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Sales is much more than just sales people

There was an interesting thread on Twitter this morning, and it has become difficult to push the conversation to where it needs to go in 140 characters.  This is not a naming debate, by any stretch – this is probably better described as a process debate – among friends and peers (in other words, play nice!)

The conversation started with:

@PaulBuchtmann #sCRM can help #sales by building trust and loyalty with customers. Not help if UR focus is short term or “transaction” based (posted by Dr. Harish Kotadia)

@hkotadia Be interestered in see how U can achieve this given my survey results show less that 1 in 50 #sales people use the tools (response by Paul Buchtmann)

.@PaulBuchtmann: @hkotadia Sales is much more than just sales people. Unless they are cold calling, the leads come from everywhere (My comment)

@mjayliebs Got to weigh in on #sales #marketing #scrm. Leads are marketing domain, sales is closing (simple, yes, true, mostly) (John Moore – @johnfmoore – comment)

Then John Moore and I started a separate thread, which became more detailed and hard to convey the true thoughts in 140 characters. So, just as Leads transition from Marketing to Sales, we are transitioning from Twitter to a Blog. Interesting metaphor in and of itself. John pointed me to a post he wrote a few months ago, a fair reminder

Core to the issue that more and more vendors are putting the ownership of the process to obtain customers in Marketing’s capable hands (duh, it has always been there). But, who owns the relationship with the prospective customer? Is there a cold hand-off, a warm hand-off? What is the sales persons role? When do they take ownership of the relationship?After all, people like doing business with people they trust, so this is the sales person, right? What are the dependencies?

So, inviting an open debate, so that I am able to learn with everyone, please add your comments below.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Moore October 27, 2009, 2:42 PM

    Great post Mitch. Leads have always come in from a variety of sources but for the sake of discussion I am assuming they all land in marketing’s hands. To be successful marketing must perform a “warm-handoff” as you put it.

    Marketing and sales must participate actively in transition the potential customer from marketing to sales. If the lead has come from social channels, the sales person must be brought into the social channel, the marketing person as the trusted party introduces the sales person and ensures customer trust is transferred with the hand-off. If done right conversion rates from lead to client will be high.

    John

  • Mitch Lieberman October 27, 2009, 2:50 PM

    John,

    Great comment and thanks for taking this to a forum where we can add more than 140 characters! So, without getting to far from the core of the discussion, businesses are increasingly providing subscription based services. For consumers you have cable, phone, healthclub, magazines just to name a few. For businesses, there are even more, and the price tag is usually bigger!

    Without bringing other debates into this realm – we can and should all agree that repeat business is good (for the most part). Where do these ‘Leads’ fit into the process?

  • Kathy Herrmann October 27, 2009, 2:56 PM

    Thanks for setting us up, Mitch!

    I agree with John regarding the warm hand-off from Marketing to Sales. The place to decide the how and when is an upstream question. All the departments with customer-facing responsibilities should define the Customer Life Cycle Process specific to the company.

    The Life Cycle starts with the lead (Mktg owns), moves to an opportunity (Sales takes over), and then becomes a customer (Account Mgmt and/or Service owns).

    The Customer-facing team then defines the responsibilities for each group along the life cycle and the expected prospect/customer experience throughout. Included in this is the question of lead scoring which defines the right time to transition a prospect from a lead to an opportunity.

    Among the question to answer the fuzzy lines like what happens if Sales gen’s the lead and not Marketing. The Sale Rep will likely want to be hands on even though Marketing has responsibility to nurture. All that needs to get decided.

    My 2 cents…maybe more to come… 😉

    • Mitch Lieberman October 27, 2009, 3:10 PM

      Kathy – great summary and points – I fear that would have taken a day and not come out so crisply in 140 bits and bites!

      I believe you are close, but also a bit of concern with how marketing operates. Are current marketing departments and processes geared to establish and build relationships? Sales people have relationships, Support people have relationships…

      Customer Life Cycle is also an interesting topic these days. In the realm of Social, this takes on a whole new angle. I suppose the details of Customer Life Cycle need to be detailed in the Business Strategy and then the Business Design. And we cannot forget the Systems! As I said more than once this week – People and Process first, but if it were not for Technology, we would not be in this mess.

  • John Moore October 27, 2009, 3:00 PM

    Repeat business speak to my point for having customer service and marketing jointly own the social relationship. Customer service (account management) will manage the renewals, upsells, etc..

    John

  • Kathy Herrmann October 27, 2009, 4:12 PM

    Mitch – Good catch on the need for Marketing to have a relationship with leads in the ever emerging social business world.

