I’m still absolutely appalled at the lackluster effort by the two sales people at Toyota and Ford dealerships within the last two weeks. If you’ve been following me on occasion, you will know that I’ve been recording the steps by a consumer (me) to purchase a vehicle.
With all the chaos in the automotive industry in the last 18 months, I had assumed/expected better effort by the sales people (one female, one a senior citizen) to earn my business.
The last frontier for public relations must be SALES. I cannot speak for all industries. The TV salesman at H.H. Gregg over the weekend in Indianapolis convinced my aunt to purchase several luxury items; he did a great job. Is it just auto sales we’re talking about, then?
Here are a few tips for public relations practitioners to infiltrate some expertise into the sales mechanism of any company:
1. Messaging. Marketing typically provides product background to sales, but is there a message map developed for the sales team? Message maps are valuable for any spokesperson on the frontlines; sales teams are tier one spokespeople for a company.
2. Training. With a completed message map in hand, train the sales team to use it. Role play and you be the potential customer. Let the sales team get comfortable with the map so everyone uses the same powerful and approved messages.
3. Secret shopping. There’s no better way than to ask a “spy” to launch the buying process for a product and see how the sales team is performing. Take what’s gleaned from that experience and return to the salespeople with more tips on how to interact with customers.
4. Respect. Everyone in the organization must respect the sales team for its position and role for the company. Ask marketing and sales what tools can be created to assist with this effort.
5. Attend sales meetings. Salespeople have the pulse of the industry and customers at their fingertips. What a treasure of information for public relations. When a PR person attends (you need to get invited), you can identify case study prospects, news hooks, regional news fodder and develop a variety of communications as a result.
6. Sales communications. Treat sales as a tier one target audience. They need to know what’s happening within the company and when public relations learns critical industry information, sales should be informed. Write a newsletter, e-blast, intranet site for sales, or other non-tech method of communication (some salespeople don’t have access to the Internet).
7. Blend with marketing. As the marketing team is oriented to sales quotas, ROI and lead generation, listen to their needs and complement the mix with on-point public relations strategy.
8. Ask the sales team. Communicate. Be a team. Be inclusive. Regard sales as a critical component of the marketing public relations mix.
9. Build trust. For years, sales and public relations has been miles apart with marketing smack in the middle. Until results happen, sales will not regard public relations in the right light. In fact, public relations is likely to be little understood in the sales organization.
10. Try, try again. Try for what works. Synergy does not happen over night, but shame on sales and public relations for not putting forth a consistent effort to make it so.
What other thoughts can you offer?