Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Collateral that Sales Really Uses

This has probably happened to you: you create a new data sheet or brochure or mini-site. Maybe it's for the hot new product, maybe it's a long-awaited refresh of existing content. You've gotten all the input from everybody - the product managers, the industry marketing specialists, and so on. Everybody agrees on who the target customer is. Everyone has signed off on the list of important benefits and supporting features and the key messages. You're golden!

And then you start hearing from sales people, "This isn't what we need. How can I sell with this piece?"

MarketingProfs, the kings and queens of the handy checklist, enter this fray with Six Ways to Prepare Better Collateral for Sales Teams. All the advice is pretty good, so I won't quibble with some of the six items actually not being about collateral.

The key message is make sales agree on what they need. Then, when you get complaints later, the question is "What has changed in the market? What did you miss before? Let's figure out how fix that."

I'll just add three thoughts...

1. Beware of sales people for whom nothing will be right unless it's what I have jokingly called the "order-0-matic" - the brochure or web content or direct mail piece that makes a prospect call up and say, "Please sign me up for five of them!"

Some sales people are really good. Some are not. Some don't like to think. You'll get to know who they are in your organization pretty quickly - and you'll keep their complaints in perspective.

2.  Train the sales team on the collateral. Don't call it training, call it an "introduction" or "review" or whatever, but don't just throw it over the fence. Write a detailed cover email, or better yet have a quick webinar for them, and explain what the collateral is, what's in it, where it fits into the sales process, who it's intended for, and when it should be used. You don't want to give your people a new tool without bothering to tell them what it's for.

3. One beef with the MarketingProfs list - item 6, "Organize collateral by issues, not industries. Jonathan Kranz writes:

By focusing on issues instead of industries. For example, data decay is data decay, whether it occurs among a hospital's patient records or within an investment bank's spreadsheets. The problem, and the expertise required to overcome it, remain the same (or very similar) regardless of industry, so focus on the problem.

I have to disagree. Sometimes, that's great advice, and sometimes, it's not; I don't think you can come up with a hard and fast rule about this. If you are selling to associations and you talk about "customers," they will tune you out - you're not in their world. If you are selling to large financial institutions, you must speak their language, and you must have references in their industry. Some vertical markets are very open to hearing about your expertise and customers in other markets; some just aren't. Know the culture of your customers (and future customers) and organize your collateral according to their needs.

That quibble aside, this is another great little list from MarketingProfs.

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