Treat Your Sales Force as a Marketing Channel

Even a small sales force costs more than most small or midsize businesses spend annually on marketing. Optimize yours and make it a marketing channel that efficiently drives new business and grows revenue.

Business owners often squirm in their seats when having to decide whether hiring a full-time marketing manager or deploying paid media campaigns are worth the financial risk. Often, every dollar spent on marketing comes under intense scrutiny, whereas money spent on the salaries and commissions for the sales team is something of an afterthought. In fact, your sales force—not your advertising budget—should be thought of as your most expensive marketing channel for growing your business.

Even a small team of five salespeople easily accounts for at least $500,000 in annual salaries, overhead, benefits, and bonuses. That’s a good deal more than most small or midsize businesses spend annually on marketing. This money is often allocated inefficiently if the sales force is not optimized to sell in the same way that a marketing channel is.

Your company’s marketing plan is its blueprint for increasing sales. Your sales force must become an extension of that plan in order to sell the right products or services to the right customers at the right time in the right way. Even the most perfectly laid out marketing plan is worthless if the salespeople do not understand their role in bringing it to life.

Turn your sales force into a robust marketing channel

Like any other marketing channel, your company’s sales force must be integrated into the customer experience. Customers today won’t tolerate fragmented engagement across various channels. Sales and marketing must become one. Leads and customers will expect your sales force to know them by the time they make contact, and your sales force can benefit from marketing’s data about prospects.

Your sales team must become an integrated, consistent player in the customer decision journey, but it can only do so if the salespeople understand your marketing strategy and know what is expected of them. There is no reason for them to spend their days putting together samples or dealing with low-priority customers. Management must demand more from salespeople and provide them with the planning and structure for them to succeed.

Set clear expectations

You must demand that your company’s sales force become a well-oiled machine in the same way that you would expect flawless execution of marketing campaigns in the other various channels.

This requires putting in place metrics. Your sales team should review KPIs, such as the number of prospect meetings, the number of sales calls, the number of in-person appointments, and customer retention rates, on at least a monthly basis. Salespeople’s time should then be allocated in order to achieve the desired levels of these KPIs.

As you optimize your sales team’s time, ask the following questions:

  • Does each salesperson have a clearly defined sales calendar in place for the upcoming quarter?
  • Are my company’s sales activities aligned with its marketing and its business objectives?
  • In each salesperson’s day, are there inefficiencies that need to be reviewed and corrected?
  • Are there clearly defined metrics in place to judge and hold the salespeople accountable for their efforts?
  • Is the sales force equipped with the right tools, such as CRM software, pitch presentations, and other marketing assets, to convert prospects into customers?
  • Are we mining data about existing customers for cross-selling and upselling opportunities?

These questions will enable you to dig deeper into the nitty-gritty of your sales effort. In the process, you’re sure to uncover some of the lowest-hanging fruit for driving new business and increasing revenue growth.

Standardize and then customize your sales process

Ultimately, you should develop a universal process for your company’s sales people. All salespeople should follow the same optimized process and be equipped with the necessary materials (e.g., sales literature) to do so.

They should also be held to metrics-based standards. These KPIs should be part of an overarching sales strategy that focuses on your company’s business priorities. If your company’s number one business priority is increasing orders from existing customers, your salespeople need to know that so that they can focus on retention, cross selling, and upselling.

Just like the marketing team targets certain types of people (customer personas) in certain ways, the sales force should focus on customizing the sales process. CRM and marketing automation give the marketing and sales teams a better idea of who your company’s customers are. These insights can help salespeople to optimize each conversation with a customer or prospect.

In-the-trenches takeaway

Sit down with your sales team. Review the salespeople’s schedules and the sales calendars. Are the salespeople using their time wisely? Are they focusing on the right priorities? Do they have a monthly customer and prospect calendar for which they are accountable? If such a structure isn’t currently in place, develop one. Look at their metrics. Are their efforts being tracked and measured? Are they looking at the right KPIs? Are they using a CRM to improve their interactions with prospects and customers? Work with the sales team to ensure that they have quantitative goals for sales growth, new customers, and client happiness. If you give salespeople the structure, marketing assets, support, and guidance that they need and hold them accountable in regular meetings, your company will maximize its marketing dollars and will be better positioned for top-line growth.