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Marketing executives invest a great deal of time and money building the brand, only to see it diluted at the most critical point—in front of the customer.

Depending on how your sales force executes—the process they follow, the questions they ask, the messaging they use—the brand equity you work so hard to create will be either reinforced or undermined by their actions.

This issue goes much deeper than renegade salespeople customizing presentations, proposals and collateral, rendering them inconsistent, inaccurate or outdated. Let's be honest, however. The level of sophistication with which your sales force engages customers plays a much bigger role in determining the outcome of a sale than the materials salespeople put in front of them.

I can already hear the protests from marketing executives:

  • “Marketing can't influence what salespeople say and do in front of the customer!”

  • “There is already tension between Sales and Marketing. Do we really want to get into the game of guiding how salespeople engage customers?”

  • “Isn't this the role of training, sales operations, and sales management?”

Before you commit marketing hara-kiri, there is some good news. Marketing can retain control of brand positioning throughout the sales process.

By building a formal business case for your product and equipping Sales to apply business-case building blocks when engaging customers, Marketing not only enforces brand equity, it elevates it.

I'm not talking about a couple of spreadsheets that use your numbers or a few data points from a generic analyst study of your industry. I'm talking about a disciplined effort, led by marketing, in which you have…

  • Engaged existing customers to identify the business problems and priorities they face and the success metrics they use to track their performance

  • Determined the specific processes and activities—the value drivers—that your product optimizes within your customer's business

  • Linked the product value drivers to customer success metrics and determined the appropriate data that you can track and manipulate to quantify the impact of your product

  • Documented the analysis and results and packaged it in an automated tool or a repeatable process that salespeople can readily implement when engaging customers

Isn't this what we've been training salespeople to do for years, using terms like “consultative” or “solution” selling? Absolutely.

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Jonathan Sharp is COO of Talant (www.talant.com), based in Washington, DC. He can be reached at jonathan.sharp@talant.com.