I recall reading the book ‘The Sales and Marketing Black Hole’ a long time back and I’d say that in today’s world it’s simply a trap that companies just can’t afford to fall into. Certainly from a B2B perspective things are tough and about to get tougher in the coming recession. From my past experience of economic turn downs I can certainly predict with confidence that sales will be more challenging as the following factors come into play:

·       Decisions will be made at a higher level and our existing contacts will simply not have the authority to place business, worse still, they probably won’t admit it

·       CFOs will have their hands firmly on the rudder and budgets will be cut, projects will be cancelled and all spend will be scrutinised

·       Competition will increase as the ‘cake gets smaller’ and many will use ‘price’ as a weapon to win business

·       Customers and procurement functions will exert severe downward price pressure in order to take advantage and get a better deal

·       Customers will be lost and there will be a need to win new business to counter the hole in the bucket and to secure future growth

So, what is required of a robust Sales and Marketing machine? Companies that do well in the coming years will:

·       Have a realisation that Sales is part of Marketing, i.e, an integrated part of the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion rather the ‘colouring in department’ as I heard it described recently

·       Generate sales leads that align with the needs of each territory salesperson. There will be clarity about the ‘quantity’ and the ‘quality’ of the leads required and salespeople will OWN the leads and commit to following up

·       Salespeople will take responsibility for generating their own leads to close the gap (with some extra) between what Marketing produces and what is needed to achieve their targets

·       There will be joined up thinking between sales and marketing in relation to marketing data such as website visitors, responses to email campaigns, social media engagement etc. Some of my clients talk about leads being ‘sales ready’ and I say that’s fine but good salespeople like to know about the ‘unready’ ones too so they can develop them into opportunities

·       Marketing will define the market segments thoroughly based on customer behaviours and psychographic data as well as the demographics. Based on this, value propositions will be drawn up in detail enabling salespeople to set up the right meetings with the right people and to have the right conversations to defend price and sell value!

·       Sales Leadership will spend 60% of their time coaching frontline salespeople rather than ‘flying a desk’ or having their head stuck in a CRM system. Salespeople will need to be motivated to ‘up their game’ to get ahead and solid sales management and sales activity management is key

So, that’s my view. If you agree, why not take the above as your ‘Manifesto’ for the future. If you don’t do it, I’m sure your competitors will!

Jeff Downs is MD of Quantum Sales and Marketing Services Ltd