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Commandment Nine: Commercialize the Sales Promise

Gather, showcase, review and audit

by Mark Hordes, Principal, Alexander Consulting, LLP

The purpose of a business is to create and maintain customers (Drucker, 1973). No matter what type of business or what type of industry, that basic purpose stays the same. It is the role of service marketing to facilitate that purpose (Levitt, 1981).

It’s fair to say that the services marketplace does a less than stellar job in marketing and helping the sales force commercialize market messages and service offerings. The problem gets even more complicated when the sales force is often left on their own to explain services offerings without support marketing collaterals or integrated service marketing packages. Delivery people are often affected once an engagement begins. What they discover to their dismay is that what they thought they were supposed to deliver is not exactly what was sold. When everyone is surprised, no one wins in the service experience. To avoid all of these problems, learning to commercialize the sales promise is the answer.

Follow these four steps to success:

Step One: Message Gathering  

You have to do the leg work to understand exactly what the service messages should be and how you want the services sales force to communicate them.

The easiest part of this process is to review all your written marketing materials, web site information and the latest voice of your customer research. Ask yourself a few questions related to each:

1. Are the things that are highlighted current? Or, were they written too long ago?

2. Are the brochures or “leave behinds” user friendly and do they relate to current customer business service issues and challenges?

3. Who from the sales organization should be involved in this review process? Leaving too many of them out may be a formula for disaster!

4. Would it make more sense to reposition our service marketing and sales messages in a new light? Perhaps a new logo or tagline better aligns our services solutions to the current reality of customer needs, wants and expectations.

Spend the time to interview the sales force to gain their perspective and buy-in to the process and how best they should communicate the service marketing collaterals. Just providing them with new materials without training them how to communicate them effectively will not get you the expected results when they are sitting across the table from their customer.

Step Two: Develop Showcase Accounts and Evidence of Services Success

Referrals are terrific! Everyone likes to know that someone else has tried something before they commit their time and money. The development of showcase evidence helps this process come alive. How do you structure a showcase example to share with the customer? Follow these tried and true guidelines to create the kind of impact you wish to achieve:

  1. Describe the client company—business focus, markets served, revenue, services orientation, geographic reach, etc.

  2. Outline the challenges they were faced with, what changed in the marketplace, how they were affected and why they reached out to your company.

  3. Describe the type of solution they were looking for, their expectations and the objectives they were trying to achieve.

  4. What was the business case that was applied to the customer’s problem?

  5. What were the benefits the client realized as a result of your specific service interventions?

  6. What positive comments did the customer make about your company and what recommendations would they make to others?

Making a video of various clients talking about their personal experience with your company is a very effective tool. Having this video at-the-ready on your laptop is a perfect way to show prospects how your services company made a difference with other organizations just like theirs.

Step Three: Continually Review Your Efforts

Ideally, your marketing efforts are now aligned and your sales force is reaping the benefits of having more tools in their sales kit to help close more services business. Keeping abreast of market and customer conditions will also aide you in determining what will need to be changed or modified as time goes on with all your service-marketing materials. It’s also a good idea to conduct several focus groups with the sales force every six months to get feedback on issues and concerns that they are having with the materials, as well, and to assess what additional things now seem to make sense (ROI calculators, services price comparison charts, new service offerings, CD’s etc). Advertising, press releases and customer “quotes” should also be reviewed at least yearly to ensure that the information portrayed is still relevant and supportive of your brand and overall market messages.

Step Four: Conduct an Annual “Commercializing the Sales Promise Audit”

Finally, the fourth step in “commercializing the sales promise" is for you to conduct annually the following simple audit to gauge how well your service marketing efforts are hitting the target and to plan for the next phase of your efforts. Use the following ten questions to determine the status of what you need to sustain or correct in commercializing your sales efforts.

Figure 1

Success Factors
(modified from Credibility Audit)

Alexander & Hordes S-Business:
Reinventing the Services Organization
, Select Books, 2003

 

 

Strongly Disagree

 

 

Strongly Agree

1. Services customers have a clear perception of our services.

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5

2. Prospective customers have a favorable perception.

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5

3. We have a reputation as a services market leader.

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5

4. Executives see our services brand as a vital asset.

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5. All service packaging (internal/external) conveys the same message.

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6. Service marketing campaigns are aggressively funded.

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7. Sales, marketing and delivery professionals meet monthly.

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8. A voice of the customer project is done yearly.

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9. We track services brand awareness.

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10. We have developed showcase accounts.

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Conclusion

Remember, it’s marketing’s role to help support the sales force to position the overall value of your service offerings. Effective communications and training with the sales force, aligning your market messages to customer needs, wants and expectations and developing appropriate showcase evidence are all things that can help you create the internal and external synergy for a consistent and compelling message to customers.  

References:

Drucker, Peter F. (1973), Managing in a time of great change, New York: NAL Dutton

Levitt, Theodore (1981), Marketing intangible products, Harvard Business Review, May-June.


Mark Hordes, MBA, MS, is a principal with Alexander Consulting, LLP, a management consultancy that helps product companies create and implement professional services strategies.

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