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Selling to the Sales Force

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If you work in an organization with a sales function (of which you are not a member), then selling will likely not have featured prominently in your job description. You do, after all, have a department full of sales professionals dedicated to just that. So why should you bother, right? These guys know what they’re doing; why not just pass the baton and move on to the next big thing on your functional plate?

Well, if you’re lucky, maybe things will turn out the way you expect. But, if you’re like most people (sometimes lucky, sometimes unlucky), you may be in for a surprise.

Why Sell to Salesmen?
To illustrate the importance of selling to the sales force (a.k.a. internal marketing), consider the following example.

In an effort to break into the health drink segment, the marketing team at a leading soft drink manufacturer planned to launch a pro-health, carbonated, orange juice drink. They want to market the product not as a soft drink alternative but as a substitute for fruit juices among health-focused teens and yuppies. So they planned to strategically locate this new beverage in-store beside competing juice drinks.

Then came the launch: TV, radio, print ads; product samples in the thousands at interschool sporting events, malls, and cinemas; and the products hit the shelves. Things went perfectly according to plan—except the products hit the WRONG shelves!

Instead of being displayed next to Sunkist and Welch, they landed right beside A&W and Sarsi. The location was so bad even Coke Light got a better spot!

Channeling Shared Talent
Needless to say, our sales people are talented. (If you disagree with this statement, then perhaps you have a different problem altogether.) The issue is these guys are busy selling a million things to a hundred people. Unless yours is the only brand or product being sold by your company, more likely than not, your sales resources are shared. And like all shared resources, sales talent is scarce.

As a business owner, you want your brand, product, or project to be No. 1 on your sales people’s minds, just as you would like to be top of mind among consumers and customers. Sounds like a tough job? Not at all! Just tap into the salesman’s playbook.

What sales pros use to sell to consumers you too can use to sell to your sales team. Here are three of the basic moves.

1. People buy into people, not ideas. This is Lesson 1, Principle 1 of Sales 101. In fact, I could phrase this often recited tenet more directly and say, “People will not buy ideas from people they do not like.” No matter how great your product or idea is, so long as there’s an alternative to what you’re offering (even if this alternative is not as good as yours), you can bet, 80% of the time, the alternative will sell. Such is the well documented way of human nature.

The good news is that methods of becoming more well liked are equally well documented. Among the classic methods is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win friends & Influence People, which offers the following advice for people who wish to be better liked: Become genuinely interested in other people, smile, remember names, be a good listener, talk in terms of the other person’s interests, and make a sincere effort to make the other person feel important.

2. Help the salesmen sell. Building off Carnegie’s fifth piece of advice (as noted above), our next move from the salesman’s playbook is to think in terms of the next-in-line buyer and help the sales person sell to that buyer. There’s nothing more relevant to or interesting for the sales force than information they can use to better do their jobs. While some sound bytes may have worked for you as you developed the project plans within your working team, these same points may be meaningless for the sales team and for the next-in-line buyer.

When preparing your sales pitch to the sales team, ask yourself these questions: First, are you selling using salesman’s terms? And second, are you selling using the salesman’s buyer’s terms?

3. Be the winning bandwagon. Everybody wants to win. But people know that not everyone gets to win. Since the focus, time, and effort of the sales force is limited, priority calls will have to be made. Whether they are made consciously and announced or subconsciously and simply acted upon in silence, priority calls are made and followed.

When introducing your idea to the sales team, sell your idea as a winning idea, the next big thing, something that they simply have to be part of. Like lottery ticket buyers, sales people make bets on products to push the hardest. Make them think of your product as the winning lottery ticket. After all, even if in reality your wares are not all that great, you can at least count on the tendency of sales to behave like self-fulfilling prophecies in your favor.

Why Sell to Salesmen?

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