John Gray's best-selling 1992 book "Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus" argued that men and women have "differences between their needs, desires, and behaviors."
In many ways, the same thing can be said about your sales team when compared to other functions, like marketing, within your business. The folks in sales are a different breed, and that's a good thing (except for when they guzzle Red Bull at 6 am during end-of-quarter madness. Not healthy.)
In fact, your sales team is perhaps your most critical partner when working with an external ad agency. After all, your ad agency, at least from the outset, doesn't know much about your business. Who is best-equipped to educate them around your customers' needs, demographics, and concerns? (We'll give you three guesses.) Time's up: it's your sales team.
But that doesn't mean aligning your sales team and your ad agency is an easy thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. What resonates in the world of sales may fall flat in the world of marketing. Sales people thrive on personal, one-on-one interactions, whereas your blog, while interesting, can't replicate that level of intimacy (although some have tried.) Sales people can effectively articulate complex ideas to customers in a showroom, but social media thrives on brevity; it's much harder to explain the intricacies of a lease agreement in 140 characters on Twitter.
So there's an inherent disconnect here which begs the question: how can you ensure that your sales team and agency are on the same page? To help answer that question, we present five key principles of an effective sales/agency relationship:
- Understand and Articulate Your Customer. The relationship between the sales team and the agency resembles a pendulum. In this crucial first step, it swings towards the sales team: they must educate the agency about the customers they'll be targeting. This is critical because it will influence both the "voice" the agency adopts to reach these customers and the social media channels with which to do it. For example, take the concept of "objection handling." It's a term familiar to sales people whereby they spell out all the ways in which a prospect could refuse an offer. By anticipating these "objections" (e.g. an expensive car) they can craft a sales pitch accordingly, essentially circumventing the objection before it occurs. Your agency needs to know this stuff - it will help them create more compelling marketing campaigns.
- Find a Voice and Run With It. With a deep knowledge of your customers, the agency can develop a "voice" that will pervade all campaigns and tactics. Take the blog, for example: what is the "voice" of the blog - casual? Formal? What kind of voice will best incentivize readers to act? The answers, of course, depend on your customers.
- Make a Plan Focused on Channels, Content, and Frequency. By this point your agency is dialed in to customer needs and demographics. They've also developed a unique voice that can speak to customers and prospects. So the next step in aligning your sales team and your ad agency is to put the plan in writing. What should the plan include? First, work with the agency to select the most effective delivery channels (e.g. blog, Facebook, Twitter, home page, unique promotions, paid ads.) Second, identify the kind of content that will populate these channels (e.g. will the agency write the blog, but leave Facebook posts to the sales team?) And third, codify how often these steps will occur (e.g. you'll publish a new blog three times a week; Tweet twice a week, etc.) In this step the pendulum will swing back towards the agency as they're more attuned to the nuts and bolts of marketing and what tactics are best for what business.
- Build in Metrics at the Outset. Sales people love numbers and metrics, so assign some measurement to the partnership. Ultimately you need to look at each channel and campaign and ask yourselves, "What constitutes success?" New sales? Collecting prospect emails? Generating leads? A simple example is an email blast announcing, say, a new promotion. It should include a bold call to action to get customers to your site immediately. And since you can track who subsequently visits your site, it's relatively easy to measure these types of conversions.
- Measure, Refine, Deploy, Repeat. Not all campaigns will work like a charm from the outset. However, armed with the ability to measure your successes, your sales team and the agency can calibrate your efforts accordingly.
Now is there more to aligning your Sales team and your ad agency than what you've just read? Of course. But if companies stay true to these important principles, we're confident they'll have a stronger, more aligned partnership with their ad agency. What we can't promise, however, is that these principles will in any way whatsoever smooth out the intractable differences between men and women. We'll leave that to John Gray.
Good luck with that.