“Sales teams would be wise to use marketers to their advantage”

It is that time of year when the sales director and I hold our meetings with the trade. I have always enjoyed meeting the buyers and it became something of an annual roadshow routine with our former sales director. Sadly, he has recently retired and I now have to start over with a new routine with our new sales leader.

The new kid on the block appears to be somewhat more threatened by my presence than his predecessor. He very much believes that he should manage the trade and that I should stick to managing the marketing. However, I have pointed out to him that 80% of our sales are with four key customers and I like to know what is going on.

Anyway, we have now completed three visits to our buyers and are starting to form a bond. He dropped me a note yesterday asking if I would be able to attend a trade golf day. At this rate he will soon allow me to borrow his BMW and to talk directly to his account managers.

Let’s face it, sales people often hide behind the trade. They describe buyers as if they were some kind of monster and make extra efforts to keep marketers at arm’s length. In my experience, the buyers are rarely as fearsome as they are billed. Sure they ask for more margin every five minutes and make unreasonable demands, but they are only doing their jobs and our agencies would probably say the same about us.

“Sales people often hide behind the trade. They describe buyers as if they were some kind of monster”

Sales teams would be wise to use marketers to their advantage. Our naivety can probably help them to change the dynamics of meetings, allowing them to take the lead in the conversation. And we will have no problem allowing them to claim the glory (well, some of it).
Smart account managers do exactly this. They use marketers as part of their toolkit. The weaker ones tend to be too protective and make numerous excuses as to why a marketing representative should not attend.

As I sat in the reception areas of both Tesco and Morrisons last week waiting to meet the buyers, I raised a smile. Both supermarkets have installed cash machines in their waiting areas. These are no doubt designed as a convenience for staff and visitors alike, but there is a certain sense of irony as you sit as a supplier preparing to negotiate trading terms. You can always access some readies if the terms bust your original deal.

To read Mark Ritson’s observations on the relationship between marketing and sales go to www.marketingweek.co.uk/markritsonsales

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