The Cranky Sales Engineer has been truly touched by the tales of abuse heaped upon his brethren in Marketing (see the Cranky Marketer Posts). Sitting among a din of the kind of violin music that must surely accompany such tales of woe, the Cranky Sales Engineer helps in the only way he can. So, to wit, here is The Cranky Sales Engineer’s Guide for Marketing: How to Get the Respect of Sales.
There is ONE major issue the marketing person must understand in order to gain the respect of Sales. This understanding is easier to come by when one has actually worked in sales (hint: never use the phrase, “well I’ve never been in sales myself” to try to influence a sales person), but a marketing person who has never carried a bag or a number can still work to intellectually understand the issue.
The marketing person must understand the massive, crushing, and depressing rate of failure that goes into every sale, especially a sale to a new account. For a smaller product, you typically call 100 people to find 10 who have some need for the product, but just one who will be able to negotiate the budgetary hurdles necessary to buy the product.
For larger deals (larger being B2B deals of a million dollars or more) a sales person must find at least three million dollars of potential business to guarantee one million dollars of revenue. The other two million will be lost to budget cuts, organizational changes, and competition.
Unless you can understand, in your gut, the true and alarming rarity of a real deal with real revenue behind it, you will not be able to truly gain the respect of a sales person whose personal fortune is tied to bringing that rare real deal through to closure. Unless you truly get what the sales team is dealing with or asking for, you will be deemed irrelevant to the process of success and shunted aside. You gain respect, by making the rare live deal happen. Here are something things to do to gain respect:
Tell the Truth
If a product is not going to be ready in time for the deal, tell the sales person it won’t be ready. If a feature won’t be out, tell the sales person it won’t be out. You know what will happen if you do that? You will probably get yelled at. Because the sales person has sifted through three tons of dreck to find this one live deal and now you’re saying we don’t have the product the customer is asking for.
When that happens, suck it up and step back. Let the storm pass and find out why the customer wants the feature. See if you can get to the solution a different way. If you can’t give a firm, real, date for when the feature will ship. Be pessimistic, but be right.
Deliver on Time
If you are the kind of person who delivers when you say you will, the Cranky Sales Engineer can build mountains with you. But if you don’t deliver, you are just another problem to be managed or worked around. Being a problem is not the road to respect.
Work in Field Time not Factory Time
Things happen fast in the field. When a customer asks a question, a clock starts. A fast clock. A clock that wants an answer in a day. A clock that cannot wait for everyone to get together and have a meeting to discuss the question, and that meeting will happen next week because that’s when we have that meeting, and no, Cranky Sales Engineer, you can’t tell the customer anything before that meeting, because it will probably be wrong, and yes you’ll have to stand out there, with your thumb up your ass, looking like an idiot because we can’t move any faster than getting an answer to you in a week.
The field works fast. If you want respect, you need to work fast too.
Folks in marketing have a handicap when it comes to gaining respect. The things they do are just so damn intangible that its hard to say whether marketing has gone well or gone poorly. This is a handicap when it comes to dealing with the Cranky Sales Engineer who is measured on hard dollars and being connected to successful deals. The Cranky Sales Engineer doesn’t have time to figure out if marketing is really working.
Instead, the Cranky Sales Engineer has been called into an account because, after hundreds of phone calls, and dozens of meetings a sales person has found a real live wiggling deal that could actually result in some money. And now, at this crucial point, the sales person needs the Cranky Sales Engineer to make the product hum and demonstrate to the customer that the CSE’s company is worth the money.
This is when marketing can earn the respect of the sales force, by recognizing the difficulty of finding a real deal and responding quickly and accurately when a deal presents itself.
Marketers who recognizes the difficulty of finding a real opportunity and responds to calls for help with urgency and accuracy will be respected.
The rest will be ignored.