A Little Righteous Indignation Over Here, Please

JF Uncut

Maureen Blandford

Perhaps you’ve heard about Merrill Lynch’s John Thain’s $1.22M office renovation, including $87K for an area rug? Preceded, of course, by AIG’s spending part of their bailout on spa treatments for execs. Nice. And then there was the Big Three auto execs flying corporate jets to Washington to plead for their share of the bailout. Next up: Citigroup. Led by an exec team that the NY Post calls “Citiboobs.”

In this Wednesday’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd asks:
How could Citigroup be so dumb as to go ahead with plans to get a new $50 million corporate jet, the exclusive Dassault Falcon 7X seating 12, after losing $28.5 billion in the past 15 months and receiving $345 billion in government investments and guarantees?

“Citiboobs,” indeed.

While I am appalled by story after story detailing greed, stupidity, and obtuseness in corporate leadership, and applaud the world’s righteous indignation over the executive termites who have caused irreparable damage to our many fine organizations, there’s a part of my business psyche that is pleased such horrid behavior is seeing the light of day.

For years (actually two decades), I have often felt horror at how the B2B version of  Fat Cats (Marketers and the executives who support them) burn through $s on truly ridiculous marketing tactics, while the Working Poor (Sales orgs) struggle to do more with less.

An $8K shower curtain or an $87K area rug look like wise investments next to spending in Marketing I’ve witnessed over the years. At the same time that sales organizations have seen their training & coaching budgets shrink to next to nothing, marketers think nothing of dropping $100K on new logo development or color consultation. They produce brochures that are rarely read by target audiences. A few years ago, I witnessed a tech client approve a $200K photo shoot (in NYC, of course) for photos that easily could’ve been obtained for a fraction of the cost from one of many fine stock photo agencies.

Why are our field sales folks so often building their own sales tools (wasting valuable sales time), when their corp HQ folks are spending millions on marketing materials? Because much of the corp-produced stuff doesn’t meet real selling needs. Have you ever seen the garage of a pharmaceutical rep? Packed with marketing materials they don’t use.

Very briefly, corporate marketers have been trained solely in consumer marketing, not B2B. They’ve rarely actually carried a bag and consequently don’t understand that today’s great sellers are more about asking great questions rather than selling stuff.  Our marketing materials, if you’ve noticed, are packed with selling stuff. That’s not the kind of sales support we need today.

The dark side to this story is that many B2B Marketers have much in common with our ego-centric execs. They love to be wined and dined by Madison Avenue types and spend hours talking about things like shades of color and the emotions one shade or another evokes. And, this drives me crazy, marketers disdain sellers and sales organizations. Consequently, when a sales org tries to help a marketing org better meet their needs…well, they might as be talking to the hand.

Now, more than ever, responsible leadership will be open to a little righteous indignation over the imbalance in marketing and true sales support spend. If Starbucks is halting decaf brewing after noon in the hopes of saving $400M by the end of the year, I’m thinking leadership will be open to considering many cost-saving options.

Sellers and Sales Leadership: if you happen to have an internal marketing organization who supports your needs – Bravo! You can count yourselves lucky.

If, however, you’re not getting the support you need from your marketing organization, speak up. Consultative/Relationship/Collaborative selling is precisely what we need our sales orgs to be executing. But, it’s not easy. Features/Functions/Benefits selling is part of our DNA, having evolved over thousands of years.

To be effective in transitioning our sales folks over to great selling and ridding ourselves of bad habits takes time.  A sustainable sales support plan must include on-going mentoring, coaching, & training. For both sellers and sales leadership.

The good news here is that the investment needed for GREAT, sustainable sales support is a fraction of the budget that’s being wasted in B2B marketing today. For instance, marketing organizations executing a marketing plan that truly supports B2B selling could do a great job with about 60% of their current budget. I’d recommend redirecting some of the remaining 40% to on-going sales training needs (yippee!). And either saving the rest, or redirecting to HR efforts to hire and retain great sales people.

I’m giddy thinking about this: Sales folks supported by great training and marketing materials that help them move the ball down the field. Now – isn’t that worth some righteous indignation?

Maureen Blandford is CEO of MindTime® Group, a B2B marketing firm, and author of “Branding Doesn’t Work in B2B.” Her team helps B2Bs align their marketing and consultative sales efforts to drive more profitable revenue. You can reach her at maureen@mindtimegroup.com or follow her on twitter at twitter.com/maureenmindtime  For more information on her book: brandingdoesntwork.com

Comments

  1. says

    Maureen,
    Agree with much of what you say. I think one point that I would add to your blog isn’t that Marketing is spending too much and sales not enough – its that there is inherent accountability in sales (numbers that everyone tracks), but there is very little (if any) accountability in Marketing.

    As a Business Coach for small businesses, I focus on making sure that everything they do has accountability built in. In fact, I advise my clients to ensure that anything they do, every from a sales or marketing perspective, needs to include accountability.

    At least once a week (if not more often) small business owners are getting bombarded with “marketing specialists” that are trying to sell their wares to them – newspaper advertisers, radio / tv account execs, the Yellow Page Reps, the Money Mailer guy, etc. And NONE of them want to hear anything about accountability. They won’t commit to anything – they just sell the idea that exposure will increase sales.

    I’m not commenting hear to build an argument against marketing, I believe in it. But in today’s world, I also believe that business owners (small and large) have to stop letting marketing spend without proving their value – not “with soft feelings” but with hard facts of some form.

  2. says

    maureen,

    great post! years of fighting off the B2B marketing knuckleheads from ERP software companies has cemented my assessment that it just doesn’t work. this is especially true in a fragmented market. brochure after brochure was somehow going to get us to sell more software. what nonsense!

    i would love to hear your take on where lead generation falls. is this a marketing function or a sales function? what is working in this area today?

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