Editor’s note: Scott Place is president of Maverick Marketing and Maverick Sales. He is a regular guest speaker for the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED). This column is the latest in The Entrepreneurial Spirit series for LTW from membership of CED. It is published each Thursday.
_______________________________________________________________________________________I may get abused by my colleagues in the marketing space, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret–marketing will not close a single piece of business.

Shocking to hear from a marketing guy, isn’t it?

Sales people and sales teams close business, so the best role of marketing is to provide support and air cover for the sales ground forces that actually move your business forward and take market share. The most relevant question to answer then is what is the best way for sales and marketing to work together?

Sales teams work on a cycle that moves them from prospecting for new business to closing business. This cycle varies some by opportunity and bends somewhat over the life of a company, but in general, it is fairly stable over the near term. Marketing leaders need to work with the sales team to determine where in the process marketing materials or support can impact the sales process to move it forward or accelerate it.

Blending Sales and Marketing

Beginning a sales cycle requires lead generation, therefore marketing needs to develop programs that help the sales team with inbound leads or expand awareness of the company’s offerings. This helps support the sales team by making cold calls in the prospect population significantly less frosty.

The marketing team needs to monitor the sales team’s programs to ensure they produce the required results. Marketing managers need to quickly eliminate programs that don’t work and continue to produce programs that work until effectiveness is lost.

I freely admit that this might seem amazingly obvious, but there are thousands of examples of companies that do not follow this advice. Also, monitoring means tracking cold, hard numbers on leads generated and business closed…you’re looking for ROI from the program.

Later in the sales cycle, marketing is looking to supply the sales team with tools that feed the prospect’s need for information in order to make a buying decision. Keep the marketing materials focused and don’t oversell with too much information. You want the sales team to engage in a dialogue, using the materials as a framework. This means you don’t need a 30-page website. Focus on developing marketing materials that are needed, and keep them tightly focused.

Avoid the Information Trap

The big trap most companies fall into, especially technology companies, is they try to tell prospects too much information in their materials. While their intentions may be good, what these companies are actually doing is undercutting the sales team’s efforts to engage in a dialogue with the prospect.

One of three things happens when the marketing materials are too heavy:

  • The prospect never reads it

  • They read part or all of it and get the wrong impression thus deciding there is no need to talk to a sales representative

  • Or,they read it and decide the company’s solution is exactly what they need.
  • The problem here is that two of the three possibilities are bad or waste time, and the third is in fact very rare.

    Also keep in mind that marketing doesn’t end with a sold customer. Marketing should monitor customers for the opportunity to share success stories or to get testimonials to support the sales team. Early-stage companies need to demonstrate that real companies and people are successfully using their offerings. Marketing should also talk with customers about new products or features they would like to see. These provide up-sell opportunities as well as a source of information for the operational area of the business. Regular user meetings or surveys are excellent programs to achieve these ends.

    Sales and marketing teams need to focus on developing and using the tools that make a difference in their companies’ bottom line and move prospects through to closed business. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

    Scott Place is president of Maverick Marketing ( www.maverickmarketing.com ) and Maverick Sales. He has over 20 years of experience with sales and marketing in entrepreneurial companies. He is also a frequent guest speaker at CED programs, including CED’s FastTrac Tech course — a 10-week business training program that addresses the needs of start-up entrepreneurs refining and writing their business plans and seeking to grow sustainable high-impact companies.

    Seet www.cednc.org/cgi-bin/irCom.pl?11658/1/db/351/0/0/28/0/0/0/2190 for more information on CED’s next FastTrac Tech course, which kicks off Feb. 8.