30
42
Gini Dietrich

Get Marketing Communications Buy-in from Your Sales Team

By: Gini Dietrich | March 25, 2013 | 
115

Get Marketing Communications Buy-in from Your Sales TeamA little more than three years ago, we announced we are no longer a PR firm.

What that means externally is, when prospects call and say they’re looking for a PR firm, if all they want is media relations, we now have a business model that doesn’t support that kind of “strategy.”

But, internally, it was a huge shift. Before we formally announced it, we spent most of 2008 testing new strategies, campaigns, and ideas with our more sophisticated clients. We created processes and metrics to measure and developed ways to sell new things.

In 2009, I spent time with my team, coaching and mentoring them to gauge potential and determine where we still needed talent.

But I knew, before we wrote it on this blog and before we fired our resistant clients and before we did 2010 planning with our current clients, I had to have total buy-in from my team.

Throughout the second half of 2008 and first half of 2009, I got them comfortable with the new direction, I talked about how I thought the PR industry was about to be up-ended, and I incentivized based on new and different thinking, particularly around ways to move beyond media relations, events, and project management.

I Quit!

Then we had a full-day planning meeting toward the end of 2009 and I gave everyone the choice: Stay and make this switch with us or I’ll use my network to help you find another job.

More than half our staff quit. Not immediately, but in the months leading up to the January 2010 announcement.

To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. I already had a mental list of who I thought would quit, but there were a handful of people I didn’t expect. You know what those people told me as they left?

Every, single one said, “I think you’re wrong and I want to go somewhere where I already know how to do my job.”

We’ve Always Done it this Way

Likewise, as Geoff Livingston and I were writing Marketing in the Round, people told us time and time again their biggest issue was with the silo between sales and marketing or communications.

Most organizations are either built around sales (and they say marketing, but it’s rarely true) or around manufacturing.

Which means sales doesn’t do more than treat marketing like a glorified Kinko’s or the organization is successful in spite of no formal sales or marketing.

I remember sitting in a sales meeting with a client a couple of years ago. The sales team is extremely successful: The lowest paid guy makes $500,000 in commissions.

We were there to introduce a new lead generation program to help them prospect online.

You know what they said to me? We still make cold calls. This won’t work.

As I began to probe, I learned, while they still made cold calls, no one answers their phones.

I didn’t say much more in that meeting, but continued to dig for that kind of information. I knew if we could show them how to prospect in a way that would get a response, they’d give up their cold calling and our program would have a chance to succeed.

Today we generate between 90 and 100 qualified leads for them every month (may seem small to some, but this is a multi-million dollar, once every 10 years, purchase) through their website.

Now their vice president of sales has to bribe them to get on the phone.

Buy-in from Your Sales Team

These two examples popped into my brain when John Trader commented on How Communicators Should Work with Difficult Executives.

He said, “I’d really like to see an additional post written on your thoughts about what it takes to get difficult employees, specifically sales men and women, to buy into the use of content and social tools as a means to add to the bottom line. It’s an issue I’ve been struggling with for quite some time.”

In the first example, in my own stinking business, I was not successful. If I had been, the handful of people who I wasn’t expecting to quit wouldn’t have.

In the second example, we were successful.

Why?

We listened to the sales guy’s concerns about why it wouldn’t work and, rather than forcing them to do it our way to see how it went, we brought them along slowly.

When I heard, “We still make cold calls,” I didn’t stop probing there. I kept asking questions until I got to, “We make them, but no one answers their phone.”

So we created a very basic intro program that showed them, if the content is right and the message is targeted, people will respond to emails.

Fast forward to today and we get daily emails from those guys who looked at us cross-eyed during that initial meeting exclaiming, “The white paper got me a lead and they’re going to buy a $6 million part!”

It’s frustrating. I know it is. You know how well the things you are doing can – and do – work. But people are not going to change unless you show them the benefit.

