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Combating Sales Friction

Geoff Anderson back for another edition of TMC's Leader's blog. This time I would like to talk about something I call "Sales Friction". It is the phenomenon where if you have more than one product to be sold by your sales team, inevitably, one (or more) will get less attention. There are many causes of this. Perhaps one has a longer, more involved sales process. Maybe the sales team is better suited to selling one product line (matched with their expertise or confidence). Or, it can be as simple that one product is significantly lower in price, and hence they have to sell more of it to meet their quota. Regardless of the reason, as marketers, we need to lubricate the sales process to reduce the friction experienced in the sales process.

How do you reduce friction? Just like a machine, there are several abatement methods. Some are more likely than others, such as altering the selection of construction materials to improve surface on surface friction and wear, or selecting the right lubricant. In the marketing realm, selecting the right materials is analagous to reducing the differentials between the products. As an example, given two products, Product A is the high price, high value product, and Product B being about 1/3rd the ASP as Product A, it is natural that the sales team would rather spend their time selling Product A. To equalize this imbalance, a savvy marketer will make more of the pre-sales investigation to be automated, and "pull" based (meaning giving prospects the ability to gather information without a sales person being the gatekeeper). This reduces the time commitment by sales to close an order for Product B, and reduces the friction in the sale process, leaving them freedom to focus on the higher value Product A.

Another example would be where a sales team is much better matched to one product over the others. This is common when a business unit acquires a new product. Often, the combined sales team will be most comfortable with the original product (Product A), and will preferentially dedicate time to Product A, while letting Product B languish. As marketers, our job is then to increase their awareness of Product B. The focus should be on training and collateral that eases the concerns of sales people, yet smooths the sales process. If you are successful at lowering the perceived deficit of sales knowledge, you increase their confidence to pursue the opportunities. Perhaps you get involved in a few cases with each sales engineer (lead by example), or you develop quick study guides that they can review the evening before meeting with a customer.

Summary

While I could go on for thousands of words on this, I think you get the point. Part of our job as marketers is to identify, understand, and reduce friction in the sales process. While it is impossible to eliminate it, you certainly can improve the sales process by careful development of improved or targeted collateral, and sales training. Do you have any examples of sales friction? Please comment below, and until next time, happy marketing!

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