I tweeted this last night: 

Then had this exchange with Sean Lindsay and Mike Champion:


So what’s a “Sales Toolkit”?

A Sales Toolkit is a collection of assets useful to the sales team in closing business. The “tools” in such a “kit” obviously differ by industry. The toolkit for selling cars might include a bound collection of third-party reviews, an iPad lease calculator app, and a box of tic-tacs. For selling pharmaceuticals, a neatly compiled sheaf of empirical medical data, a few patient testimonial videos, and two tickets to Hawaii might come in handy (I base this solely on the fully-clothed parts of Love & Other Drugs, to which I may have paid insufficient attention.)

For selling enterprise technology – what we sell – you need a whole bunch of stuff. For starters you need the basics… good collateral, a quick-and-effective executive intro deck, and a CRM system to measure progress. But you need other assets as well, the kind of things that tend to get accumulated along the way as you grow from a startup into a grownup business.

You need a way of demonstrating the business value of what you’re selling, for example… maybe an excel file or something. Somebody eventually builds one of these, and shares it with the team. It looks like crap, but seems to get the job done, and you move on. Odds are you’re going to need a way to generate custom price quotes for your product, again often done in excel for starters, with files shared through a workflow that evolves over time into a process map that looks like a lower intestine. You’d need a way of comparing your product to alternatives, a way to get references for customer prospects, and some kind of “Proposal Shell” to make sure people aren’t starting from zero and winging it when it’s time to ask for the order.

Most every enterprise technology company produces these assets over time, but too few go back and look down on them as an integrated whole to find ways to simplify and streamline the process, all while creating customer touchpoints that are more impactful, professional, and aligned with the brand.

Having just completed that process, I can tell you why: It sucks. These systems are like paved cowpaths in an organization. They’re all “version 97” of something that originated in the mind of some-guy-who-left-last-year. The formats are all screwed up from being cut-and-pasted so much over the years, and the messaging is a patchwork quilt of what we used to do, what we tried to do, and what we did before we knew what we know now. Changing them tends to require the buy-in of multiple internal constituencies, not least of which are the sales guys who’ve gotten used to doing things the way they’ve always done them. Eek.

Cleaning this stuff up is important, though. While not as glossy as the projects marketing typically cares about, these are the tools people use every day in the field to get deals done. Talking to those people about what’s working and what isn’t – the starting point of any reengineering effort – reveals a lot about what messages are breaking through, where the market is most resistant to the claims your making in your “air cover,” and how you might be able to cut time and effort from your average sales cycle. It’s a chance to look at who’s using the current generation of tools most effectively, and to translate their best practices into a new generation of tools that will make everyone more productive.

If you’re a marketing person, get closer to sales by asking your reps to walk you through a typical sales process. Ask what they’re using to communicate with customers, who’s doing the best job of that, and how you can translate their real-world smarts into better point tools than those they’re using today. Ask what they’d like that they don’t have. Then step back to examine the process end-to-end. Find ways to integrate and simplify; do the work of getting people on board; fix what needs fixing.

It’s trench warfare instead of Capital-M Marketing, but the dirt under your nails will tell you you’ve done a good days work when you’re done.