When marketing experts are developing a campaign, or even a project, the most frequently underutilized and the most valuable of all assets is the sales team. By definition, at least mine, a salesperson is someone who sells your goods or services and earns a commission. They might also get a salary or a draw, but they have to be motivated primarily by commission. There are others who represent your company and may even take orders that result in revenue, but a true salesperson lives and dies by commission and, as a result, is motivated to generate sales. As a result, from a marketer’s point of view, salespeople are the most honest people in your organization. This statement always raises an eyebrow, or generates a wink and a knowing laugh from those who only think in terms of the clichéd salesperson who will do anything to get a sale. I am not blind to the fact that some salespeople are not above occasionally, ever-so-slightly stretching the truth to generate a sale (re: commission). However, because they are focused on selling – and selling alone – they will only use materials and endorse campaigns that help them sell. And this is why they are such a valuable asset for all marketers. Too many of us, when developing a campaign or judging its success, believe success is based on a clever headline, a funny spot, a beautiful design or best of all – an award! Oh, how we love those awards. The truth is – and please don’t tell my clients – awards are a dime a dozen. Every industry, association, magazine, trade organization or meeting of more than three marketing managers will be happy to issue awards. Agencies and marketers love them because they are proof of a “good job”: 1st place, 2nd place, gold, silver, bronze, best of show, best of region, local, state, national, most innovative, most creative, prettiest, smartest or (and don’t tell anyone) the most common of all, the “simply paid the entry fee” award. A campaign should be judged by the impact it has on revenue. If those of us who make a living in marketing truly want to be considered an investment and not an expense, we need to show those who count dollars and not awards that we are doing a good job. And this brings us back to the guys on the street, the people who make their living selling. Questions to ask Ask them what tools they need. Ask them what trade shows to exhibit at, which magazines and newspapers their clients read, if the direct mail campaign worked, if their prospects read e-blasts or billboards. Does the brochure (print or electronic) highlight the things that are important to the client? Do you have a Web site that is beautiful, but not functional? Are you designing an image campaign when your sales team sweating out a price battle? Are you pushing service when the critical difference between a sale and no sale is benefits? Ask yourself when was the last time you attended a sales meeting, spent a day on sales calls or on the floor, or even worked a trade show booth? The bottom line is that it’s the bottom line that’s important. I’m as excited about brand awareness, new product introduction and image ads as the next guy. In the past, I have certainly fallen prey to papering the office walls with awards. However, in the end marketing is a business, success is judged on revenue generation and my clients expect a ROI. Your best chance of developing a successful campaign – one viewed as a sound business investment and not a begrudgingly budgeted expense – is to work with the salespeople and let them be active participants in the planning and review process. Start by picking up the phone and taking a sales guy (or gal) to lunch. You’ll be amazed by how much you learn. Scott Harris is the owner of Mustang Marketing, a full-service marketing agency serving the San Fernando Valley for more than 20 years. You can reach Scott at Scott@MustangMktg.com or visit Mustang’s website at www.MustangMktg.com.