January 21, 2005

Startling Survey Results: Sales Execs Rate PR's Importance Much Higher Than Marketing Execs Do

SUMMARY: Marketers -- if you want to really impress your sales department, perhaps the answer is adding more PR to the mix. Although this survey was conducted by a PR firm (who you might guess have some stake in the matter), we think the results are worth noting. Turns out sales pros are much more likely than marketers to rate PR as being very helpful for shortening sales cycles, impressing prospects, and even generating new leads. Take a look at the data for yourself:
A recent survey conducted on behalf of SHIFT Communications by Launch Pad revealed a disconcerting schism between sales and marketing professionals. The bottom line: sales people believe PR has a positive impact on sales, but marketers for the most part don't recognize it.

And yet it's the job of the marketing department to hire the PR agency.

For example:

--49% of respondents (60% of sales professionals, 42% of marketers) believe PR has a positive impact on sales cycle length.

--53% (58% of sales professionals, 49% of marketers) of respondents believe PR has a positive impact on lead quality.

--49% of respondents believe that generating leads is the best measure of PR success.

BUT, only 30% of respondents (37% of sales and 16% of marketers) believe that lead generation is a function of PR.

"It just doesn't make sense," says Todd Defren, a SHIFT principal. "The very people who hire me, the VPs of Marketing, have the least confidence in my ability to impact sales, even though they themselves suggest that that's how we should be measured." It means sales leads from PR are highly valued -- and yet not *expected* by the majority of survey takers.

If the PR industry can't close this gap, "We will never sit in the board room, we'll continue to be a line item on the budget, and we'll be the first to be cut," Defren says.

Defren shared more survey results, plus some tips on how PR agencies can help close the sales/marketing perception gap.

-> More survey results

The sample for the survey came from TechTarget, which selected all sales/marketing professionals worldwide from a broad spectrum of B-to-B and B-to-C industries. The survey was closed after 166 responses.

Here are some more insights:

--63% of sales professionals believe the best leads come from good PR, compared to 51% of marketers who believe the same thing (note: the statements on which sales and marketing disagree may indicate some self-serving responses on the part of marketing).

--Only 45% of companies surveyed regularly provide their sales teams with information on competitive trends. Meanwhile, more than half of sales respondents spend 1-5 hours/week searching for competitive information, while another 19% spend more than five hours: time that could be better spent on outbound sales calls.

--42% of sales people said marketing was doing a poor job providing the sales department with “PR results that help our sales efforts.” More surprising? 28% of marketers agreed with them.

--While 37% of sales respondents believe that lead generation is a function of PR, 25% of companies do not provide their sales force with media coverage materials in any format.

--Sales believes article reprints are as important as brochures when it comes to sales tools; Marketing thought brochures were more important.

-> Action items

Obviously, in order to get a seat at the table with the big guys, PR agencies need to put together PR strategies that can boost inbound leads, Defren says.


--Step #1. Go where your prospects read

Stop trying stroke the CEO's ego. "If 90% of your prospects read Pig Farmer's Journal and you get him in it, he'll love you to his dying day without ever being in the Wall Street Journal," Defren says.

It's not always as simple as trying to place articles in the same publications in which you advertise, since "a lot of companies don't have advertising budgets in the first place," Defren says. "It's up to us to figure out what publicity will drive the most leads."

He adds, "The sales people already know this and agree. It's the VPs of Marketing and their agencies who don't believe this."

Defren suggests asking field sales reps what magazines they see in the lobbies of their clients.

--Step #2. Develop programs that are informed by sales

PR professionals need to focus more on their clients' business and less on their reputations. "Most people think of PR as reputation management. Instead, they need to develop programs that are informed by sales as much as by the marketing department," says Defren.

To do this, bring in the field sales reps:

a. Invite them to join PR program planning PR people are as much about sales as the sales reps. "We're selling stories," Defren says. "So it doesn't make sense to be selling a different story than the field sales rep."

Defren asks to meet with the *best* sales rep, "Not your VP of Sales, but a person who has their feet on the street talking to prospects every day."

Then, he asks them: "What do you tell prospects about the company? What's your story?"

b. Quarterly meetings Have a quarterly meeting with reps in the field sales force to make sure that the ink you're getting is resonating with prospects, Defren suggests.

"Don't just walk in there and say, how's it going?" Instead, Defren brings a list of specific questions: What do you see on the desk of the CIO you're sitting across from? What magazines and newspapers are in the lobby?

"We literally will get the sales people to ask their prospects what they're reading. So it gets the sales team to think more in PR terms."

--Step #3. Create a central repository of PR materials

"If you live and die in the marketing department, you're probably sending an email saying, 'Hey, we got a hit in Network World, here's the link, didn't we do a good job.'"

Instead, he says, create a central repository where the sales force can get all PR material, repurposed as sales collateral.

In fact, Defren says, SHIFT has put together a PR:Sales Extranet: an online repository that arms the sales teams with actionable company news and other selling tools.

The Extranet includes competitive data on a daily basis, informing the sales force of competitors' announcements and media hits, and ideas on how to combat competitive challenges.

Example: In a product review, if a competitor got five stars and the client got four, Defren says, the Extranet might say something like, "We may have lost this review, but if you read the story, there were some great quotes on why our product was so good, so if it comes up in a meeting, make sure you mention the following quotes…"

The Extranet also includes contact information for every member of the PR team. "If you have a great new customer reference, talk to Christy. If something weird happened to you in the field today and you think it might make a good anecdote, call Joe…" Defren explains. "I have clients whose sales teams are in regular contact with PR people."

As a result, the PR team is more deeply embedded in the client company. "We're strategic communications that is part of the sales and marketing process."

SHIFT Communications http://www.shiftcomm.com

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