Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

I’ve been working on a lot of Lean manufacturing articles lately, so the topic is on my mind. Pull systems and efficient throughput are key premises in Lean Manufacturing. So are the concepts of elimination of non-valued activity and variation. Yet, companies who embrace these principles on their manufacturing floors may not embrace them in their account acquisition process.

In uncertain economic times, marketing budget is often the first thing to be cut. The assumption is that if the sales team works a little harder, they will still get in doors. In EMS, a long sales cycle contributes to the popularity of this premise because it can be difficult to track the relationship between advertising and the sales that result from it, since those sales may be occurring over a year after the campaign runs.

But if we look at account acquisition as a process (as is done in my book Find It. Book It. Grow It.), it becomes easier to see how marketing drives a pull system. A company with a solid brand identity and a strategic plan for regularly delivering content that reinforces that brand to the target market is actually “pulling” best fit leads from the total target market. It is also minimizing variation in prospect perception of the brand by sending out a very consistent message. These prospects have been attracted to the company because they are shopping for a supplier and identify with the solutions presented through ads, white papers, articles, webinars, short videos, conference presentations or e-newsletters. A good marketing program will link content to which require registration for access to the material, and will have a strong lead qualification and follow-up mechanism.A salesperson’s job is simple in these cases. Call on a the lead who is in sourcing mode, qualify the account, figure out what keeps the decision team up at night and present the solution.

Comparatively, with no marketing presence a salesperson does all the work. Typically, getting into an account that doesn’t know your company involves several calls to determine who makes outsourcing decisions, determining whether or not the company is currently in a new supplier search, convincing an overworked sourcing manager to schedule an appointment, introducing the company, and finally building enough of a relationship to get the decision team to be candid about what really keeps them up at night. The consistency of your “brand” may vary based on the skill of the salesperson in describing your company’s key points of value. In short, there is much more time and effort involved when the company you are trying to make contact with has no idea who your company is. If you add the cost of salesperson cold calling time, extra trips to simply introduce the company and lower win percentage because your brand is lesser known than companies who are strongly marketing competencies prospects are looking for, and you have the budget for a good marketing campaign.

If you are still not convinced, here are some symptoms of an inefficient sales process:

  • Quote-to-win ratio at 20% or less
  • Prospects tell your team they aren’t looking and then source to a competitor three months later
  • Many accounts with little forward movement beyond a sales call or initial RFQ
  • Prospects want detailed pricing breakdowns but won’t share information on the competitive playing field
  • No understanding of why your company loses business
  • Only win accounts when you deeply discount price.

If you are interested in exploring ways to improve your account acquisition process or better train your team, contact me directly at smucha@powell-muchaconsulting.com or visit: www.powell-muchaconsulting.com.

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