parts of your business separated, working on their own, will not allow the business as a whole to grow. While you still may be able to make the most out of them individually, they will not be as good as you want them to be when looking at the full picture. In order for a business to grow and truly shine, each area has to work together. The business has to bring each department together to have it working like a machine, perfect and as one. Doing so is vital in order to keep everyone on the same page and understanding the path that needs to be taken.

By developing plans that bring both sales and marketing together, it is easier to gain more from the business. The plans will be on the same path and incorporate the same ideas, keeping everyone on the same page. This ensures that people are not lost because of differences in views or confused by how different the sales and marketing parts of the business are. The face of the business, the marketing, is going to give people the same feeling and idea that the sales portion does.

In summary, in order to make this happen, there has to be a solid plan between both sales and marketing and there has to be communication. The plan needs to be set up with both in mind while still being unique to their individual needs. Communication is always vital when bringing together parts of a business, making it easier for people to understand what is going on and what is going to happen. When everyone is on the same path and talking, it is possible to make this work and to gain a lot more from the business.

Stephen C Campbell conducts business strategy consulting on topics such as Business to Business Branding and Channel Marketing. From his discussions with management from different industries and countries he has seen various patterns that develop within organizations that either lead to excellence or less growth than the company would otherwise experience, one of which is outlined in this article.

Why Sales and Marketing MUST Align

Let’s talk about a sales and marketing problem most companies have struggled with for years. I’m not talking about lead generation, market share, or customer retention, although it does impact each of those things and so much more. I’m talking about the chasm that separates Sales and Marketing.

Take a look at a typical day in the life of both Sales and Marketing to see if you can relate…

A Day in the Life of a Marketer

A marketer works hard to generate leads for her sales team. She optimizes conversion opportunities across her company’s website, delivers email campaigns, builds landing pages and delivers valuable gated content. Her work generates a steady stream of leads, which she immediately passes along to the sales team. Because, after all, more leads is better, right?

Our marketer toils away each day to create valuable marketing content and sales support materials. She sends emails to the sales team to notify them each new piece of content as it is finalized. She even uploads each new item to the company’s Dropbox account so everyone can access it.

Ah, sweet success!

But not for long…

Her blood boils when she learns her sales reps haven’t even so much as looked at the leads she has been generating. She shivers with frustration when she finds out most of the sales team is somehow unaware of most of the content she has created. How can this be possible?

Marketing feels undervalued and ignored.

A Day in the Life of a Sales Rep

On the other side of the Grand Sales and Marketing Canyon, a sales rep spends her day responding to urgent prospect requests, traveling from meeting to meeting, communicating with customers, reacting to unexpected changes with buyers – hers is a life of constant chaos and change.

She often needs content in order to respond to immediate needs of her prospects. However, this leads to frustration because the materials she has access to are not the materials she needs. They are outdated or – worse yet – they don’t even seem to exist. This often means she ends up creating content on the spot. This requires time she simply doesn’t have. She can’t understand why Marketing doesn’t produce the content she needs.

To top it off she receives endless notifications from Marketing about new leads she to follow up with, adding pressure to her already stress-filled day. She doesn’t have time to stay on top of communication with her own prospects, let alone a list of new leads from Marketing. Besides, Marketing leads never seem to be qualified and following up with them always seems to be a waste of her time.

Sales feels misunderstood and unsupported by Marketing.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

Unfortunately, this situation is incredibly common. Marketers are not alone in their feelings of being undervalued and ignored. In fact, as much as 80% of marketing leads will never be acted upon by Sales. And according to the American Marketing Association, a whopping 90% of selling content is never actually used in selling.

Sales reps, too, are justified in their frustration. The CMO council found that instead of selling, sales people spend upwards of 40% of their time creating their own messaging and tools. Also, according to HubSpot, only 27% of leads sent to sales by marketing are qualified first.

Pretty sad statistics, right? So why is it happening? It’s that chasm I mentioned earlier between Sales and Marketing. These two teams are disconnected in a big way and it’s taking a toll on the companies they work for.

It’s time to close the gap and align Sales and Marketing once and for all. While you would probably agree, you may not fully understand why it’s so important or what you can do about it.

