“We don’t have time to do marketing work because we are overwhelmed with sales support,” the marketing team will tell you.

You’re inclined to believe them.

You can see that the majority of the marketing team’s time is consumed with direct, tactical sales support instead of with the real marketing work of defining winning products and positioning them to secure more customers at higher prices.

They are stuck on the sales-support treadmill. This must be fixed, but how?

The Difference between Marketing and Sales

Many people mistakenly think that sales and marketing are the same. As a result, they don’t even recognize when their marketing team is stuck on the sales-support treadmill. The two functions are different, but they are both necessary for long-term success of the capital equipment enterprise. The most succinct way to describe the difference between marketing and sales is:

  • Marketing creates demand.
  • Sales creates orders.

Marketing is everything that you do to create demand for your product. This encompasses defining products that will win as well as positioning their value and advantages in the market. Without marketing, you would not have products to sell or prospects to sell them too. To do their job, the marketing team:

  • Identifies unmet needs in the market.
  • Defines products that will satisfy market requirements and beat the competition.
  • Establishes the product’s value and position in the market.
  • Creates and deploys selling tools.

Selling on the other hand, is the process of turning demand into an order. Without sales, you would not be able to convert prospects into customers. To do their job the salesperson:

  • Creates and builds relationships with the prospect.
  • Tailors the product’s value proposition and positioning to the individual prospect’s perspective
  • Closes the sale.

The roles of marketing and sales are indeed different. Success requires that both jobs be done well.

Stuck on the Treadmill Symptoms

Just as sniffles and a cough indicate the onset of a cold, there are also clear symptoms that indicate that a marketing function is stuck on the sales-support treadmill. The symptoms include:

  • Nearly all their customer visits are for tactical sales support.
  • Specification responses can only be completed by the product expert.
  • Every product presentation is a custom creation for a specific customer.
  • The best presentations are still on their hard drives.
  • Sales constantly calls with questions about the standard product.

Ask your marketing managers to think about the last time they spent days on a presentation, demo, or specification response to help one salesperson close one deal. Now contrast that to the time spent developing programs to create demand across your entire target market. They’re stuck on the sales-support treadmill if they spend the majority of their time driving a single customer to adopt your solution rather than the whole market.

Root Cause

When none of the marketing infrastructure is in place, a salesperson will always drag in the product expert to directly support the selling effort. If demand hasn’t been properly established and the selling tools haven’t been developed, he has no choice. The root cause of a marketing function being stuck on the sales-support treadmill is that the marketing work has not been done.

Now imagine if …

  • Your product and position were well established in the market.
  • Your sales materials articulated a compelling value proposition with multiple levels of material, data, and case studies to prove it.
  • Your sales materials addressed all of the key questions, objections, and issues that customers raise in the sales process.
  • Your product specification answered 90 percent of line items in a customer’s request for quotation.
  • Access to those sales presentations and support materials were easy for the salesperson.
  • You had a robust and continuous sales force product training program.

If the above were true in your organization, you can bet that the level of tactical support the sales team required from the marketing team would fall dramatically. To step off the sales-support treadmill, you must get your marketing infrastructure in place.

Getting Off the Treadmill

If at this point you’ve determined that your marketing team is in fact stuck on the treadmill, don’t reach for that emergency stop button.

The marketing team has made itself a critical part of the order-closing machine. If you stop supporting sales cold turkey, orders could come to a grinding halt. Fixing this situation will require a gradual shift from sales support to true marketing. To do this, the marketing team will need to follow these three steps:

  1. Determine which sales support activity is creating the biggest time sink.
  2. Fix it.
  3. Go back to number 1.

These projects might include developing specification documents, presentations, training programs, and quoting tools. Include anything that would enable the sales force to get the support that they need without pulling product experts directly into the process.

At first, the marketing team will struggle to find the time to work on these structural improvements. But each time they go through the three steps, they’ll gradually reduce their time on the sales-support treadmill and thereby create more time for programs that will generate demand from the whole market.

Since the “urgent” has a tendency to overwhelm the “important,” you are going to need a management and control system that ensures the marketing team is steadily weaning itself off the sales-support treadmill.

For example, if you had a routine of quarterly sales training events, you could use these events as deadlines for each incremental improvement in your marketing infrastructure. You could then build a continuous improvement process around this deadline like the one shown in figure below.



Why it’s Important

Superstar equipment marketing managers are hard to find. These folks are often a rare combination of product expert, strategist, leader, and communicator. When you have got one, you want to get as much leverage as you can from him or her.

There’s no denying that directly applying the company’s premier product expert to a sales opportunity will help that one situation. But if every order requires this top gun to directly touch each step along the way, your total sales will be limited by her bandwidth. It’s just not a scalable model.

You’ll get much more leverage from your top marketing talent when they are creating the strategies, products, and infrastructure that will capture sales from across the entire market.