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Book Review - "Escaping the Black Hole"

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Escaping the Black Hole: Minimizing the Damage from the Marketing-Sales Disconnect
Robert Schmonsees, Thompson Publishing, 2005

How much of your marketing and selling budget is wasted?

In "Escaping the Black Hole -Minimizing the Damage from the Marketing and Selling Disconnect" (Thompson Publishing, 2005), author Bob Schmonsees demonstrates that in many companies that waste is as much as 25% as a result of misaligned assets, processes, and activities.

Schmonsees begins with an examination of the symptoms and costs of dysfunctional sales and marketing relationships, and traces them directly to the heart of the problem: misalignment of the key processes and assets that drive the day-to-day activities of marketing and sales professionals. He also provides the reader with two axioms that will help companies institutionalize the principles of solutions centric-selling and turn the way they go to market into a sustainable competitive advantage.

  • Marketing and sales must institutionalize a greater understanding of the customer's business problems and the implications of those problems on the constituencies and stakeholders they sell to.
  • The way a company markets and sells must be subservient to the way their customers buy.

Schmonsees brings a wealth of background to his project, including a stint as salesman at IBM, and chief marketing and sales officer for several medium and large software and services companies where he implemented early versions of lead and pipeline management and sales forecasting applications. He has invested in and advised dozens of high-tech startups, and founded a successful technology startup called WisdomWare in 1996. Along the way he lived in the trenches of sales and sales management, as well as living the life of a harried marketing executive. He has made the mistakes he chronicles in the book, and is able to present a reasoned approach for dealing with its challenges.

Schmonsees introduces what he calls a "Value-Centric Communications Model" based on a value map of customer and stakeholder needs, and product and service capabilities. That map is the basis for a deliberate process of developing, deploying, and gathering feedback on "sanctioned" marketing communications content used in the course of converting prospects to customers. This content is a means of integrating everything that surrounds the salesperson and touches the customer such as sales tools and training, CRM systems, marketing and product collateral, and promotional vehicles and media. In Schmonsees' view managing and maintaining the intellectual assets is the essence of connecting the marketing and sales functions, and of improving effectiveness and reducing waste in marketing and sales organizations.

Schmonsees' perspectives are expansive and candid. I found myself cheering at sections titled "B 2 B Branding Blunders" and "The Failure of Solutions Selling." At the same time, although he liberally shares stories and anecdotes from his background, many of his diagrams and concepts would benefit from even more specific case examples and illustrations.

Yet the business world needs more books like this one. Far too many corporations are saddled with marketing managers who have no clue what their salespeople's lives are like, sales managers who are weak on analytical ability or vision, and senior executives who have difficulty thinking like a customer. I highly recommend "Escaping the Black Hole" for its expansive and comprehensive and healthy view of how to improve sales and marketing organizations today.

Mr. Schmonsee's website (www.web2one.com) contains information and resources for companies that want to escape the black hole. You can reach him at (540) 872-5379 or bobs@web2one.com.

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