Why Sales and Marketing MUST Align

Reason #1: Your Customers See It

According to the IDC, as much as 57% of customers feel that salespeople are poorly preparedor not prepared at all for initial meetings.

Could it be that these sales reps didn’t have the resources they needed to properly prepare for these initial meetings? After all, these meetings with prospective customers are pretty important to sales reps – they are key milestones in the sales process! The vast majority of sales reps would certainly want to be prepared for them so they could be as successful as possible. They just didn’t have the content they needed to adequately prepare.

Sales reps need content to effectively engage prospects and close sales. But not just any content will do. They need content that speaks directly to the needs, challenges and preferences of prospects. And they need to be able to access the most current versions of it whenever they need it.

What To Do

Take the first step toward Sales and Marketing alignment and talk to the sales reps directly. Work to clearly understand the challenges they face throughout the sales process. Ask them about the gaps they see in your marketing content. Try to understand how they need to access content and when and where they need it most. Attempt to learn what marketing support has worked and what has not – and why. Listen to their feedback and list the ways you can better serve your sales reps.

One strategy I like to use is asking sales reps to write down questions they frequently receive from prospects. Then, use this list of FAQs as a list of content you can create to directly support the sales reps the next time they encounter such inquiries.

The important takeaway here is that marketers can take the first step toward Sales and Marketing alignment by starting a simple conversation with sales reps. Just ask them what they need and work out a way to deliver it.

Reason #2: Lead Overload

When Sales and Marketing aren’t aligned, inefficiencies are bound to happen. Like the examples given above, chances are pretty good that Marketing is delivering leads that Sales will never touch. With increasing adoption of marketing automation platforms and their ability to help marketers do more than ever before, marketers are capable of generating a lot of leads. That’s great. What’s not so great is when they just pass them all along to sales.

Why is this such a problem? When sales reps are given more leads than they are physically able to follow up with, they become saturated… and those leads get neglected Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’ve been striving to reach a lead generation goal of 30 leads per rep per week. That sounds great! That is, until you learn that each rep typically has about two hours per week to follow up with leads and each lead typically requires about 20 minutes of follow up time. You now realize that each rep has the capacity to follow up with just six leads each week. You have been working hard to send them 30.

See the problem here? In this scenario, you would be sending them 24 more leads than they can physically handle. Every. Single. Week.

What you thought was great marketing success was actually overloading sales. And it was leading to neglected leads.

What To Do

As the previous example briefly mentioned, one of the first steps in solving this problem is by talking to your sales reps and Sales leadership directly to understand the realistic number of leads each rep can follow up with each week. Then adjust the number of leads you deliver accordingly.

This doesn’t mean you aim try to generate fewer leads. Not at all. Instead, it means you might need to nurture them and better qualify them before handing them off to Sales.

More work for marketing? Perhaps. But wouldn’t it be worth it if your work was actually used? By nurturing leads before handing them off to Sales, you increase the chances of the leads you deliver actually becoming customers.

On average, according to a Demand Gen Report nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. What’s more, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more leads that are truly sales-ready. Even better – they produce these leads a third of the cost of companies that aren’t so great at lead nurturing.

Invest some time in better understanding Sales and each rep’s capacity for following up with leads. Then refine your lead nurturing process to improve the quality and rethink the quantity of leads you deliver to sales.

Reason #3: Revenue Gone to Waste

When sales reps spend time searching for or creating content, this not only duplicates the efforts of marketing, it also pulls them away from important sales opportunities. And those wasted opportunities add up to wasted revenue – lots of it.

Consider this: A study by IDC found that by saving a single sales rep just 60 minutes of prep time each week, a company could realize additional revenue generation $300,000 or more per rep! In a company with just 10 reps, that’s $3 million each year. If you’ve got 100 reps, that’s a staggering $300MM per year.

If just 60 minutes of prep time can translate into $300,000 in revenue, just imagine how much potential revenue is wasted in your organization as sales reps struggle to find the content they need.

What To Do

Clear out the clutter. As you work to build a better relationship with your sales reps and establish more frequent, meaningful communication, look for ways you can reduce the clutter – in both of your lives.