What marketing can teach sales about creativity

Richard Hadler01/09/2019

Marketing can do more to help sales than just handing over leads. In this instalment of Marketing Sells, Richard Hadler sets out how marketers can inspire their sales colleagues to be more creative.

The best salespeople can get very creative when it comes to hunting down a prospect. But creativity can often go missing as the sales process continues.

My analysis is, admittedly, based on my own mistakes. I’ve been guilty of trawling through old emails to copy and paste relevant messages, reusing my best lines like a fading comedian reusing their old jokes.

I did this to save time, even though the needs and demands of the prospects varied immensely, and the solution I was offering was bespoke every time.

There is an easy solution to this common problem…

Marketing has to teach sales to be more creative!

This statement might send a shiver down the spines of both teams but, in my opinion, it’s imperative; not only can extra creativity turbocharge the sales process but it also helps build that bridge between the marketing and sales functions.

Savvy marketers have to be creative to stand out; if not, their work sinks in the ocean of average. So, salespeople, shift across a few desks, talk to them and if you’re in that ocean of average let marketing throw you a lifebelt. In turn, marketing people need to make time to help, and not reject requests for help based on historical problems between the two departments.

So what are the raw materials of creative marketing that can be reused for sales proposals? I reckon there are three:

Start with data. For marketers, this tends to be at a mass scale; for salespeople this is more zoomed‐in. But the principle is the same. Gather all the data and review before taking action. Then use this data as a platform for creativity; is there something special about this customer that creates opportunity? Are their needs unusual? Is their customer journey unorthodox? How are they different?

Then make a balanced decision on the degree of customisation. For a small contract similar to one signed last week, judicious cut‐and‐paste is acceptable. But for deals that are larger, more complex, or groundbreaking for your organisation in some way, it’s time to do some heavy‐duty creative thinking. At Raconteur we have found success with mood boards, incorporating prospect brand guidelines into our proposals and even using direct mail. (And consult with colleagues before hitting SEND. Even if you’re a highly experienced salesperson, you may have made an embarrassing typo or arithmetic error in the quote sheet.)

Learn from experience. Marketers have a feedback loop, and sales needs one too. Yeah, I know that marketers have lots of data to power their fine‐tuning, salespeople may have a much smaller sample size. Still, you can vary your approach and track what works best. For important deals in particular — both won and lost — it’s essential to sit down, ideally with a colleague, and reflect on what went right and wrong. Even if, in hindsight, you were never going to win this deal, what could you have done to come closer? Don’t sit around feeling gutted that a deal went to a rival; brainstorm about how you’ll do better next time. This, in my opinion, is the single most important point.

There’s a broader message in this blog, which is that as business becomes more digital and fast‐moving, all staff benefit from knowing the thought‐processes of other teams. Maybe product needs to learn how sales operate. Maybe sales need to learn about how product works. Perhaps they all need to know more about the “production” process (I put in quotes because production, of course, it may be an all‐digital process).

But most of all, sales needs to know how marketing works, and vice‐versa. Their skills are often complementary. If they pull together, great, creative things are possible.

Marketing Sells is our new blog post series dedicated to aligning sales and marketing. I will be posting a new blog weekly, you can keep up‐to‐date by signing up to the newsletter here.