Interview with Ted Schulte
Ted Schulte describes the relationship between sales and marketing at Boston Scientific.
Accenture, the management consulting firm, engages in projects with clients that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. After each sale is concluded, the account management team reviews the process in excruciating detail, win or lose. Questions such as “Did we have the right information to give to the client at the right time?” or “Were our offerings aligned with their needs?” are answered. After the review, executives then decide whether the company needs to produce additional marketing material to support the offering, create new offerings, or follow up on any other ideas generated by the review.
By contrast, KMBS salespeople sell copiers and printers that range from $5,000 to $150,000. A KMBS sale generally isn’t as large as an Accenture sale, but KMBS has many more sales going on at any given time than Accenture does. The sheer volume of sales at KBMS makes it harder for salespeople to get the information related to those sales to the company’s decision makers. For that reason, KMBS uses CRM software to track all its prospects and their key buying criteria. If the sale is lost, the reasons for it can be entered into the software, as well as information about the competing product the buyer purchased. Marketing personnel then use this information to improve KBMS’s sales efforts.
Astute marketing professionals, however, do not rely totally on CRM software to understand what makes markets tick. As we have explained, they also spend time with real customers and with salespeople. Andrea Wharton, a marketing executive with Alcatel, is responsible for her company’s presence at trade shows. Wharton spends a great deal of time talking to salespeople in order to find out what messages are effective, and she uses that information to create Alcatel’s exhibit booths for trade shows. She then works in the booth at the shows so she can talk directly with customers and get their reactions firsthand.
Changing the offering can be the outcome of what occurs when salespeople convey information provided by their customers. Perhaps customers are asking for additional product features, faster delivery, or better packing to reduce the number of damaged products shipped. The fast-food chain Wendy’s provides us with an example. When Wendy’s began testing the idea of offering salads in its restaurants, it had a problem. Previously, the restaurant had only packaged food in paper products such as cardboard. Plastic was never used. The company had made a commitment to environmental sustainability and not using plastic was a point of pride for the organization.
For help, Wendy’s turned to the food-packaging company Pak-Sher. Wendy’s Pak-Sher sales representative could have pulled a number of different products from Pak-Sher’s shelves that would have worked marginally well for Wendy’s salads, but he knew more than that was needed. He assembled a team of packaging engineers, and they visited Wendy’s test kitchens. Together with the Wendy’s product developers, the Pak-Sher engineers created the plastic packaging Wendy’s “Garden Sensations” salads are sold in. While the plastic packaging required Wendy’s to reevaluate its position on the use of plastics, Pak-Sher engineers also incorporated recycled material to support Wendy’s sustainability goals. Pak-Sher changed its offering to meet the sustainability desires of its customer.
In this instance, the salesperson did not carry the voice of the customer back to the company so much as carry the company directly to the customer. Managing the collaboration in new product design is often the function of salespeople when products are customized. For example, Tim Pavlovich is a salesperson for Dell, but what he sells are called “appliances.” These appliances are Dell computers that are installed inside of the customer’s product. When you go to the kiosk at the airport and swipe a credit card in order to print your own boarding pass, chances are good that inside that kiosk is a Dell computer. Pavlovich works with Dell’s engineers to make sure that the customer gets the right component or appliance; in turn, the engineers obtain valuable customer insights that translate into new Dell products.