There is a silent (or sometimes not-so-silent) battle waged between what the sales department wants and what the marketing department can and should deliver. Business leaders may only be vaguely aware of this tug-of-war but it exists in most organizations. There are two reasons for this. First, salespeople are always under great pressure (internal and external) to make sales. Not only does the company want them to sell more, but they themselves want to earn more. But selling requires a lot of time and effort. To ease the burden, they look to marketing for help. Second, salespeople are bombarded by other companies’ impressive marketing efforts. Newsletters. Email drip campaigns. Remarketing Campaigns. Seminars. Blogs. Billboards. Ads. Videos. Tradeshow exhibits. Competitor marketing is particularly irksome. Logically, salespeople believe that if they do the same marketing, they too will succeed. This is the business equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
In most companies, this ‘sales-marketing tug-of-war’ plays out with sales making infinite demands for marketing support with little understanding of the budget or resources required for implementing those ideas, or if those strategies fit in with or duplicate existing efforts. Sales teams claim that they either cannot meet their sales goals or they can be exponentially more successful if their specific marketing ideas are implemented. Unlimited sales demands are thus made on marketing departments that have limited resources. What is the company’s leadership to do? To handle infinite sales demands with finite marketing resources, leaders should implement this three-step process.
The Rope in the Sales-Marketing Tug-of-War
It‘s a leadership nightmare to be pitted between the pie-in-the-sky, boundless ideas proposed by sales managers and the feet-on-the-ground, practical limitations of marketing staff and budgets. Off the cuff, sales managers come across as energetic rainmakers ready to seize the world if they can ‘just get a little bit of marketing support,’ while marketing managers wring their hands wondering how to accomplish so much with so few resources. The easiest thing in the world is for leaders to jump on the sales bandwagon asking marketing to “Do more! Do more! Do ever more!” However, a sober look at the big picture often reveals the realistic constraints and genuine dangers of giving in to wanton, disjointed and impulsive marketing campaigns. Rather than being pulled in opposing directions or giving in to the squeakiest wheel, the savviest leaders usually implement three important steps in order to align sales and marketing.
1. Balanced Listening
Smart leaders start by asking their sales and marketing staff probing questions, and then actively listening to their answers in order to understand each position in-depth.
- What are the goals that sales wants to achieve with these marketing efforts?
- Why aren’t the current marketing efforts meeting those goals?
- Are the requested marketing efforts the best (most sensible) way to achieve the desired goals?
- Do the requested marketing strategies introduce any problems or risks for the company?
- Are the marketing strategies suggested short-term or long-term? If long-term, are they realistically sustainable with the current resources?
- Are the requested marketing efforts the best use of the company’s finite marketing resources?
- Can sales accomplish the same goals as effectively without marketing support?
- Is there a better, more cost effective, more streamlined or more global way to accomplish the goals without further taxing marketing resources?
- Do the requested marketing efforts fit with the company’s overall marketing plan?
- Can the marketing department fulfill the marketing strategies requested within the existing resources and budget or will it require additional resources?
- Are there reasons why these marketing efforts were considered but not implemented before?
- Will the requested marketing efforts change the direction of the company’s marketing goals? If so, does it make sense to implement those changes right away or incorporate them into the next marketing plan?
The final question the leader should ask is to him or herself.
- Is there any hidden agenda (a motive that benefits self-interest over company interest) for the marketing strategies requested?
The goal is to determine if the requested marketing efforts have been thoroughly vetted to ensure they are truly needed, the best course of action, sustainable, not redundant, and in the best interest of the company, not just the sales team.
2. Big-Picture Wisdom
A savvy leader then employs Big Picture thinking to see the implications of their actions and feedback. He asks himself provoking questions:
- Is this important? Why?
- What will be the impact if this happens? What if it doesn’t happen?
- Who cares the most about this? Who else is affected— both directly and indirectly?
- When will they expect to know?
In answering these questions, the leader will be able to chart a course for the organization.
3. Unified Vision
The next step a savvy leader takes is to align sales and marketing efforts. Initially, this might mean having to tell sales that their requests are tabled, or might mean having to tell marketing to add an initiative to the plan midyear. Or a sage leader may come up with an innovative solution or a new opportunity which aligns sales and marketing’s needs. This solves the immediate issue. However, long-term, sales and marketing alignment should include identifying shared goals, finding common milestones and metrics, improving communication, and achieving consensus on strategies and campaigns.
To achieve sales and marketing alignment, both teams must learn how to work together as a single team: speaking the same language, and exchanging information freely. Some best practices to achieve this include:
a) Setting Regular Meetings between Sales Teams and Marketing.
From the start, have marketing meet every new salesperson. That is a good opportunity to share how marketing can support the sales team. Then invite marketing to attend regular sales meetings either in person or via Skype or video conferencing. Attending weekly sales meetings allows marketers to know how sales is doing with its goals, and offer support as needed. This time can also be used to share the upcoming campaigns, content, and offers that marketing will be deploying. It’s also a good time to ask for content ideas and recommendations for future campaigns, blog posts, newsletter articles, eblasts, etc.
b) Having Regular Meetings between Sales Managers and Marketing
Marketing and sales managers should meet on a monthly basis to analyze results.
c) Involving Sales in the Creation of Content
Sales reps are speaking to clients and prospective clients all the time and know what is getting them excited about the company, its services or the market. While salespeople don’t have time to write down this feedback, periodic brainstorming sessions provide opportunities for marketing to get that input from sales. Allow salespeople to ghostwrite a blog post or prepare a fictional “interview” for a newsletter article.
d) Notifying Sales of Upcoming Marketing Initiatives
Marketers are constantly generating new campaigns. It’s important to keep the sales team up-to-date with these efforts so they know what information their contacts are receiving.
Besides sharing the information, marketing could provide sales with talking points.
e) Getting Salespeople to share on Social Media.
If some salespeople are active on social media, they should be encouraged to share the company’s content. Marketing can even write social media messages for them to post so that all they have to do is copy and paste them on their favorite networks.
f) Organizing Sales Resources in one Easy-to-Access Online Location.
Marketers work hard to create sales resources such as brochures, company overviews, presentations, flyers, and more, but all that hard work goes to waste if the sales team can’t find and use them. Keeping all your sales materials in one shared place where Sales can easily access makes it much easier for them to make use of it.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Generates Results
Besides creating a more harmonious and cohesive work environment, there is another reason for leaders to align sales and marketing efforts. Something interesting happens at organizations where effective marketing and sales alignment occurs. Everyone wins. According to a report by Aberdeen Research, companies that are best at aligning marketing programs and sales needs experienced an average of 20% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in laggard organizations. At these companies, the sales and marketing organizations generally report to one senior executive who’s responsible for both attracting and closing business. So, sales and marketing share more than just a C-level executive – they also share goals, resources, and processes that allow them to monitor and optimize every stage of every sale, from first touch to closed deal. Then leadership goes from being the rope in a tug-of-war to a rope that unites and bonds the team.
Quote of the Week
“Dividing meager resources across a host of medium term operational goals creates mediocrity on a broad scale.”
Hamel and Prahalad, Harvard Business Review
© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.