Secret Sauce for Selling Across Disparate Sales Channels

September 6, 2018

By Paula Tompkins

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It's an occupational hazard for CMOs: A swirling matrix of sales channels targeting multiple and disparate buyers. The situation applies to chief marketers for B2C and B2B companies as well as hybrid B2B2C firms. However, regardless of the type of business model it's a challenge for senior marketers to generate new revenue. And, in a post-digital age, it seems to be getting tougher.

Take an automotive manufacturer with a new car to sell. The company's sales force fans across the country to gauge the appetite among dealerships. But that's just one sales channel. Individual sales managers also work with engineers at the dealership to make sure they're reselling parts and services and finance executives to develop loan plans for customers and prospects.

The manufacturer's marketing team might provide some sales lift by arranging a few promotional events and/or media interviews with C-level executives, but it's pretty much on the sidelines. The scenario can be applied to most any business with multiple sales tentacles. So how do CMOs change the game?

In order to have a bigger influence on the sales process — and boost their value in the eyes of C-suite executives — senior marketing executives must develop online programs that can drive loyalty across multiple and fragmented sales models.

At Hyundai Capital America, for example, the company's marketing department developed an online portal that all the various sales departments working within the automotive company's dealerships tap into for market intelligence. Marketing, not sales, owns the portal. (Full disclosure: Hyundai Capital America is ChannelNet client.)

CMOs need to think of a portal as a rolling home office that stores all the sales information that used to live independently, such as content stemming from face-to-face meetings, email correspondences and white papers, as well as sales tools indigenous to the specific industry. Sales executives who live outside the four walls should be able to easily access all the information using just one password while toggling from one sales channel to another ought to be seamless.

But there's a lot of legwork involved getting the portal up and running and making sure sales executives are capitalizing on it. Here are a few ways to execute:

  1. Develop focus groups to inform content and functionality of portal. Marketers first need to set up individual focus groups with all the company's top sales executives. The focus groups must be conducted in-person so marketing executives can put content and/or work-flow programs in front of salespeople and get their reaction yea or nay. The overall goal is for marketers to gain a better understanding of sales executives' pain points: Who are the specific sales executives' typical customers? What are their needs? How do they like to receive information? The key here is differentiation and segmentation. A salesperson working, say, the floor of an automotive dealer has different needs than sales executives who traffic in parts and labor. Whatever the sales discipline, marketers must develop content that caters to a specific sales cohort. Show samples of sales content and demonstrate usability. Make sure the content is originally produced. Don't create a link farm. Functionality is also crucial. Sales execs want to run quick pricing calculations and determine who's eligible for discounts. To populate the portal effectively, marketers to have an "outside, in" mindset, rather than "inside, out."
  2. Harness data analytics. CMOs have to harness data analytics to determine how the end users are tapping into the system, per the specific sales channel. Staying with the automotive field, are engineers getting the specific information they want? How often are VPs of dealerships engaging the portal? To bolster the analytics, adopt mapping technology to gauge where certain users hover online. Is it over a calculator? A list of prospects? Leveraging data analytics is a great way for marketers to listen closely for what sales executives need without physically accompanying them on sales calls. The benefits of using the portal, at least on paper, are more business for sales executives, less busywork and cost-additional efficiencies. That raises the visibility of CMOs, who could be rewarded with bigger marketing budgets.
  3. Buy in from the tippy top. None of this happens unless CMOs have a champion within the sales organization who has a seat at the table. CMOs can create alliances by being able to articulate the need to transform their company from a paper-driven company to a digital-first operation. The key to transformation, of course, is getting all the sales and marketing information digitized, sorted, and packaged according to the specific sales channel. Once the portal is up and running it should help sales executives, regardless of where they sit in the organizational chart, to create a smoother path to the top and bottom lines.

By organizing the company's sales-and-marketing related information into an online repository, CMOs enable disparate and often fragmented sales channels to sell more effectively. As sales channels grow and sales executives demand more digital ammo CMOs who remain on the sidelines could be left behind.

In a post-digital age, customers no longer have time to be wined and dined by sales executives. They want push-button access to organized, tangible information that's going to help them do their job better or improve their life. Sales execs are vested in facilitating such information. CMOs have the opportunity to steer the engagement altogether. Buckle up.

 

Paula Tompkins is founder and CEO of ChannelNet, a SaaS company specializing in customer acquisition and retention.

 


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


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