The World’s Oldest Profession: Sales and Marketing

I’d like to focus on the world’s oldest profession: sales and marketing. Now some people might disagree with my theory, but I think even Heidi Fleiss would have to admit that nothing happens until a sale is made.

Today, sales and marketing are merely a civilized form of warfare in which most battles are won with words, ideas, and disciplined thinking. They are critically important because generating new sales is the key to success in any business. Experts estimate that with the current rate of business failures and consolidation we need to replace about 15% of our accounts each year, just to stay even.

So how do you properly market your business? Here’s a four point plan that can dramatically increase your sales:

Step One:

The first step to increasing your sales is understanding who your customers really are. It amazes me that most business owners I ask really don’t know their customers. They get so busy running the business that they don’t understand who buys their products and services. I like to ask, “If the “Perfect Prospect” was the next person through the door, what would they be like?”

If your answer sounds something like 55-65, conservative white collar professional male working in downtown Phoenix with an income above $100,000 and a minimum net worth of $250,000 you probably have this step mastered. If not, here are a few questions to help you identify your perfect prospect.

Look at your existing customer list. Pick out your top 25 accounts and identify what they have in common. What are the demographics? Are they young, old, male, female? Are they located in a particular area of town? Are they in similar or related industries? Are they big companies or small companies? Many times our clients get stuck at this point in the process. If that should happen, I suggest they start with a different question, who isn’t your customer. Once this is clearly established it will be easier to identify who is.

Step Two:

The next step is to ask yourself why these individuals or businesses chose your company? Why do your top customers buy from you? A few questions here are key.

Walmart sells price, Nordstrom’s sells service and Tiffany’s sells quality. Each are successful, what do you sell?

In one sentence, what distinguishes you from your competitors?

How is your product or service different or better than your competition?

What problem does your company solve for the consumer?

These questions will help you discover what your competitive advantages are. To illustrate the concept of competitive advantage, let’s pretend for a moment that you are an NFL coach.

If you had just taken over the coaching position and looking down the team roster you noticed that you had a horrible quarterback, huge linemen and and 2 MVP running backs, you wouldn’t spend all your time developing passing plays. You’d want to run the ball. And run it, and run it and run it until they stop it. And when they do, it’s time to run the ball in a different direction. Likewise in other businesses, you need to play to your strengths; you don’t have the time, money or energy to be all things to all people.

Incorporate these competitive advantages into every part of your marketing. Put it in every ad, on every delivery vehicle, brochure, business card, website or other marketing tool you have. And run it and run it and run it.

Educate your employees, every one of them, about your advantages. Every person in your business must be a salesperson in some way and understand why customers chose your company.

Step Three:

The third step is to integrate your marketing across a variety of mediums. Try not to rely on just one form of advertising. The most effective vehicles for marketing most businesses are:

The yellow pages – both printed and electronic forms

Direct Mail – postcards, letters, doorhangers and flyers produce cost effective results

The internet – your own website and other referring sites. How well does your company rank in Google. How many search terms list you on the first page? What is the competition for those words?

And the best of all sources, referrals from existing clients

Develop a written marketing plan for the next 12 months to do this. It should be a rolling 12 month calendar that allows you to be prepared to hit your promotions at the peak times. It should also include specific goals include total sales or a percentage of growth over the previous year.

The Final Step, Just Do It:

The last and final step is just do it. Take the time to work through the program I have outlined and make adjustments as you go. I think General Patton got it right when he said that a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Yes, sales and marketing is where it all starts, but just like a health club membership it only works if you do.