Find out where they have the most resistance and work against that. People don’t answer their phones? Help them find another way to reach their prospects that garners a response.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

112 comments
IABCBC
IABCBC

@PhoeLam Big thanks for the RT, Phoenix. Have a great day! ^KC

JeremyBalius
JeremyBalius

I can relate to some of these issues. Great post Gini

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

You ARE a good sales person yourself for listening to that Sales guy instead of trying to change his mind instantly. I've been on both sides of the silo, and for sales people who have never collaborated with marketing, and in some instances never HAD it, I understand the resistance. Prove it to me.At the same time, I am 150% with you on the need to STOP having 'specialist - PR, Marketing, Sales'  instead of collaborative teams. The fact that people quit your company when you offered them the opportunity to do MORE, well, that says a lot more about them than about your internal sales job. 

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

I love this post. At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, now seems like a great time to tell you that I think you are on the bleeding edge and absolutely realizing your goal of changing the perception of PR, and that you are doing it from the inside, Ms. @ginidietrich . I tell people I believe in the Spin Sucks / Gini Dietrich model of PR and marketing -- completely integrated. Sales = marketing = PR = promotion. Sometimes they don't know what I'm talking about and I think they're stupid for a second, and I educate them. LOL To be honest, it kind of creates a challenge for me right now, because I am not quite sure how to market myself. Am I a social media person? A marketer? A PR person? But I know that wherever I land I will really help, and I will keep sharing the lessons I learn from the awesome people here.

PattiRoseKnight1
PattiRoseKnight1

I remember that day in January 2010 when you made the announcement and i can honestly say I never doubted you for a minute.  Like I told you then sink or swim I'm in.  

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

I cringe when I'm in a client meeting and the first thing they say is "no, that won't work." Sometimes businesses should look at marketing with the same rules as Imporv. "Never deny, never say no." Instead of immediately jumping to a place of no, challenge the idea and add to it. 

 

On another note, I think working with a sales team requires gaining a little trust and credibility. They are a group of people who thrives off results and deals. Without proven results, it's hard to get them to agree to anything. 

Nikki Little
Nikki Little

I love your honesty and all the business examples you continue to share. That's all. :)

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

Great post, @ginidietrich   I don't think you were unsuccessful - those employees didn't buy in because of their own fears/opinions/whatever. You were very successful in getting your message across - it just didn't work for them and I'll bet in the long run it prevented your having to spend time trying to get them on board.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Alright, G, let's do this- I will agree with you that any sales force still mired in telephone based cold calls is in need of a tune up, but please do not paint all sales professionals with such a brush.  I have never once done a telephone based cold call. I do not even do in person cold calls, unless the situation is very special. 

 

Here are a few itemized objections to this post based on how you've made sales the bad guy of this story...

 

1) the notion that people will quit to stay in their comfort zone is not limited to sales. This type of stubbornness is present in all roles in all areas. Your example perhaps was a sales team, but I see this in all roles. 

 

2) Often, there is a "why" for some of these things. For better or worse, sales people are required to hit a whole string of numbers. Not just sales figures, but I have also been required to report upon the number of customer contacts logged face to face, via telephone, via email. So while yes many sales teams need a shake up, there is probably a reason they do things like they do, and that usually has to do with pressure from above. Once I was freed enough to just report on bottom line sales and no longer had to log how many gee dee phone calls I made, my results jumped because I was enabled to focus on what my peeps need. 

 

3) I understand what @John_Trader1 is asking here, and again I say- look up, look wayyy up... if you want the sales team to use new tools, then make then a report-able objective. I know that personally I do not have enough hours in my week to fulfill all of the requests upon my time- internal and external. So for me, customers take priority- I will always help the customer first before spending time reporting on how I helped the customer. So if you sales team has already allotted their time to the things they now do, you will have to remove something from their current plate to give them time to try something new. If that means reducing the number of face-to-face contacts per week from 18 to 16 (or some such metric- that was a real example from my career) and add in a place for them to re-purpose that time to interactions in social. 

 

There is an educational theory called "pressure and support". Self-explanatory, I believe. To bring about change, you must make it mandatory,  usually by allotting some sort of metric to it, then provide the tools for success. Another thing to know about change is that the last thing to change is personal belief. A change in practice and change in results always precede a change in belief. So don't start from trying to switch someone's belief, which is where most training falls short. Rather, demonstrate a new practice, show the results of that new practice, then pressure-and-support your team to follow this new practice. Starting trying to change someone's belief will be frustrating for all parties involved.

