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Making Marketing and Sales Work

Keep your company on the right track with these strategies.

By John Graham

An economic environment may be emerging in which there won’t be any really good times or completely bad times. At a given moment, some sectors will be stronger than others, but nothing really “sizzling.” And there will always be something lurking out there that can turn a good day into a nightmare.

Forget about the high-pressure sale or ads that shout the name of your company, along with your latest product.

So where does this leave you? What are you to do? What should you watch out for? What steps should you take if the economy turns out to be unfriendly?

Here are some thoughts and suggestions to keep your business focused throughout the year:

Stand with your customers.
Whenever times get tight, you’re told to sell more to your current clients. Although this may sound like a great idea, it can be dangerous if those clients are cutting back. The goal is for you to work with clients so that when the time comes for new purchases, you will be there to make the sale.

Give prospects a reason to want you.
“Did you get our proposal?” “Could I stop by for 20 minutes and tell you about our company?” “I’m going to be in your area next week.” When prospects and clients are bombarded with these words, there’s just one question they ask: “So what?”

Forget about the high-pressure sale or ads that “shout” the name of your company, along with your latest product. Draw upon your years of experience and your own expertise that will help your clients. If you share it with them, you’ll be welcomed because you bring something that’s useful.

Don’t fall for the quick and dirty solution.
Email “blasts” are quick, easy and cheap. But do they accomplish your objectives? Do they enhance branding? There may be a reason why the cost is low. Don’t reject what takes time, effort and planning just because it takes time, effort and planning.

Dig out the gold.
Read business and trade journals—and not just those about insurance and financial advising. Get your hands on as many as possible. Read the table of contents; that’s where you’ll find the real gold. Editors are good at identifying hot topics and problems their readers are having. If you can come up with solutions that make sense, you will have a leg up on attracting customers from particular business sectors.

Don’t get seduced by your own ideas—or the ideas of those around you.
Most companies are poor marketers because they are preoccupied with the image they see of themselves in the mirror: “We’re the best. Our service is great. We have terrific people.” On and on it goes. Whether you produce a newsletter, mailer or brochure, don’t let "the company" be your dominant theme. Companies, like people, can become so self-absorbed that they fall into the trap of seducing themselves.

Tend to the details.
Our daughter was conducting a campus tour of prospective students and their parents at Boston University, when the Chancellor John Silber, joined the group. “Why did he take his time to do that?” she asked. There may be a number of reasons, but I think that the head of the nation’s fifth largest private university understands the value of taking care of the details. Everything is important in getting to the goal. If you skip taking care of the little things, you’ll be faced with dealing with the big problems.

Watch out for the deflectors.
Deflectors constantly introduce reasons for not taking action. There’s always a piece missing or a need for extra time. And when they push those scenarios about as far as they can go, they introduce a new idea that turns attention away from the tasks at hand. The test of any organization is in what it accomplishes, not what it talks about.

John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm. You can contact him at 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170, at 617-328-0069 or The company’s website is

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