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  • January 5, 2012

How Marketing Should Approach Sales Reps

Sales enablement is one of the most important aspects of many marketers’ jobs. But, all too often, the way marketers approach sales reps is lacking in strategy and preparation.

The result? Marketing continues to feel frustrated and the sales team unimpressed.

For sales enablement to work, you need to approach sales reps in a focused manner. That means doing your homework ahead of time. Otherwise, you’re likely to run into these common, non-productive sales gripes.

The purpose of this article is to walk you through your approach, ensuring you come out with a clear picture of sales’ needs, and how you can deliver.

1. Catalogue to Impress
Some of the most common complaints from sales reps are “I don’t have enough content!” Or, “Marketing doesn’t deliver assets.”

You should catalogue the content marketing and various campaigns your team deployed over a few quarters before you sit down with reps – not as a trump card, but to see if the problem is really a lack of assets or a lack of communication. (For more on getting content into the reps’ hands, check out this two-step solution.)

2. Know Who You’re Talking To
Sales reps come in all sizes and shapes. But there are fairly common personality types that pop up, ranging from the “chronic complainer” to the numbers obsessed “pseudo-accountant.”

The type of sales reps you’re likely to meet influences the trajectory of your chat. Remember, these folks are on the frontline. Someone with a gloomy disposition is probably going to have a far different perspective than a bonus-loving rock star.

Acquaint yourself with the common personality types. More importantly, have a process that works with all kinds of sales reps.


3. Consider the Voice of the Sales Rep
You might be familiar with the Voice of the Customer marketing research technique (reg. required). In this case, you’re adapting the technique to become the voice of the salesperson (VOS).

Here are the elements that make up VOS:

1. A market research technique that produces a detailed set of wants and needs through interviews,
2. Organized into a hierarchical structure,
3. Then prioritized in terms of relative importance,
4. Generally conducted at the start of any new initiative to better understand the sales wants and needs.

4. Avoid Large Crowds
When it comes to interviewing your sales reps, large groups are your enemy. If you assemble the whole sales team in room, chances are they’ll fire back with random requests, sending your meeting – and marketing planning process – into a tailspin.

Instead, take sampling of reps, sales managers, account managers and ask them the same set of strategic questions and find out what they come up with.

5. Ask the Right Questions
Once you’re ready to talk to your sample of sales reps, you need to come up with a list of questions. You want them to be specific enough that you can walk away with action items, but broad enough that they’re applicable across the board.

Some sample questions might include:

“If there were only three reports/dashboards that marketing can provide to you to get your job done and make your number, what would they be?”

“What are the 2-3 things that marketing has done well and you’d like to see continue/more of?”

“What markets/verticals/types of organizations would you like to sell more into?  What’s holding you back from doing so now?”

Bottom line: You need to have a set of questions in hand so that the conversation stays on focus.

6. Aggregate and Separate
Once you conclude the interviews, gather all the responses together. One way to do this is to summarize individual responses on Post-It notes, which you can then hang on a whiteboard.

From there you can spot the big themes – the responses that appear over and over again – and push aside the individual grips that don’t address strategic issues.

So instead of one rep telling you this: “We don’t have a whitepaper on Sarbanes-Oxley and data security requirements for this one financial services prospect!”

You’ll hear a union of voices saying this: “There’s huge potential in financial services, and we need marketing’s help breaking in!”

With this insight, you’ll be ready to develop a marketing plan that supports sales reps critical needs, and gets you in their good graces.

How have you approached sales reps in the past? Tell us in the comments section, and be sure to subscribe here for tons more sales enablement tips!

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