Is Your Marketing Message Making It to Your Sales Team?

“Great customer service”, “Technology leader”, “Vertically Integrated”, “No Job Too Small”; in order to be concise with our message to the marketplace, we spend many hours and dollars on catch phrases that we think best captures the essence of our product or service. The question is does the sales process do the same?

Over nearly 20 years of working with manufacturing and industrial companies, I have witnessed the evolution of marketing messages that attempt to capture the one thing that sets companies apart from each other. Messages can differ greatly between product companies and custom/job shops, but the way that the value proposition is communicated from headline to the point of sale is equally important in both places.

If the company manufactures a product, the marketing message typically refers to a proprietary manufacturing process, or a newly integrated piece of technology that improves performance. Just like the latest whiz-bang on your car or smartphone, items tend to attract the seasoned consumer, but may be lost on the buyer that looks like your average customer. We all want our latest and greatest vision to be devoured by the market for its awesomeness, but for most, the sales team does the heavy lifting and gets the deal done based on the needs of the customer and the core features of the product.

Custom manufacturers and job shops have a little more difficult transition between marketing headline and sales. Custom product relies on communication of an idea by the customer and a match of capability to that idea by the manufacturer. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of a “Solving Customers Problems” or “Your Go-To Source for XXX” headline in this type of situation like – part is too big, tolerances are too tight, material isn’t a fit, volume is too low. The buyer was attracted by a headline that implies the ability to provide a solution, but then was let down by operational mismatch or just plain lack of interest on the part of the sales person (perhaps due to commission structure, but that is a different post!).

When we, as consumers, purchase something, we typically do so with intention. In the B2B manufacturing space, we are no different. We know what we need and want the company doing the selling to help us to the right path to satisfy that need. We look for companies that market themselves as solution providers and we want to engage quickly and efficiently.

If our sales process is weak, lacks follow-up and makes the prospect feel like their needs aren’t important, we couldn’t possibly be living up to the great marketing strategy that we worked hard to put into place. Looking backwards in the process, if the marketing message is leading the wrong prospects to the sales team, measures in the sales process should be able to spot that right away and the results need to be communicated and reviewed so that the message can be tweaked.

The important message here is that there should be alignment between what a company says they can provide and what they are willing/able to provide. I have often seen marketing messages reflect the management team’s view of what they want the company to be, or the general promise of great service that really only applies to top customers. Sales folks in these circumstances can become indifferent and despondent in the sales process because the chance of a successful, long-term sale narrows considerably.

One of my earliest business lessons came from my dad – “If you are in the chicken business, have chicken.” And so I pass it along to you – if you are in the manufacturing business, manufacture.