Reverse engineer sales and marketing to move inventory

By Andrew Ballard
Growth Strategies

One of my pet peeves is the term “sales and marketing” because it is a misnomer. It doesn’t matter whether you sell a product or a service, reverse-engineering the “sales and marketing” process can significantly increase your sales revenue.

Before illustrating my point, I’ll give you my definitions of “sales” and “marketing”:

Sales is the process of selling customers what’s already on your shelf.

Marketing is the process of finding out what customers want to see on your shelf.

A third definition (and just as important) is service, which is the process of ensuring customers don’t buy what’s on your competitor’s shelf.

The two common denominators in all three of my definitions are “customer” and “shelf” (which is analogous to your inventory). If you put “marketing” functions ahead of “sales” activities, you’ll move more inventory off your shelf.

Most salespeople use sales tactics to do their marketing. I suggest using marketing principles to do your selling. That’s why I refer to the term as “marketing and sales.”

That may seem like a minor distinction, but if members of your sales team reverse the way they think, and reverse the sequence in which they go about conducting their business, they’ll likely acquire new customers and sell more to existing ones.

I use the same process to determine my clients’ sales strategy as I do to develop their marketing strategy. It works like gangbusters! Following are a few things you can do to reverse-engineer the traditional sales process to increase your sales effectiveness.

  • Situation analysis: Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. Stephen Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” preaches “sharpen the saw.” If you don’t take stock of your weak points, you won’t know what needs sharpening. According to Lao Tse, “He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is wise.”
  • Customer research: Find out how your customers feel about your inventory. What do they most value and what would they change about your existing products and services. I use a very simple “start, stop, keep” line of questioning. I ask my best customers: “What would you have me ‘start’ doing for you that I’m not?” And so on.
  • Refresh your inventory: Based on customer preferences, make changes to your products and services (add, delete or optimize). If you have no control over the physical product you sell, change the way you position or promote the product to better align with customer values.
  • Target selling: Just like target marketing, in sales you need to target specific prospects or accounts — sounds obvious, but if you examine how you allocate your resources (time, capital, marketing materials, media and technology), you may find that a minor modification could make a major difference.
  • Objectives and milestones: In marketing, we plan, launch and track every initiative to determine what works best. You should do the same in sales — not by memory, but by documentation. If it’s not written down, there is no accountability. Establish long-term measurable (quantifiable and dated) objectives, break them down to short-term milestones, then track, measure, analyze and adjust.

Put your entire sales program (process and people) under a microscope. You may be surprised at what you discover. If you incorporate a marketing mentality as you refine your sales strategy, you’ll likely have more customers and less shelf.

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