Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Golf, Putting, Sales Reps, and Growing Revenue

My golf game needs improvement, I can admit that. However the one thing I have noticed is that every time I do manage to get the ball into the cup, it’s when I’m using my putter. The obvious conclusion then is that I should spend all of my effort working on my putting game in order to improve at golf, because that’s what gets the ball into the cup.

Well, no. That’s obviously a flawed conclusion.

It’s odd then that so many CEOs associate growing revenue with hiring sales reps. Yes, it is the sales rep who gets the deal done, but that is at the end of a long process that involves building awareness, establishing thought leadership, nurturing leads throughout a long buying process, scoring leads based on interest, and routing those leads to the right sales rep.

Investing in more sales reps is like working on your putting game. Certainly important, but only part of the picture. We all know that being able to start with a good drive, play the fairway well, and stay out of (or get out of) sand traps is an equally important part of the game. We know it, in golf, because we can clearly see how these move the ball towards the green.

In B2B marketing, however, it is not quite as obvious.

We all understand that buyers progress through their own buying cycle, and in doing so are guided by the information that we as marketers provide for them. However, unless we have mapped that buying cycle, and used an understanding of the buyers’ digital body language to determine who is at what stage of the buying process, it becomes hard to see where in the buying process we need to apply effort in order to improve our overall ability to grow revenue.

Terracotta did a great job of mapping their buying process (see their case study here), and by doing so, were able to understand which of their buyers were at which stage of the process. Doing this, in any B2B buying cycle allows us to see where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are. With this insight, we can then see where we would be best to focus our efforts.

Our ability to grow revenue is based on many factors, of which the number of sales reps is just one. Understanding our buyers’ overall buying process gives us the insight we need in order to understand where we need to invest for maximum results, much like watching our entire golf game allows us to understand whether to work on our putting, our drive, or our short game.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


Anonymous said...

Is this why Eloqua had to lay off 70% of its sales force a few months back? Seems like putting the cart in reverse...

Steven Woods said...

Thanks for your comment Kathi - although I'm not sure where that rumour came from though. We did do an adjustment back in October of 2008 that affected around 20% of our staff.

However, as we did that (and inline with the discussion in this article) we focused our investments in lead management throughout the funnel, and had our largest quarter ever in Q4 2008. The cart is definitely not in reverse.

Anonymous said...


Great post, and as an occasional hacker (on the golf course), I can relate to the analogy.

We as marketers can improve our game if and when we take the time to map our messaging and interaction to coincide with the prospect's buying cycle appropriately. To maximize the sales team's ability to close deals, rather than churning out traditional marketing fodder, we need to find out what information is relevant and meaningful to the prospect, and when and how to best deliver it. After all, whichever vendor understands the prospect and their pain points the best, wins.

For more on how to "Optimize the marcom mix", check out my blog post on:

Good selling!

Mike Gospe

Steven Woods said...

agreed, if there is one shift to make as marketers, it's to think in terms of the buyers' buying process, rather than our own selling process.