5 Myths About Sales & Marketing


All of us who work in sales & marketing have seen the radical changes the field has undergone in the past few years. Many, however, are still living in the past and somehow do not believe the changes apply to their particular kind of industry. B2B companies especially are resistant to the new forms of promotion the Internet and the social media channels have brought about and insist on doing things the old way. Of course they are not succeeding as before, and more and more senior management are missing their sales targets and losing their jobs. If you are in sales and marketing, make sure you rethink your ideas if you still believe in the following myths:

1. Marketing is about hype. If you think that by promoting the features and benefits of your products as loud as you can, the customers will believe they need you, you will be in for a nasty surprise. Customers are a lot more skeptical today. They’ve been yelled at for far too long. They will just shut you off as soon as you start blabbering about your product, skip your ads, block your emails, and close your pop-up banners in a rage. Hype won’t bring you sales. Educate and inform your public, produce useful content (blog posts, video clips, white papers, infographics, e-books) and let them find out about you. Make yourself available on search engines and wait. The customers will indicate when they are ready to buy from you.

2. Salespeople need to talk the customers into buying. You still need to be very proactive in sales, but not as the typical pushy car salesman of yesteryear. Do not try to take advantage of your customers. You need to work more closely than ever to the marketing team in the process of passing as much information and useful content as possible to your prospects before you close. You need to be more of a consultant. The customer probably already knows a lot about the product when he is ready to buy, and he didn’t get the info necessarily from you. There are hundreds of sources of information available online, so make sure you are prepared to pass on very sophisticated and updated info to your customers when and if they finally get to you, as they will very likely already know the basics.

3. Marketing and Sales are very different departments. The former’s job is to pass on qualified leads to the latter. Not anymore! The basic difference now between the two departments in the number of people they address and communicate with. Marketing will still have to segment the market into very specific buying personas (a refined stereotype of the typical customer for a certain product), but they will be talking to a number of people in that segment at a time. Sales, on the other hand, will carry on the marketing process (which is mainly giving the customer as much useful content as possible) when he identifies a specific customer that needs a more personal approach, a one-to-one kind of conversation with a real human being to ask the final questions or understand the finer points of your offer. Many customers will totally skip salespeople and go straight to purchasing through the self-service websites. You need to be better than ever as a salesperson to be needed and relevant in today’s marketplace.

Sales & Marketing working together.

Sales & Marketing working together.

4. Promotion is the heart of success. Embellish the communication about your product and you can get away with anything. Wrong. The product itself is the most important part of marketing today. You should be offering purple cows (as the marketing guru Seth Godin calls them): products and services that are so exciting and awesome that  can self-promote and inspire the buyers to purchase them. Think Apple and design. Think Amazon and its obsession with customer service. That’s the new marketing.

5You sell to customers. Another common mistake companies make today. They still think they are selling their products to customers. It’s the other way around: customers buy products from you. The difference is less subtle than you may think. It means that the customers are in total control of the purchasing process. They will somehow identify their needs (through friends and contacts in social media, through blogs, through well-designed and content packed websites) and get as much info as possible about solutions before getting ready to buy. Your job is to be available on every step of the way (we tend to call the stages towards a purchase the sales funnel; we should be calling it the purchase funnel, though). Therefore, you need to provide content to match the stage the customer is at: from more general and comprehensive to more specific and product-based.

These are some of the most common sales & marketing  myths still held by many professionals today. They need to change fast if they want to keep their jobs.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Advertisements

5 Intriguing Business Lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos


If you haven’t had the chance to read Brad Stone’s THE EVERYTHING STORE: JEFF BEZOS AND THE AGE OF AMAZON, reach out for your Kindle and download it right now. It’s an exciting account of the creation and development of Amazon into one of the most unique companies in history and the life of his peculiar founder Jeff Bezos.

IJeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Jeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Amazon.com started as an online book retailer and grew to become a company where you can purchase virtually anything, from apparel, to art to web services. It originated the concept of cloud computing service and was the first company, through the Kindle,  to turn online reading into a reality for thousand of hundreds of people on the planet. In addition, it claims it will be launching rockets into outer space soon.

If Amazon puts the client first – and, as customers,  you and I can certainly attest to that – working for Bezos looks like it’s not a lot of fun. Amazon is supposed to have all the depressing and Orwellian political atmosphere and red tape of huge corporations combined with the lack of resources of a startup. Many of his ex-employees are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the ones who remain there live under constant pressure and fear of getting fired before the end of the day. Bezo’s explosive personality is not very different from that of another difficult boss – Steve Jobs. It is kind of sad to think Nature tends to offset their kind of genius and creativity with a terrifying temperament and underdeveloped interpersonal skills.

Despite these drawbacks, you may find below a number of interesting lessons and facts about Jeff Bezos and his company. They are all based on info I got from the book. You may either try to apply them in your own business or, at least,  enjoy these points as mere trivia:

1. Monitor your clients more than your competition. Of course Amazon has always kept a close eye on Walmart, Apple, Barnes and Noble,  and Google – their main competitors. But he has always been much more likely to create or optimize processes that, rather than simply emulate these companies breakthroughs in terms of profitability, would actually benefit the client. For him, the client experience has always come first. Short term profit has always been an afterthought.

2. Frugality. Bezos is obsessed with simplicity and adept of an ascetic life style (in this he was not very different from Jobs either, by the way). He has always kept his staff on a very tight budget, cutting all kinds of extra costs with the aim of investing in the clients’ experience. His mantra was low prices everyday (just like Walmart’s), and he would go out of his way to make this happen, keeping his margins to a minimum or even giving them up altogether, such was his confidence in a business model that, if trusted by the client, would payoff in the future. Bezos would carefully  consider the need of every extra expense or cost and try to connect it directly to a benefit to the client. Lack of resources, according to him, would spur creativity and imagination from his staff.

