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Here’s Johnny!

Sales people are dangerous animals. If they’re properly motivated to sell, and they’re any good, they’ll usually do it pretty ruthlessly. A good sales person can save you in the bust, and make you rich in the boom.

But beware, if unshackled, their main concern will be to get on with the job in hand, without really considering the consequences. If they need a letter to accompany some proposal or contract, they’ll write one themselves. If they need a presentation, well, they’ve got powerpoint – how hard can it be?

But there’s the problem. Sales people in general are illiterate, and ignorant of the importance of positioning, tone, style and consistency in marketing communications. If you let your sales team handle the coal face of one-to-one customer communications, you’re wasting any money you’ve spent on producing your corporate brochures which neatly set our the benefits of doing business with you, and differentiate you from your competition.

A great example is the unfettered use of clip art in presentations. Left to his own device, Johnny Sales will sprinkle the stuff liberally all over his powerpoints, cleverly illustrating his incisive sales points with useful generic graphics.

What’s the problem with that? Well, that’s what everyone else does. So even if Johnny does it well, spells everything properly, puts verbs in sentences and so on, the overall effect will be that his presentation is indistinguishable from the ten other people that client has seen this week. Will he stand out in the client’s memory? No. Will they remember your company as unique and different? No chance.

So tell them not to use it, right? That should do the job. No salesman will disobey a direct instruction from the Top, surely? Oh yes they will. When it comes down to it, on a rainy Tuesday in Carlisle after a week on the road, Johnny will reach for the clipart to fill that unwanted gap without a second though. I mean, he’s on his own – who’s going to know?

So, you need to delete all clip art from your sales team’s PCs. Don’t let them have the temptation of maybe using it. Delete, remove, cut out.

But don’t be harsh on poor Johnny – you’ve got to give him something in return. Prepare some bespoke graphics for him that reinforce your company’s positioning. Give him stuff in keeping with your brand values and personality.  Replace his clipart addiction with a less harmful alternative.

And don’t stop there. Johnny’s predilection for ‘getting on with it’ will see him create letters, invitations, information sheets… anything that he thinks will back up his sales story, but will take a week for ‘Marketing’ to get sorted for him – because of course he only just thought of it, and wants to use it right now.

You’ve got to arm your sales team with stuff that helps them – anticipate their need to use such things, and make good ones for them. A well armed sales team should be part of what makes your company stand out from the crowd. Use them.

Ross Sturley is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG) organising committee, a Construction News blogger, and has endured ‘death by powerpoint’ on many occasions. Presenters – look at the audience, not at your slides! Anyone planning to think ahead in the way described here may be interested in CIMCIG’s December Conference – Strategy 2010– designed to help you plan for the coming year.