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I took a part time job a couple of years ago doing something I’ve never done before. Sales. Belly-to-belly sales, to be more specific. Quite a departure getting paid to look the consuming public in the eye and pitch.  

“Story” had always been an important part of my marketing life but in this new position, after product knowledge, it became a very close second in terms of my sales effectiveness.

There are two basic kind of stories a salesperson can tell: product-based stories focusing of features, functions and outcomes and entertaining stories tangential to the product. Everyone needs the first to move the merch, but for me the entertaining, humanizing stories were the difference maker. They kept me on my toes and helped engage consumers.

The last two days I was working side-by-side at a trade show with our territory’s best sales person. He is brilliant with customers, performing straight from the sale manual and beyond. At his best he’s jovial, informative, a locomotive of product fact. His stories are all about product. I, on the other hand, used personal stories to pepper my sales. Some self-deprecating, some shared interest, some environmental – the whole gamut.

Turns out, mixing in some entertainment with sales haymakers was a winning combination. Not everyone is an entertainer. I’m no Sebastian Maniscalco.   As Jimmy Breslin taught us, the best way to tell the news is to get out of the building. In sales, the best way to sell product is to get out of the building…and the product is the building.      




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Here’s my take on these three important engines of commerce. 

Sales is responsible for making money hit the bank account. When sales are good everyone in C-suite is happy. Sales people like patterns; if something works they will use it. Sales people like air cover so that prospects know who they are and what they do, even before they arrive. Sales people like leads, but they have to be great leads. And they like good support in the areas of communications, delivery and aftercare.

Operations is responsible for logistics. When products and services are procured, delivered and serviced in a frictionless environment, the C-suite is happy.  Operations is not just loading dock stuff, it’s about interdepartmental efficiency.  When operations are fluid and systematized, problems are dealt with quickly, minimizing hiccups and reducing negative impact on profits.

Strategy done well, is the traffic cop that makes sales and operation more fruitful.  Strategy is not mission, however. Every major league baseball team has a mission. Win games. Score more runs than the other team.  Every company has a mission. Make more money than you spend.  Make more money than the competition.  In Army parlance, the mission might be “take Hamburger Hill.”  The strategy on the other hand is how to take that hill.  

All strategy and no sales makes Jack a poor boy. All three areas need to perform together in order to create sustainable success. Now you don’t have to go out and buy Jack Welch’s books.  Go forth, Peace!

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I had a good day yesterday.  Meetings in SoHo, Union Square Park and Park Avenue South.  All the smart people I spoke with and listened to were in the selling business. One gentleman sold brand strategy and ideas, though he had a hard time telling me what his functional title was. Another couple of guys were in the “experience” business, with those experiences spanning online, offline and inline media. They, too, agreed it was hard to explain their company Is-Does. And the last group, a panel at the Brandhackers Meetup, was all about digital advertising: media planning, research, analytics automation, and creative.

What was interesting to me, fascinating really, was that they all understood and agreed with the Foster, Bias & Sales model of marketing. Their tools and areas of marketing influence may have been different, but everyone understood that marketing is about creating a positive atmosphere for healthy growth (Foster), establishing a predisposition toward the product or service (positive Bias) and creating action (Sales).  Sure, the digital ad people at Brandhackers may have peppered their talk with KPIs (key performance indicators) and soft mealy measures, but they had all been around the block enough to know that Sales is da monies.

I always wanted to open an ad agency called Foster, Bias and Sales.  It was a great strategy.  The Problem was, and is, that ad agencies are not best at providing the Foster, Bias & Sales continuum. Integrated shops are. The tool kit is overflowing and very exciting.  Clients were the first to see it…they just don’t know how to manage it.  Now agencies need to deliver. Peace!

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Where do key marketing insights come from? Where does creative inspiration come from? Where do sales come from? Nice questions, no?

Key market insights come from people (consumers or business buyers) and market data. Market data, however, is just an aggregation of consumer activity and the patterns they throw off. 

Creative inspiration, in this machine that is the marketing and agency business, comes from the creative brief. Where on the brief?  Many would like think it jumps from the boiled down “selling idea,” “key thought,” or “engagement trigger” — whatever it’s called these days. But realistically it comes from anywhere on the brief.  Inspiring creative people can’t be mapped, it just happens. People are complicated.

And sales? Sales come from stores, catalogs and websites but really from the hands and minds of people.  

So duh, the common denominator in this serial journey to a sale is people.  The most effective marketing teams are those who make all three legs of this stool work together.

This is your silo issue, not revenue by agency type or department.  It’s not about break though work. It’s not about sales spikes. Or the most powerful media tactic or database.  It’s about getting people to see patterns, inspire others, and learn what sells in a specific category – then forming a community around the brand that fosters those activities. Agencies come and go. Campaigns come and go. Communities (unless you’re the Aztecs) not so much. Peace!

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