Many in competitive intelligence, marketing, research and product development complain about poor communication from their sales force, who has a direct conduit to your customers—one of the best sources of knowledge about what your company is doing right and wrong as well as ideas for new products, services and tweaks to your existing products that can be revenue generating!
So how do you encourage cooperative communication from Sales?
1. Give to Get
This is a golden rule with any person or group that you deal with, but especially with Sales who has a very short attention span. You need to feed them snippets and golden nuggets which help them sell. I can’t tell you what they are: you have to figure that out since it changes constantly. But responsiveness and a cooperative attitude of giving, along with supplying those nuggets, will convince Sales that you’re worth giving back to.
2. Teach Sales How to Give
As you provide Sales with golden nuggets, teach them how to give. One way I have been successful is by teaching sales people elicitation skills. This means creating a purposeful conversation to get customers to share what they know about the competition, innovation, and improvements to your products and services—including customer service.
Oh, and by the way, elicitation skills help Sales close more deals, sooner, which is the value proposition to Sales. In my sales experience, customers are almost waiting to be asked since it’s human nature to want to teach, share and correct you. However, beware, as your sales force starts asking, your customers will also be asking more about your future products and services. Make sure Sales is armed with the right information to share at the right time!
3. Make it Easy for Sales to Share
This is the downfall of many organizations. They make it hard for Sales to share. What are they already sharing through their sales process that you can access? Can your information sharing be tacked onto what they already do? Can you set up a tips line, so they can just call it in? Text it in? Email it in?
4. Acknowledge Sales Contribution
Go beyond Thank-You. Write up the best sales tips in your company magazine, Intranet site—wherever is most likely to be noticed and read. Get on the agenda for sales force gatherings such as conference calls and meetings where you can share the good news about great tippers that individual sales people have given, and specifically cite how they have helped. Write their boss and/or Sales VP about their contribution.
5. Share Share Share
Go the next step and set up a mechanism to share tippers you hear from one sales person to your sales force. This can be high tech if your company is set up that way, but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to top contributing sales people to get clarification and insight that goes beyond information sharing. Share that insight with your sales force, marketing, product developers and whoever else will benefit from this insight, AND acknowledge that sales person or sales team.
My shameless sales plugs.
1. AMA’s Spring Marketing Workshop (April 6-8): I will be leading a workshop (April 6) which teaches sales elicitation skills among other best practices to improve sales and marketing’s productivity.
2. AIIP’s annual conference (April 6-10): I will be sharing a poster session (April 7) on how I have reinvented myself in my 18 years in business from primary research collector to win loss collection and analysis to workshops such as elicitation which empowers Sales to close more deals and provides companies with needed sales intelligence.