“I’m gonna tell you something you’d know if you’d ever spent a day in your life [in Sales]: You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” – Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross (film)
A few months ago, I started a role heading up marketing at an amazing tech start-up, LogicMonitor. In that time, I’ve sat through a fair number of sales pitches as a prospect of marketing tools and services. Most of those pitches included current or former marketing professionals on the other end of the phone.
And I’ve noticed something about the marketing folks on sales pitches: most of you don’t seem to know what you’re doing. Even seasoned marketing execs seem to fall prey to mistakes that are slapped out of entry level sales people in their first year carrying a bag.
If you’re in Marketing and someone in Sales has asked you to jump onto a call with a prospect, please don’t make these rookie moves:
- The 90 slide Powerpoint deck – There’s something you should know about marketing people when we’re under stress and don’t know what else to do: we churn out Powerpoint slides. There’s something cathartic that seems like productivity when throwing your ideas into Powerpoint. I can almost see the glee on the faces of the Marketing folks as they lay out their genius on slide after slide before the sales call.But you’ve got to remember: someone is going to have to sit through your endless slide deck, awash with vague platitudes about your unique value proposition, mission and vision. Or worse, they’ll refuse to sit through it much to the chagrin of the Sales guy who is kicking himself because he sent you the invitation to the pitch meeting.Tip: Limit yourself to 3 slides. If you can’t tell a prospect what is unique and special about your company in 3 slides, you’re probably not trying hard enough. And I’m not talking about using a tiny 8 point font and cramming your entire Website into those three slides. You’re going to have to make hard choices.I suggest having a slide showing what makes you different in the Marketplace (maximum 3 bullet points), how you’re going to solve the prospect’s pain points and help them achieve their goals (Don’t know these things? See mistake number 3 below) and have a slide with your customer list. Don’t have any customers? Great. You only need two slides.
- Get to the damn demo – This is closely related to the infinite Powerpoint deck from Tip 1. Your prospects just want to understand what your solution will do for them. A couple of weeks ago, I sat through a presentation from a darling in the tech space and after what felt like hours of generalities about how their solution was going to cost-effectively drive leads using all the latest buzzwords (SEO! Content! Syndication! Integrated Marketing Best Practices!) the rest of the folks in the room with me (the prospects) began checking their cell phones and twitching and wiggling in their seats. “And, we can help you optimize your conversion funnel by integrating all of this into Marketing Automation so that one marketing program manager can do the job of 10!”, crowed the vendor. More wiggling and sighs from our side. “Our proprietary technology fully automates the process of identifying and delivering the content your target customer segments most want at the appropriate point in the customer journey!” Just as I was about to freak out and say that we’d had enough and couldn’t assess a product that they refused to show, the Salesperson on the other end somehow seemed to sense that something was wrong and suggested, “Why don’t we just jump into the interface and show you how it works?”All of the people in room with me cried out, simultaneously, “Yes! That would probably be best.”Tip: Don’t tell. Show. And if you can craft the demo to the customer’s unique needs or personalize it based on things that they’ve told you in advance (see Tip 3 for details), you get bonus points.
- The boring old vanilla presentation – If you, as a marketing professional, walk into a presentation to a prospect with no knowledge about them and start reading the bullet points from your standard Powerpoint deck to them, you have already failed.You didn’t do any research on the prospect company or the execs who would be on the phone on LinkedIn beforehand. You didn’t start by asking them what problem they were trying to solve. How can you craft a presentation to speak to their pain points, if you don’t know what they are? How do you include case study slides about customers like them, who you’ve helped, if you don’t know anything about their industry, product or situation?Tip: This is where you get to push the Sales guy to do his job. Get them to find out why the prospect is looking for a solution before you agree to accept the invitation. And spend some time making sure that what you plan to present addresses your prospect’s pain. I guarantee that your conversation will be more productive.
A lot of sales pitches turn into slow-motion train wrecks. Things go wrong whenever different groups need to coordinate and Marketing and Sales have not always played well together. But they should. Both are tasked with delivering the company’s solution to the marketplace and helping their company drive revenue growth.
So, if you are in Marketing, I hope you’ll do your part to build up enough skill that Sales doesn’t want to kill you after the sales call. Working together will mean more customers for you to feature in case studies, more commissions for your buddies in Sales and a higher value for shareholders. It all starts with you curbing your Powerpoint addiction, asking a few questions and talking to Sales once in a while. Good luck! Now let’s get out there and win some customers!