 

Soap box dismounted! 

 

 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @AmyMccTobin I certainly learned a lot about collaboration when that happened. I really thought I had buy-in from a few who ended up leaving (and later called to see if they could get their jobs back). It has helped me coach my team in listening to clients.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @dwaynealicie People say to me all the time, "Why do you call yourself a PR pro? You're not anymore." Maybe not, but my expertise is communications. Sure, I've figured out how to integrate the other marketing disciplines (except paid; I'm not so good at that) and am growing my agency to reflect that, but I'm still a PR pro at heart.

 

For you, you have to decide which path you want to take and that could the one of least resistance. If it's more traditional public relations you want to do, go that path. But if you want to do social and advertising and mobile and communications and lead generation, I'd lean more toward marketing.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @dwaynealicie  @ginidietrich And yet this post "otherizes" sales people as outdated cold callers that "... doesn’t do more than treat marketing like a glorified Kinko’s ". I'm not seeing integration nor de-siloing in this post. 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @stevenmcoyle Mostly agree...but sales don't generally invent the standards which they report against. Their job depends on those "results and deals", as dictated from above. But yes- everyone needs to see a change in results before changing their belief. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @RebeccaTodd  No, no, no. You misunderstood. I was using only that one example of a way we managed past that particular issue. By no means did I mean it to  say ALL sales people do that...just that one client in that one instance. Back later. In a meeting.

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @ginidietrich I think I am a marketing person at heart. I start having heart palpitations of joy when I think of a company listening to customers and modifying products based on reported consumer experience. It seems like such a simple solution that so few businesses employ!

 

At the same time, I LOVE love love communications. I am a writer and a lover of literature and an art lover, and I am obsessed with rhetorical criticism.... I think I should be a brand manager. I viscerally understand better than some people what each image, word and action will mean to consumers. : )  I need a proper mentor, I think. Anybody in San Francisco open to talking? Thank you for listening and responding, Miss Gini!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @RebeccaTodd  @dwaynealicie Beck, I think you took my example waaaaaaay out of context. I was using only that one example of how it started with one client (they did see us as a glorified Kinko's and they were only doing cold calls) and how we worked with them for nearly three years to integrate and move away from solely doing that. It's only one example of something that worked really, really well. By no means did I mean that to say every sales team behaves that way or every sales team treats marketing that way. Only that we have ONE client who behaved that way and this is what we did to change it and to integrate so we're all one team working toward the same goal.

rdopping
rdopping

 @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd Oh, c'mon. You consistently paint EVERYONE with the same brush, especially us Interior Designer sales guys.

 

Seriously, from a consulting perspective it's hard enough to sell anything without collateral. Honestly, I have NO IDEA how it works in the "real world" but in the Architecture industry no one wants to listen to your schtick without examples. They want stuff to look at and it better be cool. We absolutely RELY on marketing and communications to translate all the architecture techno-babble into real language and tools that clients can actually understand. 

 

The funny thing is that the A+D industry dispensed with silo type thinking ages ago or let me re-phrase; we did! We try to use the skills we have for the job at hand.

 

Example: I recently got an opportunity through my client to prepare a signage standards package which we are using our marketing group to prepare because they have the right skill set. We teamed an architect with a graphic designer and blammo. Instant Karma.

 

The thing is that we have to think differently and always be looking forward. If anyone says they just want to do the job they know then they can go do that. Hopefully far, far away from me.

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd Rebecca, we all know that salesmen are generally categorized tight  up there with lawyers and journalists on the slime scale. It's not fair - but unfortunately it's historically accurate. ;) The great thing is that NOW we can (hopefully) begin to see the decline of those practices like cold calling non stop during dinner time. Yes, everyone has quotas and numbers and goal to attain, you are 100% right on that regard - but it would be nice if the higher-ups (look up, look wayyyy up - and I'll call Rusty!) would start realizing - and embracing - how much the world (and especially your consumer!) has changed. 

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @Erin F. Love to talk about this stuff with you any time! Just sent you a friend request on le facebook.

