3 Ways to Stop Messing Up Sales

The belief that “nothing happens until someone sells something” persists today. At some businesses, it’s repeated so often, no one challenges it.

As a result, salespeople are frequently viewed as more important than other employees. When someone complains about the sales department, the retort is often, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” But even though a lot depends on the performance of the salesforce, this dismal perspective has long passed its expiration date.

Consider that marketing is often still viewed as the handmaiden of sales. If marketing just does what it’s told to, it becomes rudderless—all tactics and no strategy. Then, marketing departments become a “do this” dumping ground, throwing one idea after another against the wall in hopes that something will stick.

Unfortunately, marketing’s unique mission is often misunderstood and disregarded. Its critical task—to create customers who want to do business with a brand—gets ignored. And if marketing is unable to do its job, salespeople can’t close sales.

Here are three principles that can help your marketing and sales departments achieve better synergy:

1) Get over the idea that nothing happens until somebody sells something. Forty years ago, salespeople were the only link between companies and their customers. Looking back, it’s no exaggeration to say customers were their captives. They depended on a salesperson for product or services information, troubleshooting, and support.

Today, the sales role has been upended. When it comes to accurate sales information, customers are already informed on the product or service long before they speak to a salesperson. Plus, many sales are now so transaction-driven that the salesperson’s role continues to erode.

So, what now? The answer is a marketing-driven environment that is different from times past. It’s one in which nothing happens until someone decides they want to do business with a company or a brand. Then, the salesperson may arrive to close the deal.

2) Understand why customers should do business with you. Caution! Don’t blurt out the usual trite and self-serving nonsense: “Our people really care,” “We give great service,” “We’ve been in business since 1979.” It’s all hype.

Take the question seriously, because there’s a lot at stake. What separates you from the competition that makes a difference to your customers? What is your value statement? What does your brand stand for? What do you bring to the customer’s buying experience that creates credibility and confidence? Unless your brand makes sense to customers, there’s no sale.

3) Make a commitment to execute your work perfectly. “We’ve got to get this out tomorrow.” “They need it now.” “I know, but it’s a rush.” Such words do more damage to sales than just about anything else. Of course, there are exceptions. But far too often, the exceptions take over and become the rule. “Just get it done” is an attitude that permeates too many companies.

The No. 1 enemy in all this is cutting corners. When everything is rush, rush, rush, cutting corners is inevitable, which sabotages a company’s best practices. We settle for “good enough” when it just…isn’t.

Cutting corners gives your competitors the advantage. Here are a few examples of what happens:

  • When a proposal is due tomorrow: “Just repurpose something you used last week.”
  • When the presentation date gets pushed up: “Don’t worry. Go ahead and wing it.”
  • When there’s no time for necessary planning meetings: “Just squeeze it into one meeting.”
  • When the intel isn’t complete: “Run with what we’ve got.”

Cutting corners puts salespeople at a major disadvantage. Tolerating it taints their reputation, impairs their performance and, ultimately, costs them sales. If you want to be successful, make a commitment to execute your work thoroughly.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.