Last week I had the opportunity to attend Sales Hacker’s Sales Stack 2015 conference in San Francisco, California. In one sales content-packed day, industry experts covered topics ranging from scaling sales organizations and leading sales teams to social selling best practices and even how to grow 20% month over month. Regardless of what the session was, there were two undercurrents, two common threads that kept weaving their way throughout every single conversation:
1) aligning sales and marketing, and
2) putting your focus back on the customer.
While the conversation at Sales Stack was almost exclusively focused on direct sales, those of us in the channel know that sales is still sales and customers are still customers, and the call for sales evolution is just as loud (if not louder) in the channel. After all, 75% of all goods and services flow through indirect sales and marketing channels, and if we look at the IT industry alone, this accounts for over 230 billion dollars each year. That’s right — $230 billion.
So, of course, as I absorbed the sales, marketing and customer messages that emanated from some of the best minds in the business, I couldn’t help but think about how those messages resonate within the channel. And, there were three in particular that are aching to belong in your channel sales and marketing strategy:
“Start thinking about others instead of yourself”
This isn’t just a “feel good” type of message that would make Mother Theresa proud. In sales and marketing, you should always be thinking about others, and those “others” are your customers. Without customers, your business ceases to exist. If you’re not thinking about your customers at the start of every single sales and marketing activity, you’re absolutely missing the mark. In the channel, we’re one more step removed from those customers, so it can be just that much easier to lose focus and forget to consider the customer in our channel sales and marketing strategy.
“Give reps a playbook that’s simple.”
In Elizabethan theatre, a playbook was just that: a book with the script of a play that clearly outlines the exact words each actor should speak, the stage directions that tell the actors how and where to move, and the scenic, lighting and sound designs that describe how the entire event should look, feel and sound. Oh, and in case I lost you at “Elizabethan theatre,” we can also talk football. Those playbooks contain descriptions of all the plays and strategies used by a team, often accompanied by diagrams, issued to players for them to study and memorize before the season begins. Theatre/football — it’s all the same, right? The playbooks contain words that tell the participants what to do and how to do it.
Sales playbooks must be clear, easy to understand, and simple to execute. Moreover, sales playbooks should not be limited to direct sales teams. The resellers, distributors and agents in your indirect sales channel are perhaps in greater need of simple sales playbooks to help them help your customers.
“Today’s buyer is empowered with information. And if sales is about being where your buyers are, those buyers have changed, and companies need to adapt.”
It’s critical to understand what your buyer’s journey look likes in your organization so you can align your sales and marketing strategies to harmonize with that journey. Your customers are not floating through life waiting for you to point out the gap in their business so you can fill it. Today’s buyer self-transitions through stages of awareness, consideration and decision almost entirely before your sales team has had a chance to connect. It is foolish of us as sales and marketing professionals to sit and wait at the finish line. Successful sales and marketing teams are in lock-step with their buyers, adding value to the journey and supporting each stage with relevant content. And, since we’ve got the indirect sales channel generating the majority of our customers (and revenue), we must empower our indirect sales teams with the right tools, training and resources so they can support our customers throughout that journey.