A Good Place To Start

At Sales Engineering System, we say that we help businesses to rethink sales and marketing. This statement begs the question: Why is it even necessary to rethink sales and marketing?

Most business people understand the need for marketing and selling, but they don’t pay much attention to how those activities are conducted. Companies run ads and products or services are sold, and if business seems to be going OK, people tend to move on to the thousand other things that need to get done.

Marketing and selling go on consistently, in one form or another, but they are often nothing more than happenstance activities. Much of marketing and selling happens randomly, and frequently there is no programmed process behind it. Those who are in a position to troubleshoot and make improvements don’t always know how to do so, or find that there are too many issues and don’t know where to start.

The Sales Engineering System adds structure to two critical business functions that desperately need it. We use the Sales Engineering System as both a framework for planning the marketing and selling activities of a business and as a diagnostic tool to help identify and solve sales and marketing problems.

The idea for the Sales Engineering System began when my fascination with the direct response industry spilled over into my consulting practice, where I helped businesses to grow. Although much of my work revolved around operational issues, what I was really interested in was why some companies could sell products and services almost effortlessly, while others struggled at every step along the way.

The light bulb went off when I realized that direct response companies like QVC and Franklin Mint were engineered from the ground up as selling machines. Most other companies aren’t designed to be that efficient.

“Direct response” refers to a marketing model that leads to an immediate sale while the prospect is still engaged with the marketing message. The call to action is to buy right now. It’s a one-call close. Direct response sales companies are built around a system for selling, and that’s an important point. It doesn’t matter whether or not they make what they sell; a direct response business has seamlessly integrated its lead generation process (marketing) with a system for turning those leads into cash (selling).

Another example of a direct response company with a slightly different marketing and selling model is Andersen Windows. In Andersen’s case, the direct response happens when a prospect calls in about an ad; they see the ad and the next step is to call right now. The customer service person who takes the call sets an appointment for the sales person to go see the prospect. The sales person’s role is to close the business on the first and only visit. Many of them do. The important point is that each person in the chain is highly trained and knows exactly what to do, how to do it, and when.

A more traditional marketing model focuses on filling the sales pipeline or funnel by getting the prospect to take a step that brings them closer to a buying decision–in other words converting them from a prospect to a lead. Examples of more a more traditional call to action would be an invitation to request more information, obtain a free gift, or sign up for a newsletter. And then there is pure branding, where there really is no call to action. The purpose of a branding campaign is simply to raise awareness of a brand in the marketplace.

Not every company can or even should deploy a direct response business model. But what every company absolutely must do is to place the same level of focus on systematizing and integrating the selling and marketing functions.

Over the past several years, attraction marketing has begun to replace more traditional interruption marketing as a lead generating strategy. The idea is to put out relevant content through multiple channels in order to generate interest in your business and your solutions.

The theory is that today, most buyers initiate their own buying process online to do their own research and due diligence long before it’s time to make a buying decision. If you have set up your “funnel” properly—which many companies who adopt attraction marketing don’t really do—the prospect will arrive on your website or at your doorstep, ready to buy.

Perhaps. But even if your funnel works, you still have to be engineered to close the sale. In other words, it doesn’t matter what your strategy or tactics are. Your marketing efforts must still be seamlessly integrated with your sales process.

These functions must be engineered to work together as efficiently as possible. Every customer touch point, every step in the sales process, and every individual task involved in creating leads and closing sales must be carefully designed and planned out.

The more steps there are in the process, the more difficult this becomes. One of the reasons QVC is so successful is that they have simplified the process of selling consumer goods so effectively. You watch TV. You pick up the phone. You place an order. Your stuff arrives. It’s uncomplicated, and it all happens by design, according to the plan.

Many businesses don’t operate at this high level of efficiency, mainly because they are not engineered to be efficient from the very beginning. When this is the case, there are three typical outcomes.

First comes a general lack of direction. To follow our example, QVC knew what it was and where it was going from day one. Everyone on the QVC team regardless of position understood the company’s mission and vision of the leadership. Without that kind of clarity and focus, a business becomes like a ship on rough seas without a rudder.

The second outcome is that marketing resources are squandered. When the marketing and sales functions of a business are not engineered to work together, they wind up working against each other. Marketing dollars are committed and tactics launched in the vague hope that something will work. By contrast, QVC tracks revenue by the minute. Everything they do or say on the air maps back to revenue—the only metric that really matters.

The third typical outcome of a lack of business engineering is that sales opportunities are wasted and sometimes missed entirely. The people doing the selling need to be plugged into the marketing program. They need to understand what’s being said and what the objectives are. But if marketing is working in a vacuum, then almost by definition so is the sales force. Going back again to our QVC example, customer service reps know what’s happening on air in realtime. They know exactly what’s being said about the product they are selling.

One might argue that these problems could be corrected with a solid business plan, and they’d be right. Good planning, in any form, is useful.

Many companies, however, don’t know how to plan effectively. The planning process is more of an exercise to create a hefty document chock full of buzzwords that can be shown to the powers-that-be, rubber-stamped, maybe printed, and then put on the shelf.

A huge number of business plans are created to fulfill a requirement of some sort—the bank or maybe the board wants to know a plan is in place—but the plans aren’t really actionable, and many were never intended to be. The plan’s writers and contributors are trying to carry out an assignment but aren’t really engaged in the deep thinking, situational analysis, and directional problem solving that sound planning requires.

Having a valid and effective business plan does not necessarily guarantee success, however. The plan alone is useless unless specific and directed action is taken—consistently, over time—to implement it. And many companies don’t have the management systems in place to do this, simply because these systems themselves were not engineered into the plan. Managing the plan must be part of the plan itself.  

QVC’s original business plan was no doubt very detailed and specific. But if QVC employees had shown up at work everyday with the mindset that QVC was just another TV channel, it wouldn’t have lasted six months. QVC was envisioned as a selling machine, and the employees of QVC turned it into one.

A business plan doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Some of the most successful, lucrative business plans ever conceived were initially scrawled on a napkin or the back of an envelope.

The Sales Engineering System was created to help turn your business into a marketing and selling machine by facilitating both good planning and plan implementation. We have thought through everything so that you don’t have to. We have rethought sales and marketing, and we can help you to do the same thing.

The Sales Engineering System will help you to focus on three critical elements of your business: strategic intent, your marketing model, and your selling model. When all three of these elements have been properly engineered, all you have to do is take action and implement.

To build a successful business, roll up your sleeves, get to work, and follow our process to the letter.

 Welcome to Sales Engineering System!