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @dwaynealicie  @ginidietrich A lot of the time I just end up saying "I help people connect to audiences that matter to them." In a way, it's much smarter than a business card / job title approach because it begs the question, "yeah but what does that mean and how do you do that?"

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @RebeccaTodd  @ginidietrich Early on, I once made the mistake of saying to a business owner, "Oh, I shy away from sales." His reaction was quick and honest: "I shy away from someone who says they shy away from sales."

 

That was a huge lesson for me. We are ALL in the sales department, just in different ways. : ) I think @ginidietrich absolutely understands that and I really love seeing the debate here!

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @ginidietrich And I thank you for that. See, I believe that you and I find ourselves on common ground- some may say most PR professionals are as ethical as you are. The whole driving force of this blog is to show both industry professionals and the world at large that PR can and is much more than Spin. Nothing but respect for how you fight the good fight. So when I see sweeping statements being made about my profession, I am not going to take it without a few choice words. It also deserves to be said that I am "not the norm" in sales because I was mentored by those also "not the norm". I had one particular sales mentor that pushed us to give up cold calls and work towards much more meaningful customer relationships, to become true partners with common goals with our customers. This individual changed a whole generation of sales people, inspiring us to really care and want the best for our peeps. And what happened as soon as profits dropped slightly? He was canned. All those execs who launched the bad products that failed? Still in their cushy offices. Sales are often the first blamed and the first chopped. Is it any surprise, then, that we are skeptical about change, as so often when initiatives fail, even those spearheaded by different departments, it is sales that suffers? 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @ginidietrich  @dwaynealicie Fair enough. You did precede the Kinkos statement with one about "most organizations", so I felt you were generalizing- it didn't seem to be a specific reference as it was said before the specific example began. And I call you on it because I KNOW that you are really about creating cohesive teams. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @RebeccaTodd  Also. I think you know this, but it's worth saying it publicly: YOU are not the norm. In our experience, the sales teams do behave this way in most organizations. Yes, there are some rules to the exception, but mostly (again in our experience), they don't see the value of a marketing and communications team until you do the work to show them you are more than Kinko's. Trouble is, not every professional can do that  so the stigma stands.

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @Erin F.  @ginidietrich Also I suppose IMC person is accurate -- integrated marketing communications, only fully realized to its greatest potential, right? I feel like "brand manager" is swimming around there as well....  more vaguely, I say, "the new marketing." : )

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @rdopping  @ginidietrich Exactly, Ralph. It is about creating a cohesive team that works together for common goals. I now work on a very small team of 11 where each of the different "teams" are one or two individuals, and we come together frequently to discuss how to maximize our efforts working together. In the past on other teams, I have been stuck waiting months for promotional pieces from Marketing, often not receiving them until after the sales initiative was already finished. And I don't make sweeping statements about all marketers being a step above Kinkos...

 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Now I wouldn't say it is historically accurate, as there have always been people in sales for the right reasons. Until sales reporting standards change, practices won't. You want a sales person to take a risk on a new sales model, support them. Because when numbers dip, it is the sales person who gets canned, not the marketer that invented the new sales model (just an example...). You need to create a safe place for these people to try something new, and have the job performance metrics in place to fully support that initiative. I have worked in large organizations, and marketing or publishing or editorial can invent this great new life changing product and tell sales "thou shalt selleth" regardless of whether or not the sales team sees market demand for such an item, yet when it doesn't sell, who gets blamed? We are used to being the scapegoats for everyone's bad ideas. Clearing out the sales team happens with astounding frequency whenever numbers dip in the slightest. You want organizations to be less "sales focused"? Then create and environment where they aren't to blame for decisions made outside of their sphere. As long as we have to take the blame for everyone else's experiments, we won't look kindly on unproven new methods. 

Trackbacks

  1. [...] client recently lamented about how much time gets wasted with bad B2B sales calls. Another friend with a new position at a large, well-known company said he couldn’t believe the [...]

  2. [...] why is it, when it comes to our own companies and marketing strategies, the last thing we do is listen to our [...]

  3. [...] When it comes to lead generation, many marketers aren’t sure which tactics they should use to provide their company with qualified leads. [...]