Visit MarketIntellibits Archive
March,  2007
Volume III   Issue 3

"What are your sales people doing out there?"
by Jack Miller

Are they selling? Or just taking orders? Are they building relationships, or
just buying lunches?

Are they providing valuable competitive information? Or have you turned
them into data entry clerks?

And are you giving them the right tools, the right information, to be as
effective as they can and should be?

I remember that when I was in Marketing, I was frustrated that when we
asked the sales team for market information, the information was
sometimes sketchy and incomplete. What were they doing out there
besides playing golf and buying lunches?

But I also remember that when I was in Sales, I was often irritated that  
Marketing was asking us for market information that took us away from our
jobs. When we called on a customer, we had an agenda:  implement a price
increase, grow the volume, or improve the mix. We didn’t need the
distraction of doing the work of the Marketing group, too.

And, I remember that when we implemented SAP,  there were those who
felt that this would allow us to collect all sorts of valuable information, and
have it available for Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, and Management to
make better decisions faster. Of course, Sales would have to put a lot of
information into the computer, but it was worth it.

If it seems to you like all of these points of view are wrong, I agree. If it
seems to you like all of these points of view have merit, again, I agree.

The key, of course, is balance.

Your sales team is your best window to the market, but use it wisely – it is
your most expensive window to the market. Don’t turn high cost sales reps
into data entry clerks, and don’t rely on them as your only window to the
market.  Your marketing people should develop good contacts with key
customers and distributors, and there are times when an outside research
source is your best vehicle for market information. Outside research will
provide discipline, structure,  and robust, comparable data. It can also  give
you  anonymity or confidentiality if needed.  

A little organization can go a long way toward making sure your internally
generated Market Intelligence is as useful as possible. Be sure you know
what you need and why you need it. If you want your sales team to survey
your customers, give them structure so the results can be compiled and
compared. Develop a well thought out questionnaire. Consider having a
professional develop this.

Do you have a rigorous program of competitive analysis? Why? Why do you
do competitive analysis in the first place?

Is it tactical? Tactical information must be timely, and detailed, but need not
be in nice, neat binder, and may not need to be saved for long. It might need
to be in your SAP or other enterprise system, or it might need to be on a
voice mail broadcast to the sales team. Does the format fit the purpose?

Or is it strategic? Next time we’ll talk about what “strategic” really means,
but in this case it might be for acquisition targeting or for far reaching asset
deployment or product mix decisions.

Or, worst case, is it “nice to have”?  Nice detailed binders that Marketing  
prepares because everyone knows you need competitive analysis, but that
sit on a shelf and never have any impact on the business?

Do you rely on Marketing alone to provide this? Do you rely on Sales alone
to provide this? Does that make sense? Do you integrate benchmarking and
Customer Satisfaction surveys into your competitive analysis?

Finally, to bring this discussion full circle, does any of this provide valuable
information to your sales team? Do you give them information that makes
them more effective? If you want your sales team to provide input, you can
mandate it, of course, or you can give them something of value in return,
like information that helps them identify and target new business. Which
method do you think works better?

For help with any of this, call me. I’ve done all of these things, from
producing useless binders to providing valuable market information to
Sales, and from collecting confused, uncoordinated and useless information
from the field to collecting targeted, actionable information. And everything
in between.

For more information call Jack Miller at  203 925 0326
or email

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Copyright 2007, Jack Miller

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