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Sustaining Marketing Excellence by Greg Upah



I’ve heard several CEO’s say essentially this: “when you manage the values the numbers take care of themselves.” These statements reflect a winning formula for many of the best companies in the world.

Executing True Customer Focus in Sales and Marketing; The Promise and the Reality

Virtually every organization has a corporate value stating its commitment to be client-driven. But, not every firm does what it takes to execute that commitment.

How to Sustain Excellence in Your Sales and Marketing

Infuse your sales and marketing efforts with your stated commitment to be customer-driven. You need to discipline yourself to ask and listen to understand your clients first, before talking about yourself and your proposed solutions. Don’t Assume. Verify what you think you learned about the client’s objectives before you launch into your presentation.

Too Much Screen Time; Not Enough In-Person Time

Remote communication technology has solved and created a problem. There is no substitute for “breaking bread” with your customers. Electronic meetings will never. on their own, help you best understand your customer and build lasting relationships.  Get back to in-person contact whenever possible.

Questions About Executing Your Customer Focus

1.Your achievements and capabilities are impressive. How do you keep your principal focus on how you solve your client’s problems and not on yourselves?

2.What is your pitch generally? What percent is about you; what percent is about your client?

3.The management of your company arms salespeople with a  story about its attributes and relevant accomplishments. But, the company can’t tell them what a specific customer wants from you–and which of your capabilities are relevant to them. You can only determine that by asking and listening for insights about the buyer’s needs and motivations.

  • B2B customers say sellers’ presentations suffer when they’re not contextual
  • Some presenters are almost “fake listeners”–no intention to tailor what they propose based on what they learn about  the client
  • Some sellers don’t ask their customers about their problems, but tell them about how great they are for solving them

4. What are the keys to the long-term client relationships you’ve established in the past? What are the keys to creating those relationships going forward? Are there tried and true principles that will always be important? What nuances are you noticing in how to approach newer generations of buyers, and address their concerns?

5.Overall, what do you need to do to maintain the level of excellence you’ve achieved? What threats do you see that inhibit your ability to do that? Who are the disruptors in your industry–to your company specifically? Are they gaining traction and why?

6. What is/should be your sustainable competitive advantage? What will it be in 5-10 years?

Sustainable sales success is the repeated ability to demonstrate how and why the compelling differential advantages of your firm optimally satisfy your client’s needs.

That requires a serious, sincere effort to discover insights not just information about your client, and care about their answers.

The Reality: Client Understanding is Sometimes a Perfunctory Gesture

I recently was a judge at a student sales competition at a large public university.

Sixty students competed for the $2000 top prize and a likely job offer for making the winning pitch. The product involved was a real, automated credit software program.. Judges were from Dell Computer, Amazon Web Services and two major retail management software companies.

Almost invariably the students spent too little time listening to the buyer to better understand their needs before launching into their pitch about the features, benefits and ROI of the product.

Many students failed to couch their product’s attributes in the context of their prospect’s needs, something that happens in sales all the time in real-world B2B settings.

The Threat: Complacency and Deviation from the Mission

One world-renowned marketing professor suggested that “success is one of the major reasons for failure.” Complacency and forgetting what got where you are can kill any enterprise.


Stick to your values. Never forget the customer and the commitments you’ve made to them.

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