Getting through to a sales team

I have been working in a b2b marketing position for around 8 years now, and the marketing department has gradually expanded from a single person low level job, to a 3 person department. In all that time however we have had one major issue, how to get feedback from our sales team in a cost effective manner.

Firstly I should explain that the industry I work in sells to electrical wholesalers, switchboards builders etc., and our sales team are all from this industry, so they are ex-electricians etc. Most are not very computer literate, to say the least, although they all have company supplied laptops and an always on data connection, allowing them to receive email at any time.

Over the years we have: –

  • Been to all the sales conferences
  • Responded to the usual suggestions (buy more shirts)
  • Send out a monthly newsletter of what marketing is doing
  • Send out emails when something new is available
  • Provide detailed instructions on how to use items, if they are complex
  • Done surveys to increase participation
  • Emphasised in communications that our objective is to reduce work for them
  • Requested feedback on programs we have initiated

However, in all this time we get almost no response from the teams, they don’t hand out calendars etc we give them, they don’t follow up on leads from the website, they continually tell us that they are unaware of things that have been in emails, meetings etc. The reason I mention calendars is because I recently did a talk to a group of local wholesalers we have regular contact with, and asked them how they were going with the competition attached to it. 80% hadn’t even received the calendar (and it’s May) but wanted one when I told them about it. On closer inspection we found boxes of calendars where they keep their literature.

The reason for my post is that for the first time I am going to try an email marketing tool to track what our sales team actually look at in our communications, and therefore make sure that if they aren’t looking at something we can give them a nudge to do it. Is this bad? Has anyone else had any luck approaching their sales teams in other ways?

BTW – It’s also good to vent!