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Opinion
Business Observer Friday, Nov. 12, 2004 17 years ago

Prepare for War

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Lou Lasday: Motivate your attack force. Take aim and help them move out.

Prepare for War

Motivate your attack force. Take aim and help them move out.

With all the political talk this season about supporting our military, letis consider, on a different level, our own domestic form of Gulf Coast corporate troops. Not to diminish the importance of either force, but there is a parallel; they have each been fully trained and educated as to the mission. Both forces are away from home base, in the field, basically acting on their own to support the mission and are connected to headquarters by the thinnest of organization charts.

Sales force is like

foot soldiers in battle

In the case of the corporate troops, weill simply call them the sales force. The support of these sales people should be more than spec sheets, terse weekly announcements, e-mail or request for monthly forecasts and reports.

Admittedly, the typical sales representative may be fiercely independent, certainly highly resourceful and usually anti-authority. Treating them with benign neglect is the far end of the spectrum in which they may state they prefer, but in reality isnit the best marketing strategy; even when the sales reps say they donit need help in the field.

They know their territories, their product lines and their client contacts. If you would ask the typical successful sale-marketing representative how you as a senior marketing officer can best be of assistance in helping the sales team accomplish its goal, the nearly spontaneous answers may surprise you. Here is the list in probable order:

Outside sales staff

a bit different from us

Indeed, the outside sales staff is hopefully a tad different than their inside counterparts. They work alone, handle eyeball-to-eyeball rejection in order to simply survive, let alone beat last quarteris numbers. And in case the inside marketing director happens to be a newly anointed MBA without direct field experience and talks about imarket segmentation with conversion rates to lead generation,i itis all over.

Regardless of this entrepreneurial iI am the brandi spirit to the field reps, by whatever name they are called, they do need help. At least, try to provide non-interfering support.

A-team is iyoui

when facing prospects

The proper assistance starts with basic communication. We all know that a great salesman needs to be sold and not told. They need to feel they are not simply in the loop, but are the lead partners in finding, soliciting, presenting, winning and keeping customers.

So what do most headquartersi marketers do to assist the troops in the field? They simply pass along raw advertising leads from Web sites and unsolicited in-coming calls, trade shows, mailings, media response, blind referrals or walk-ins, depending upon the corporate sector and structure.

Pass the ammunition,

stay motivated

If you want to arm the troops with ammunition they can use, start your communication with ilistening.i Hear their specific needs, give them the bullets to negotiate pricing or billing, delivery arrangements, extend product or service perimeters, allow bundled programs and encourage non-traditional requests. Simplify paperwork and reporting, rethink cumbersome forms. Ask for specific suggestions to situations and quickly respond. Enhance home office response time, honor special achievement, unite your army, give realistic benefits, foster personal advancement, initiate periodic incentive awards, be solicitous of your solicitors and always promote, promote, promote.

You want to make your foot soldiers feel confident and comfortable and certainly part of the decision-making progress. They should be allowed to exercise control over their territories, clients and selling situations. Thatis important motivation to the sales personality.

Start a new campaign to support your troops. Give them everything you possibly can so theyill be professional, effective and aggressive in the field. Then, let them move out. And you can then move out of the way!

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser who resides on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented strategic marketing initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career direct response executive, he has been a general partner of a national marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association.

1. Give us leeway to make occasional idealsi when we feel itis needed.

2.Donit raise pricing.

3.Keep sales promotional activity high.

4.Lower the reporting requirements.

5.Keep out of our way.

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