3. You may learn more from fiction than non-fictional books. His favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s  The Remains of the Day. I was very happy to hear about this, as I love reading novels and this is certainly one of my all-time favorites. However, I don’t really think you can learn the hard facts about being an entrepreneur from the likes of Philip Roth or Machado de Assis. Fiction in my opinion will help you deal with the human side of business, and will probably keep you from having to resort to antidepressants when you struggle to work under bosses like Bezos, get sabotaged by coworkers or even fired.  But,  in my humble opinion, only the actual experience and the study of technical reading material will help you grow in your career. The most interesting thing about this aspect of Bezos’s personality  is  that his love for books boosted the launch of the Kindle, whereas Steve Job’s passion for music  – especially Bob Dylan’s and the Beatles’s – was a strong inspiration in his creation of iTunes. Do what you love and you are more likely to succeed.

4. Think very long term. Entrepreneurs need to persist in seeding. The payoff never comes immediately. Especially now, in this fast-paced, ever-changing technological landscape. Appreciate the little victories you achieve every day and fight on. Celebrate every little step towards a moving target you don’t even know if you will ever reach.

5. Be ruthless in the negotiation with your competition. For Jeff Bezos “win-win” was an unamazon way of thinking. You need to score an advantage over your opponents. Think football during these times of World Cup.  A draw is not acceptable. Do not even be afraid of disrupting your own business model in your pursuit to win. Do everything to destroy it and create something new instead. If you don’t do it, others will. Cannibalization is OK.

You may not agree with every tip Bezos has to offer, but remember where he got to by using them. Of course, you should always take successful entrepreneurs’s  and  gurus’ advice with a grain of salt, for, as Malcolm Gladwell explains in his brilliant book OUTLIERS, there is always a lot more to success than meets the eye. A set of special conditions not available to all is always present in the these Cinderella’s stories of ash to riches, so look out for them.

What is your formula for success? Please share it with us (if we are not competing with you).

NOTE: If you are interested in TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, you might want to check out our successful series of eBooks available from AMAZON.COM (KINDLE STORE). Just click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with art

Teaching English with art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Salespeople need to become marketers


I’ve had the chance to be directly involved in sales, and, eventually, train salespeople at different stages of my long career as a marketer. I was a consultant/rep for many years at Pearson at the beginning of my publishing days, so I experienced firsthand what it’s like to spend the whole day visiting clients and presenting products. I covered the whole country. At McGraw-Hill, years later, I was lucky to work alongside reps (salespeople) in many countries of Latin America and the Middle East. Not only did I train them on the sales methodology of the company, but also learned a lot from good, intuitive reps, or natural salespeople, as we like to call them. These are very charismatic people that build close relationships with their customers, and, therefore, would be the ones that most benefited from formal training, as they already had the right kind of personality.

The Young Apple Salesman by Brown, John George

The Young Apple Salesman by Brown, John George

Formal sales training

Of course you can train anyone to be a rep as far as techniques go, even if they lack the natural charisma typical of great salespeople. The sales process methodology used by different companies may vary in terminology, but they are basically the same: asking the customer the right questions; selecting which features of the product to present, based on their answers; giving a skillful presentation with emphasis on benefits; and closing the deal. It all comes down to structuring a sales call, finding out what the customers’ problems are, and finally offering a solution that fixes it. However, if one can do without layers of natural charm, not many people have what it takes to soldier on in this hard line of work, where you get NO for an answer as the norm when you try to close a deal, despite all the work you put in following carefully the phases of the sales process.

Salespeople need to have a very high level of self-esteem to be able to manage all this rejection, understand that it’s not personal (in most cases), and start the process all over again the following day. For those who have the drive and persistency to carry on and keep honing their skills through (self-)training and practice, the rewards to reap can be more than worth it.

Marketing skills 

However, in these days of inbound marketing and social media, where we expect the client to come looking for the product as they need it, it takes more than excelling at the sales process for reps to succeed. The client is in control more than ever and that changes everything. Reps need to learn to emulate the charisma some people naturally have by building an online relationship with prospects and clients. They need to incorporate marketing skills to their sales tool kit and start promoting their own personal brand.

The marketing department of the company they work for should be able to provide them with the necessary leads. But we all know that is not enough. Successful salespeople will never rely solely on the leads provided by Marketing to do their job. They must create a professional persona and promote it  heavily, using the same tactics available to Marketing. The objective is to get closer to a client, initiate and keep the conversation with them, before finally closing the deal.

Salespeople as marketers of their own personal brand

Salespeople can replicate the proven tactics of content marketing and the use of social media channels to promote themselves as a brand to reach customers they may not have the chance to meet otherwise. Therefore, salespeople had better start thinking and acting like marketers. Get closer to the marketing team in your company and, with their authorization, start personalizing the content already made available to generate leads (one simple way to do this would be just to share this kind of communication on the real state of your own Facebook profile, for example, rather than the company’s). Salespeople will also need to begin building their own community and fans on the Internet. Remember, though, that content marketing needs to be subtle. You will need to genuinely engage with your audience by providing a lot of useful free content (invitation to webinars, how-to videos, explanations about the product, relevant articles to their business, ebooks etc.) and dutifully interact with them (by answering their queries, for example) before you gain the right to sell anything.

Building a community and working on promoting your personal brand is the best guarantee that you will keep your a job in these unstable and changing times.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.