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Invest in Sales Training or Marketing?

Which way to go?
A reader writes:

I purchased a staffing agency that provides outstanding customer service. The company has literally been open everyday for the last 52 years, including every holiday and every weekend. We have two vans and two drivers that ensure workers are dropped off and picked up from jobsites 24/hours per day. The company has done absolutely no advertising or marketing of any sort in 52 years. So the question is, where is the best place to start: website, direct mail, brochures, etc.
Let's start with some basics. The sole purpose of marketing in a B2B firm is to generate qualified leads that convert easily into customers. The trick to doing these things well is figuring out how to get the most for your money.

Direct mail, in my view, is foolish in your case. It's hard to tell (from the outside looking in) which companies need staffing services, so that makes it harder to come up with an effective demographic for a mailing list. As for brochures, nobody in the B2B world ever read a brochure and bought anything as a result. See my post: "Brochures are Total BS."

A website might not be a bad idea, providing you don't spend much. Face it: you don't need a "world class" site because you're only marketing to your local area, so spend a thousand dollars (or less) for a generic brochure-ware site, then forget about it. As for advertising, you might consider running an in a local business magazine as an experiment. But don't spend a lot of money. Local TV? Fuggedabodit. Not targeted enough.

In my opinion, the smartest thing you could do would be to build on the success that your firm has already experienced. To do this, you should immediately get your sales reps trained on the latest techniques in referral selling. The idea is to make it easier for your customers to recommend you to their peers, which is what's been driving your business. Here are two blog posts on that subject: "How to Generate Your Own Leads" and "Five Rules for Great Referrals".

That should solve the problem of lead generation and should help enormously with your close rate, because referrals generate the kind of leads that are most likely to be pre-qualified and most likely to close. Of course, your sales staff needs to have good consulting skills, communication skills and closing skills, but that would be part of any reasonably well-designed sales training plan.

In short, if I were you, I'd put the bulk of my investment for future growth into sales training. The very fact that your company has thrived without marketing and advertising for so long is pretty clear evidence that it's not going to be all that useful. Properly targeted sales training, by contrast, is likely to pay off, big time.

Readers: Any other suggestions for this guy? Am I selling marketing short in this case?

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