Which way did your year go? And why?


Marketing is a verb, says Scott Stratten. Awesome is, too. So is sales.

“People may come in because of great marketing, but they come back because of the experience. Loyalty isn’t built through plastic cards; it’s built through amazing experiences,” Stratten says in “The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business UnAwesome,” (2012, John Wiley & Sons), his Jekyll-and-Hyde account of good and bad marketing practices.

Try to get your hands around the best and worst sales and marketing efforts of any given year and it will always come back, in one way or another, to the experiences that were created for end users.

That’s a sobering thought, especially, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman explains, because we judge our experiences with companies on the “Peak End Rule.” That is, we gauge past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak and how they ended.

“When people think about your business, they’re going to focus on how good or how bad things got and how everything worked out in the end,” Stratten states. “A really good salesperson who helps with an exchange can erase negative experiences along the way. As long as you can out-awesome mistakes and resolve issues, customers will have a positive brand experience.”

Stratten argues that too many managers spend too much time and energy focused on what competitors are doing when they should be working on improving internal performance, especially on the front lines. “We pour money into designing logos and brochures while we allow poor customer service to be the norm.”

Understanding the challenge

Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner of SalesGlobe (SalesGlobe.com), a national consultancy specializing in sales team effectiveness, concurs. “Companies make management decisions with good intentions, but they don’t play it out in terms of what might happen,” he says. (See Donnolo’s examples of best and worst sales campaigns on page 40 for the fallout of this mistake.)

Donnolo stresses the importance of understanding what you are trying to solve for beyond increased sales. In working with partners both internally and externally (i.e., channel partners), it’s important to break questions down and improve the conversations you are having. If possible, pilot a program with a customer segment to get real results before launching full force.

“Too many companies put something into action off of the incorrect definition of the challenge,” Donnolo says.

A common mistake he sees is the rush to mimic a competitor’s strategy that appears successful. “We end up replicating when we may not understand what the other organizations are doing or if it’s a true fit.”

Listening to the voice of the customer is a critical starting point. Sales leaders must understand the needs and expectations of their customers and their performance relative to those expectations. That insight allows leaders to see any gaps and determine where they can improve value proposition, sales coverage, and sales process.

Sales leaders also need to consider what’s going on in the macro market environment, especially as it relates to their industry. Certain shifts in the economic environment can — over the long term — drive decisions about the sales strategy and how they might plan for where the market is going, as opposed to where they are right now.

“It’s essential to know how competitors are performing from a growth and financial perspective. Sales leaders also have to understand their competitors’ offers to the market and how they are positioning their products and services,” Donnolo says.

Finally, sales leaders should look at the company’s historic and projected revenue and profit performance. This evaluation should consider whether growth has come through the retention of current customer revenue, the penetration of customers through increased usage or additional products, or the acquisition of new customers. By understanding the business performance they can see where they’ve been strong and where they’ve been weak, and they can adjust their sales strategy accordingly.  

What social is and isn’t

Search online for “best B2B marketing of 2013” and what pops up is a plethora of technological trends and buzzwords — content marketing, online video, automated marketing and social media best practices. While it’s important to stay on top of these emerging tools, it’s also vital to remember they are exactly that — tools, says Scott Stratten.

“The way I see it, social media is simply another term for communication. Everything about business is communication. Whether you’re trying to build brand awareness, improve customer service or fill a vacancy, it’s about people and their impact, good or bad, on our bottom line.

“Everyone is always jumping ahead to what’s new, but I want us to make this the year of getting better at what we’re already doing. We need to shed a few social pounds and stop trying to add more social media networks to our repertoire. Instead, let’s get better where we already exist. Social media isn’t about how many places you can be. It’s about being amazing where you are.”