Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” You can’t do that without a sales plan or a marketing plan.
Every research study you hear about small business says the number one challenge facing business owners today (and yesterday and tomorrow) is a lack of sales. This review of Palo Alto Software’s new Sales and Marketing Pro is aimed at helping small business owners who need a step-by-step approach to creating a dynamic and usable sales or marketing plan, or both.
Lots of sales and marketing experts tell you to have a plan and to work that plan. But my questions are — Do I really need to write a plan? Isn’t it going to go stale as soon as I finish? Can’t I just carry the details around in my head as I rush from appointment to appointment?
I met Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, last year and listened to him present to a room full of entrepreneurs. I can just picture him getting ready to school me in his most passionate and enthusiastic tone about how a plan should be a living document. Tim is a valued and frequent contributor here at Small Business Trends and is actively involved in the small biz community.
As soon as you open Sales and Marketing Pro, you know you’re in for some work, but that you’ll have someone holding your hand to get it done. At least that’s how I felt as I opened the review copy I was provided. The software does some unexpected, but positive, things.
First, after you land on the easy-to-choose-from dashboard, you notice that for every question the software asks, it provides a wide range of useful content as well as tips, links and resources to help you get the plan done.
Some things I really liked:
- Sample plans. Loads of them. Although the PDF samples are aimed at professional services types, there’s enough of a range that you can get ideas for other types of businesses, too.
- As you complete a task, it shows you how many tasks you have remaining. Not amazing, but helpful. I can see if I’m almost done. I can honestly say that I am not done with my own sales plan, but the ease of the process has me working through it and leveraging all the tips and experience that are woven into the product. I can see an outline view (right column of above screenshot) as well, and the software lets me jump to an entirely new section and start working there, so you don’t have to go in order (although there is probably a good reason to do so).
- No writer’s block to slow you down. In each step, examples are provided. With one click, you can add those example snippets to your own plan and modify them. So, you are not staring at a blank screen in the “Sales Strategy” section or figuring out your own “Sales Pitch” or elevator pitch from scratch.
The software also includes special offers from strategic partners and valuable free content. You can get a copy of John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing book for free (just pay postage). There are SEO and social media books and e-books, price breaks or longer-than-average trials with BatchBook, VistaPrint, and other vendors in the marketing and public relations space (PR Web, for example).
One small thing I wasn’t crazy about: When you go to the Sales Resources button (called Home on the software’s nav bar), it won’t allow you back into the actual software until you exit the Resources window. Even if you minimize it and get back to the main window, it won’t allow you into the software again until you close the Resources tab. A small point, but one that kept stumping me. (There are tons of great documents in that online sales library, though.)
This review of Palo Alto Software’s Sales and Marketing Pro is for the business owner who goes through the day putting out fires, but knows that new prospect call needs to get done before the end of the day. If you are a business owner who wants to create a plan, but simply can’t afford the time to explore how to do it, this software may be just the thing you need to help you get a plan completed one step at a time.
The interface reminds me of Microsoft Outlook when I guess I had envisioned something more like a step-by-step wizard. Is the navigation fairly intuitive?
Hey Robert, that’s an interesting point — i guess it does resemble an email inbox a bit. Hmm. It is step-by-step, though. You can jump around in the table of contents, or go in a very linear fashion. I thought of the layout more as buckets I could choose from. As I select the item on the far left, it then displays it in the middle, but if I need more help or examples, the tab above lets me do that. And the right section shows me more depth in that content area.
But I’m no expert on the software, as you know, but exploring a trial copy at warp speed… Overall, I was genuinely pleased with the steps, the process, because it forced me to think about the gaps in my own sales and marketing plan. Gaps that I would have clearly missed had this ‘inbox’ approach not made it visible to me. Using your comparison term…
Great job with your review, TJ.
I must admit that I’m jealous; you got to meet Tim, face to face.
I haven’t yet.
Bums me out.
His business plan and marketing software is world-renowned. He wouldn’t expect anything less from his team, that much I know.
It was a smart move by him to have the sales and marketing plan software that you reviewed, sealed with Duct Tape.
The Franchise King®
I agree with Joel’s statement, it is a a great combo to have a powerful software tool plus the Duct Tape Marketing book!