I am a co-founder of a startup company. We sell market data and analysis reports to manufacturers. Our reports have fairly high value, ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands dollars. The number of clients is limited for now, and will remain a small number for a year or two (less than 50). So, every client is very valuable to us. Our main concern is to avoid the situation when one of our sales people quit the company, he/she takes the client(s) with him/her. I am wondering if there is a good structure or organization of marketing/sales team that could minimize risks like this.
I am thinking along the lines of separating the whole client management cycle within a few marketing/sales people, this way, each of them only get to work with the client for a limited time, and thus will less likely build a close personal relationship with the client. So, are there standard ways of separating the marketing/sales workflow?
I will address some of the structural issues associated with marketing and sales functions. Others have identified that the structure of the sales and marketing function may not be the best way to address the underlying human and talent resource issues.
In the traditional context the marketing function is the process through which new leads are identified and sales is where they are converted to customers.
(Marketing and marketing operations has expanded considerable and involves many more functions which can include the ongoing cultivation and promotion of the brand, strategic positioning, research, business intelligence, public affairs, public relations, and even pricing. That does not significantly change the outcomes -- but it does increase in relative importance marketing in todays market.)
As you map out your customer acquisition and support functions into defined steps you can segment these functions into roles which are prescribe to different people.
In this way you could end up with someone that generates interest, someone who qualifies and provides initial educations, and then a sales specialist that moves the customer to close, and a closer that earned the final business, with then an account manager to ensure the customer gets what they purchased and continues to be your customer.
It is seductive to do this based on what your internal business drivers are -- what makes sense to you and your operation. this can lead to a disastrous result if it does not match how the customer would like to experience your business. for example if you are in and industry where strong personal relationships leads to long established business relationship then the initial sales person may need to be the primary contact for the client throughout their time with you.
The rotating of a customer server person so that the clients gets the benefit of the different people with your company -- and establishes a relationship with the company as a whole can be extraordinarily powerful. The key to making this work is open and clear communications with the client supported by a robust CRM that ensure nothing falls through the cracks during the transfer. Having a person- - like you -- that is seen as the constant, and someone they can go to if they experience a problem is essential as well.
Strive to build and support a close relationship between your clients and the company-- close does not mean exclusive. Provide multiple communication avenues for the client to communicate with your company. You, a sales executive -- but others as well. An adoption expert could reach out to customers on a regular basis about their adoption of the tools. The CFO could reach out to discuss how they are experiencing the ROI of your service. A member of your production team could reach out regularly providing feedback on what customer generated change request have been acted upon and why. Leverage blogs and Twitter, newsletter, phone calls and meetings.
Build and maintain full relationships which transcend rather than replace the close contact with the customer support team.
I am no expert but it seems to me that yours is an ethical problem rather than a structure one. I reckon that many companies have non compete clauses in their contracts: given that your reports have a fairly high value, it would probably be best to invest in this kind of clause, maybe leaving on the ground some more cash which will however pay off in the future, just-in-case.
Yes, in bigger corporations the sales dept and market dept are ALWAYS separate. Marketing should always communicate with sales, because they cant create messages without understanding what psychology is actually making the product sell. The goal of the marketing department is to find out the specific benefits or features that are making the sale, and then use that to create the messages that go on the website, print, taglines, logos, trade shows, etc.
The sales team on the other hand should just be closing the deals. They are the ones who get out there, meet with customers, build relationships, and make the deals happen. Unlike the marketing team, the salespeople are not the artsy/creative types.
A great marketing book is - Emotional Branding, by Marc Gobe.
A great individual classic sales book is - How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
Sales Management is an art, and its not something you can really learn in a book. It takes experience. If you dont have any experience in sales management, I highly recommend hiring a sales manager if you are going to be hiring a sales team of 3 or more people. Otherwise your team will be disorganized and hard to motivate.
Hope this helps.
I think you need to get past your fears about your salespeople leaving. If a salesperson has that much power, then your product probably isn't that good and you need to work on both your brand and the marketing of the product itself (notice I didnt say that you needed to change the product).
In my past I've had salespeople leave before who thought they could take their clients with them, but unfortunately for them, the clients stayed with us because our product was what the client wanted.
Furthermore, if you dont establish a good relationship with the customer, its hard for sales to happen and its easier for your competitors to grab your customers anyways. So while your goal with this strategy is not to lose sales by giving the reps too much power, in reality, the unintended consequence is that you will have sales mediocrity. And sales mediocrity isn't an option. You're an entrepreneur and you have a new business - you need to sell.
Your goal should be to find multiple salespeople who are good enough, that way when you lose one of them, you can assign his accounts to one of your other salespeople. In my experience, this works really well. The new sales rep that you assign gets a bunch of free accounts (and commission) but he has to keep the business in the company. While you may lose some business, you also became more efficient by eliminating a salary.