How to get sales accept your database marketing program

MarkPrice “The sales team rejected the initiative entirely,” my client told me, “they said they had too much to do already and could not handle anything else.”

“So what are we going to do with our new segmentation?”

I had this conversation recently with one client; actually I have had this conversation in one form or another, with three clients over the past month.

Each of these clients are facing similar problems:

  • Found gold in the numbers — Insights from customer  data analysis have identified “low hanging fruit” — opportunities that Sales can take to drive incremental revenue and  customer retention.
  • Not enough blocking and tackling in the field — A retail sales organization that is struggling to execute on the basics — just greet the customer, take care of them and sell the right products
  • Impatient management needing results — Management that is demanding justification for the marketing investment, and demanding it NOW, as well as really needing any incremental revenue at all

Each client “has the religion” and presented a series of initiatives to the field organization, only to be rejected due to the current strain on the field to achieve basic levels of operations.

So what to do? Should Marketing just give up and take their lumps for an analysis effort that will only potentially yield results in Year 2?

No, I don’t think so. You see, I like my clients and they are more fun to be around when they have their jobs and are successful.

All joking aside, the approach we have seen used successfully ties closely to change management principles. You see, the problem with the field organization is NOT that they are too busy; they are always too busy for an additional assignment with no clear benefit to them. If they believe they can increase sales and their paychecks, let me tell you, they WILL find a way to fit the effort in.

They don’t believe because there is no proof. Despite Marketing’s enthusiasm and convictions, their recommendations are only more work until they prove out. No one will believe today without cold, hard numbers showing more cash — there is no time available to just play anymore — the economy is too hard.

Start small with a carefully thought out test and nurture your initiative, and then Marketing will not have to promote the results to the field organization — let the successful salespeople promote it to Sales. They have the most credibility, anyway.

How do you get there?

  1. Find a partner in the sales organization — someone who is an early adopter, but has some “street cred” with the rest of the field.
  2. Create a small test program to prove out the concept.
  3. Measure the test program vs. a  control group, to better demonstrate a clear business lift
  4. Spend time on how to scale the initiative before announcing it, to avoid the early intro “torpedo”
  5. Let the field sales team be the voice of the initiative — stay in the background and provide support, but let Sales sell — after all, that is what they do best.

So to win, you have to plant an acorn, water it and show what comes up. Then you will have earned permission to plant a forest.

Mark Price is Managing Partner at M Squared Group. He is a
leader, writer, speaker and consultant on how to increase revenue by retaining
and growing Best Customers by improving their experience. His particular
concentration is “bricks and clicks” — businesses that engage their customers
through the web and through a physical contact (retail or saleforces). Before
founding M Squared Group, Mark was the practice leader for customer
intelligence for Zamba Solutions. Mark also blogs on and is a father, husband,
tennis player, skier and fanatic science fiction/fantasy reader.

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