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September 2006

Sales vs. marketing: Canít we all just get along?
New solutions have emerged to help bridge the gap between sales and marketing. Calling officers can access the content they need to answer customer questions or provide additional information immediately.

The three traps of selling conventionally
in the complex financial market

by Jeff Thull
Prospect, qualify, present and close are four steps in the conventional sales process that most sales and marketing organizations follow. While this process works for simple sales Ö


Sales vs. marketing:
Canít we all just get along?

In the newspaper business, a company's advertising and editorial departments often seem to be working in opposite directions. Editorial serves the readers, advertising serves the advertisers and each group fights vigorously to deliver what they think is best for their respective audience. This discord ultimately yields a better product—one that best satisfies advertisers by virtue of its value to readers.

For businesses in general, similar internal struggles exist between sales and marketing. Unfortunately, the outcome isn't always as positive. What typically results instead are casualties in the form of higher operational costs, sluggish productivity and missed opportunities.

Consider these statistics, presented by Jeff Summers, Senior Vice President of Marketing for The Savo Group, during a recent Webinar:

  • 90% of marketing collateral is unused by sales.
  • 80% of chief marketing officers can't adequately benchmark the value of their marketing programs.
  • 10%-20% of salespeople fail to deliver the best message to prospects/clients. This is troublesome because most of an organization's branding impressions are derived from a prospect or client's experience with a salesperson or relationship manager (RM).
  • 40% of a salesperson's time is spent customizing existing sales/marketing materials to suit individual prospects/clients.

Dynamic content solutions

New solutions have emerged to help bridge the gap between sales and marketing, and overcome these casualties. Early results from "dynamic content" providers like The Savo Group (www.savogroup.com) are encouraging.

Savo works with companies to "tag" their online marketing content by customer "pain points." This process ensures calling officers can access the content they need to answer customer questions or provide additional information immediately.

Assume a commercial banking calling officer is talking with a client who's concerned about check-fraud losses. While on the phone, the salesperson can initiate a "check fraud" key word search within the company's tagged online database, and refine her search using asset group size or industry identifiers. The database automatically retrieves newsletter articles, relevant case studies and a link to an online demo of the bank's Positive Pay solution, which the calling officer can forward to the customer electronically and/or print and send as a follow-up.

Electronically aligning marketing content or "messaging assets" saves salespeople from creating customized materials from scratch or cherry-picking amid a generic pool of material and patching together something relevant for their particular situation.

This approach has been successful for LaSalle Bank, which has worked with Savo for the past three years to provide customized content to its RMs and, ultimately, the bank's clients. This partnership has saved LaSalle's RMs 62,000 hours and generated $1.3 million in savings, according to the Savo Webinar. Furthermore, 80% of the bank's RMs said the program helped them to sell, Savo reports.

Another primary provider in this space is DeskNet Incorporated (www.desknetinc.com), which offers similar capabilities through its software solution called Content Welder. This enterprise customer communications platform enables the delivery of personalized, fully compliant information at every customer touch point, including print, e-mail, Web and wireless channels.

Build it yourself?

Short of revamping your sales and marketing operations using proprietary, third-party software systems, you may prefer to build your own system with the help of your Web developer. Simeon Sneor of Paradigm Productions (www.paradigm-il.com) says you can create a knowledge base quickly once you establish the appropriate key words. Over time, your knowledge base will grow into a comprehensive sales and marketing "brain bank," providing on-demand accessibility to all your content.

Whichever approach you take, these new solutions may help you avoid becoming another casualty in the sales vs. marketing battle, and ultimately serve your existing and prospective clients more efficiently.


The three traps of selling conventionally
in the complex financial market

By Jeff Thull, CEO, Prime Resource Group

Prospect, qualify, present and close are four steps in the conventional sales process that most sales and marketing organizations follow. While this process works for simple sales, selling in today's complex world of banking requires a different approach. Those who adhere strictly to the conventional sales process will run head first into a series of traps, making a positive sales outcome less likely.

The three traps of selling conventionally in today's financial marketplace are:

1) The assumption trap

How many times have you heard or perhaps said yourself, "My customers just don't get it"? The reality behind this statement of frustration is twofold: Either you've overestimated the value your financial solutions bring to the customer, or you've overestimated the customer's ability to comprehend that value.

Assuming your solutions have value, financial professionals who suggest the "customer doesn't get it" are basically blaming customers for being unprepared to buy their solutions. The best financial sales professionals enter an opportunity with higher levels of experience than their customers. They see an entire industry, familiarize themselves with a full range of operational practices and often become experts in their customers' businesses. When this advanced perspective and experience far exceeds the level of understanding of potential customers, we can't assume that such prospects fully comprehend our proposed solutions.

2) The presentation trap

Marketing and sales organizations devote tremendous amounts of time and resources to creating compelling brochures, presentations and proposals. The irony is that most of this effort is lost on customers. Presentations delivered too early in a complex decision process are largely a waste of time.

Conventional sales and marketing professionals hate to hear this because presentations are one of their core activities. Salespeople avow that customers won't buy what they don't understand and that presentations prevent such confusion. This statement may have some truth, but presentations are one of the least effective methods for educating customers:

  • A presentation, even one that includes advanced multimedia elements, is basically a lecture. Few people remember what they hear.
  • A typical sales presentation devotes only 10%-20% of its focus on a customer's specific situation. Consequently, customers don't always understand why they should buy proposed solutions.
  • Everyone is presenting. Your team tells customers they need your solutions, while your competitors make similar arguments regarding their solutions. The end result is commoditization; we all look the same.

3) The adversarial trap

Conflict between buyer and seller can arise during the conventional sales process. Salespeople sometimes present professionally packaged data that prospects find unconnected to their reality. Confused and with no sound basis upon which to evaluate the information, customers respond negatively.

Conventional salespeople interpret this negativity as an objection to be overcome. "No," they say. "You need our solution and here's why ..." Now you have salespeople arguing with customers.

When salespeople start "overcoming objections," they place themselves in conflict with customers. At best, this sets the stage for polite disagreements. At worst, it turns the sales process into a battle.

Changing the construct of sales

The three traps described above are fundamental challenges facing financial professionals who continue to use traditional sales processes for complex financial opportunities. Quite often, each trap segues neatly into the next. The result is a confused customer who does nothing or chooses a competitor's solution because it's cheaper. After all, when solutions look identical, buyers fall back on the common denominator of price.

The effective way to address these problems is to adopt a new paradigm: Position yourself as a valued and trusted advisor who manages quality decisions, and one who takes into account the complex world in which we live and work. In next month's column, I will elaborate on what exactly it means to position yourself as a "valued and trusted advisor."

About the Author

Jeff Thull is a leading-edge sales and marketing strategist and valued executive advisor at major companies including Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific.

He is also the author of the best-selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff’s new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales, is now available.

For more information, please contact: Prime Resource Group, 3655 Plymouth Blvd., Suite 110, Plymouth, MN 55446, [email protected], www.primeresource.com, 1.800.876.0378 or 763.473.7529, Fax: 763.473.0792.

 . . .
FPS regularly works with financial services companies to maximize the impact of their client communications, including e-mail and online communications. To find out how we can help you develop effective strategies for communicating with corporate financial executives, contact FPS President Vince DiPaolo at 847-501-4120 or [email protected]. You can also write him at the following address:

Financial Publishing Services Co.
464 Central Avenue
Suite 8
Northfield, IL 60093

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