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Investing In Your People

4 Jun, 2001 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

Investing In Your People

I’ve discussed brochures, mailers, prospecting tools and other collateral
before, but with digital products and the new opportunities provided by the
network, we’ve had a number of clients addressing their sales materials.
Therefore, I thought it would be a good month to discuss strategies and the
various options now available.

In the past, a vehicle that helped a salesperson sell their product or
service generally came in the form of a brochure. They came in all shapes and
sizes. Some were 16-page/four-color works of art, while others were a few pieces
of paper stuffed in a flimsy proposal folder. Almost every sales rep I came in
contact with, along with several owners, envisioned their brochure sitting on a
purchasing agent’s desk along side three or four of their competitor’s
brochures. The direction I always received from those people was, “I want my
brochure to jump off the desk.” Somehow, they felt if their brochure received
the most attention, they would win the order.

Cutting-out Doesn’t Always Cut It

Even though this was the case, it was remarkable how many clients wanted to cut
corners to keep costs down. And that sentiment certainly wasn’t limited to my
clients. In the days Alco Standard was still on a roll, one of my clients
purchased a competitor who had a beautiful four-color glossy brochure. We
discovered later that the former owner had a trade with a photographer to keep
his development costs to a minimum and the photographer had used dancers from
the local nightclub as models for the brochure. The balance of the brochures
were then earmarked for the dumpster.

I was baffled at this penny-pinching for many reasons. In the office
equipment industry, a sales rep is asking the prospect to commit a lot of
dollars for the equipment and service, plus they’re usually asking them to
commit to a relationship that will last several years. Then when you consider
the profit margins available, you start scratching your head when a client
reduces the number of colors involved, or they choose to have a buddy print it
to save a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars. And that’s not taking into
account the fact that you’re competing against several multi-billion dollar

Part of the problem is that most of my clients are great salespeople. They
came up through the ranks by way of sales and could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.
They didn’t need a brochure. They could develop the trust of the prospect with
finger puppets if that’s all that was available. But my readers need to
remember; we don’t develop sales marketing materials for the superstars. To
explain, let me back up a bit.

The 20/60/20 Rule

Everyone has heard of the 20/80 rule in which 80% of your business comes from
20% of your customers or 20% of your sales people produce 80% of the revenue.
Well, keeping that in mind, I’ve always believed in the 20/60/20 rule when it
comes to the sales force production. Simply stated, 20% of your reps are
superstars, 20% are always in transition, leaving 60% in the middle. I’ve always
sold Hunter Barth’s services by explaining how it’s our role to impact the
middle 60%, making them better and more productive.

The irony of this is that the top 20%, the superstars, are usually the ones
that thank me when I return to their market, several months after kicking off
new collateral. Initially this surprised me, but I realized that even though we
weren’t developing the materials with these people in mind, they became
superstars to begin with, by using every tool available to them.

Tool Of Choice

Nowadays, sales collateral can mean much more than the traditional corporate
brochure. Sales reps carry laptops and put on PowerPoint presentations for
prospects. CD’s that look like business cards have become popular due to the
perceived novelty. Other interactive CD’s that mirror the company website are
also becoming a tool of choice, especially outside the office equipment
industry. Within the office technology arena, hardware and software being sold
by the dealers can be used to output sales materials, when they are needed.
Plus, with this print-on-demand technology, information can be updated before
being printed so that the material isn’t dated. And, of course, when you use
technology that you also sell, the piece of paper becomes a marketing vehicle by
putting down at the bottom, “This was printed on …”, it’s no different than the,
“This is a photocopy”, that was used when plain paper copiers hit the market.

I recently received a pitch on something called a mini-mercial. This is a
three to five minute video that is either on a disk or can actually be sent as
an e-mail attachment, provided the recipient has at least a DSL line. The video
takes up about a fifth of the computer screen and is so clear, I thought, I was
watching a small television.

But in spite of the various technologies available, along with the different
vehicles, the objectives need to remain the same. The reason sales marketing
materials exist, is to tell the company story in a convincing feature,
advantage, and benefit manner. Many like to use paragraphs of copy and beautiful
pictures to get across the message, while others prefer bullet points that
provide the sales rep with a road map, allowing them to fill in the blanks and
story tell when they feel obliged.

Sticking To The Basic

You can also outsmart yourself if you don’t keep the basic objectives in mind. A
perfect example of this was 12-15 years ago, we were developing these wonderful
seven to ten minute videos. It turned out the sales reps wouldn’t use them
because they were losing contact with the customer. Even seven minutes seemed
like an eternity to them. I discovered this once myself when I spent some money
on a slide presentation. Here I was in the back of the room running the
projector, the lights were off and I was talking to the backs of heads. I had no
idea how my presentation was going until I didn’t get the order.

Before you spend any money, talk to your sales people. Ask them what they
need in order to be more effective sales people. If they’re part of the
development, they will take ownership and their success will become a
self-fulfilling prophecy. The reverse is true if you ignore them in the process.
If you have a large sales force, get the managers involved. Once again, they
will feel almost obligated to make it work or you’ll never support them again.

Yes, the look, feel and overall quality are very important. If it’s a
traditional brochure, it may not jump off the purchasing agent’s desk. If it’s a
CD, it may not wow the IT individual. But you need to spend some money and use
outside assistance, even if it’s just a local printer with a backroom graphics
department. Any sales pitch requires a payoff for the prospect. An outside
vendor will help determine that payoff, and they will assist in developing a
graphic look that positively positions your business in whatever segments of the
market your attacking. Even if you’re printing on your internal systems, get
help for artwork design and copy refinement. Usually, all it takes are one or
two additional deals to receive a positive return on your investment.

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