    As for technology…perhaps I need to clarify my views. I love technology and am totally geekified. My view on People and Process is, yes they come first. However, I totally agree with you technology is central to business success since. Integrate it well and your business can to grow to scale. Without technology, companies will flounder.

    John – We’re in agreement on the importance of account mgmt / cust service.

  • Paul Buchtmann October 28, 2009, 12:51 PM

    Thank you for taking this debate to the next level and your comments Kathy are inspiring. I think this is such an important issue of who own the relationships at various points in time.

    I am seeing a great number of marketing want to push their ownership even further than generation to the point of wanting a hand back after the sale rather than a hand over to customer service so the now customer can be prospects for another campaign even before the first purchase might have been delivered.

    While it would be nice in the life cycle of a customer for all to share the relationship it is the sales who hold back on sharing a lot of what they know in a vane attempt to control. While this is not a good thing marketing should also be cautious on how to use this information if it is shared in an open enviroment.

    If it were my call the best method to leverage this is for designers to build in far simpler methods for sales people to share knowledge without it becoming a job they do not wish to waste too much time on but rather be closing more deals.

  • glennross October 28, 2009, 1:37 PM

    There seems to be an assumption here that there is only one model where Marketing generates sales leads. That may be true of many larger corporations in the business sector, but it is not necessarily true in smaller businesses and in the nonprofit sector. Many may have a combined Marketing & Communications dept (Marcom) where the emphasis may be more on communications than marketing.

    I agree with John that there should be a warm hand off from Marketing but I would say the reality is that leads come from everywhere and that there are plenty that Marketing never sees. (For example, one sales rep referring a lead to another rep, or a sales rep using CRM software to mine the database for leads without interacting with other depts.)

    I agree with Kathy in her second and third paragraphs. But I think in smaller organizations, once sales takes over, that’s who owns it because there is no other department interested in it.

    • Mitch Lieberman October 28, 2009, 1:51 PM

      Glenn – Your post struck a particular nerve, which is one that seems to be hard to deal with, especially in 140 characters; the “A” word – Assume (not the other one folks!). I may write a post, with large corporate America in mind (without explicitly stating it) and the reader, or commenter may be thinking ‘Mom and Pop’ in Canada.

      I know I have said many times, and I am pretty sure you have as well, this is not a one size fits all problem – company size, or organization size, industry vertical, culture (society), culture (company), just to rattle off a few of the easy ones certainly impact the what, how and why of the sales process.

      The one area we should all agree and work with our organizations on, is that every relationship (customer, partner) needs an owner, and we can and should help guide this, based on the variables.

      Thanks for your comments, they are appreciated!

    • Paul Buchtmann October 30, 2009, 11:58 PM

      Glenn I agree with much of what you have said although I would comment on your line “But I think in smaller organizations, once sales takes over, that’s who owns it because there is no other department interested in it.”

      I am noticing more and more often in many organisations that other departments do want to tamper with this relationship because they see value in their mind to trying to push another sales onto the same people sales is already dealing with. Not a good practice but one that I notice is a reality

  • glennross October 28, 2009, 2:06 PM

    You’re welcome, Mitch. If we don’t explore other models, we may be overlooking the needs of those who read our blogs/tweets/etc.

    Now, when do we discuss whether “partner” is a better word than “owner?” :-)

  • Kathy Herrmann October 28, 2009, 2:37 PM

    Mitch – You nailed the most important issue needing clarifying here. Each company should define its own Rules of Engagement for the prospect/customer experience – and the definition should encompass a holistic view to the customer life cycle relative.

    Glenn – Your first post points to an ongoing problem for some organizations and that’s monitoring the source of leads. It’s true many sales reps gen their own leads – and they should! Marketing (or really the company at large) should know where all its leads are coming from, though. Ultimately the lead belongs to the company and not any one person or department.

    Paul – Thanks for your kind words! You point out the fuzziness in the customer life cycle. The truth is that while certain departments will have “ownership” of the lead as the cycle matures, other departments will continue to have influence – and they should.

    Part of what a company needs to define within its Rules of Engagement is the roles of Owners and Influencers so everyone works together and avoids getting at cross purposes.

    And to your last point about giving sales people simplier ways of sharing…you are so right! Sales is also under the gun to make those sales so no company wants them spending to much time filling out the electronic equivalent of paperwork. Sharing needs to happen and the easier it is for Sales to do so, the more likely they will (along with the right encouragement from management).

    To that, I’d add Customer Service faces similar issues with needing simple ways to capture information so they spend more time solving customer problems (or hopefully in many cases making or assisting with upselling) and less time on electronic paperwork.