Planning for Sales & Marketing: A Q&A With Fred Diamond

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Fred Diamond, the co-founder and executive director of the Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES). The IES was created for sales professionals, execs and leaders looking to implement best practices and sell more. The organization provides companies with sales training, speakers, coaching, and a series of excellent events held in Tysons Corner featuring presentations and workshops by sales thought leaders and authors.

Earlier this month, the IES held its annual Customer Acquisition Forum, and Fred shared some highlights from the event, as well his thoughts on marketing/sales alignment and top performing sales teams.

Q: How are things changing for sales teams in 2017?

A: Things are getting harder for sales teams unless they take actions to improve their selling skills, understanding of customer business needs, and ability to respond to obstacles. The customer is more in control of the sales process than ever before and that will continue to develop. More information is available to the customer on the Internet now. This has given many customers the confidence that they may know everything they need to know about your product or service before you even get to them. They are probably already forming a decision before you even get in the game.

On the other hand, this wealth of information has potentially made customers more ignorant than ever before. Things are out of context. Nuance may be unknown. For commodity purchases, this intermediation has been a boon for customers, of course. But for sellers of complex products and services, this shift has given them an opportunity to take their game up a notch or two. They now need to understand that they need to show more value to their customer. This usually takes the form of a true partner who can help them grow their business. The challenge is no longer showing that you offer the best tool, product, or service, but that you offer something of true value that will help the customer reach his business goals.

This is a major shift in how sales professionals have been trained in the past. It’s always been about why you’re a great provider, but you need to understand how you’re helping them achieve their business goals more than ever, in order to be successful.

Q: What are the characteristics of top-performing salespeople or teams — and how can marketing best support them?

A: The best sales people share a number of characteristics. First, they need to be sharp prospectors. Prospecting has gotten harder as it’s more difficult to get through to people for a number of reasons. People are harder to get a hold of on the phone or in person, even by trusted partners. Sales professionals need to know how to get through to people and then give value when they are in touch.

They also need to understand the needs of their customers more deeply, not just why they are in need of the product or service you sell, but what their business challenges are. So not only do they need to be skilled at selling, they also need to be more knowledgeable on their customer’s challenges than ever before.

And most importantly, they need to give it their all. Their mindset needs to be crisp and sharp. How am I providing value today? They have to eliminate obstacles that are slowing their mission to be successful by developing the courage to be successful.

Marketing can help by eliminating the obstacles to sales. This could mean anything from ensuring that the messaging is crisp and correct on the company’s web site, that the company is positioned properly in the market, and that opportunities to present this messaging and positioning are abundant.

Q: Are sales and marketing more aligned these days or less — and why?

A: Marketing and sales are more aligned these days than ever before although there are still gaps at many levels. First, chief marketing officers (CMO) are chartered in more organizations than ever before to ensure that their efforts are directly in support of the sales mission. Many who have reached this level understand that revenue attainment is top three need in most organizations and that their team’s actions must support this.

At the lower levels, however, many marketing professionals still do not know that their mission is to accelerate the path to sales by eliminating the obstacles. Removing obstacles to sales should be the foremost mission of everyone in the company.

Q: The Customer Acquisition Symposium took place earlier this month; what are the big takeaways for marketers that are planning for 2017?

A: The IES was thrilled to host over 100 sales leaders at our second Customer Acquisition Symposium in November. In-depth breakouts were held on sales skill development, sales leadership, and professional development.

Three common themes were presented. First, sales professionals need to keep working on their skills and constantly get better at the art of selling, including prospecting, using sales tools and apps, and decision persuasion. They also need to work on how to stay confident, build a richer mindset, and become a value provider.

Marketers need to constantly be asking themselves if what they are doing is accelerating the process. There’s little time for useless actions. More challenges are facing sales teams every day. All of the internal obstacles to sales that marketing is responsible for, such as messaging, positioning, and communications need to be continuously tightened, improved, and refreshed as needed.

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If you would like to learn more about the IES, please consider attending the next IES event on the morning of December 9th, “Presentation Skills for Making a Quick Impact on Today’s Busy Prospects” featuring author Julie Hansen.