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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sales and Marketing in Uncertain Times: On the Front Lines

Sales and Marketing has always been on the front lines—touching the customer directly, regularly. So, during tough times that contact needs to be maintained with increased attention. Sales used to be about making numbers; it’s now about making profit--margin. They’re different. How much money will the sale bring to the bottom line and how much will it cost to service the client both have new meaning when CASH and not growth is king. Here are a few of many suggestions Charan has for leaders in uncertain times.

1. Evaluate Your Organizational Structure: Perhaps reorganize on functions, not regions, for added efficiency. Convert your sales people from “order takers” to “problem solvers.”

2. Create Intelligence Agents: Make sure that sales people become the eyes and ears of the company in the field. This could take on a war room mentality. They can then report back on customer viability for the future, issues at play, and how to help customers succeed.

3. Set and Reward Realistic Sales Goals: In concert with the hands on, head in philosophy that Charan recommends for CEOs, this advice he applies to sales. Sales goals should not be compared to last year but should likely be set month to month to stay realistic. On the other hand, Charan warns not to be too quick to reduce targets, lest they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

4. Other important areas that Charan comments on in this section are as follows: Help Determine Which Customers to Drop, Know What Your Customers Want, Be Sure You Have Input into Product Decisions, Craft Better Value Propositions, Do Not Sacrifice the Brand, Target Advertising and Promotions, Adjust Pricing Fairly, Cut Costs Wisely, Link Sales People to Operations and R&D, and Link Sales People to Senior Management.

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