Eliminate the Disconnect between Marketing and Sales

I am presenting “Applying Baldrige to the Marketing Function” at the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit. This post originally appeared as a guest post on that site.

Are your marketing and sales efforts focused on the same goals or is there a constant struggle between the two? Is the struggle like a tug-of-war between business functions constantly trying to yank the rope out of each other’s hands? Eliminating this functional silo mentality can yield huge benefits by concentrating efforts.

Marketing frequently sees their purpose as developing the strategy and tactics to develop Marketing and Sales Tug of Warand refine offerings and to generate market and customer interest. They grab responsibility for all communications that aren’t face-to-face and design offerings based on the information they can gather and what anecdotal information sales reports to them. They think their efforts can overcome the limits of the sales force. Marketing sees its burden as compensating for sale’s inability to see the big picture.

Sales sees their purpose as developing the market and account strategies and to execute tactics that close sales. The marketing message must be stripped and reconstructed to be usable. Sales gets to determine what conversations take place face-to-face and what gets reported back upstream. Sales thinks their biggest challenge is to overcome marketing’s inability to see what’s required to win business in the real world.

So how do you eliminate the disconnect between marketing and sales?

Set Common Goals

Goals should be Customer focused – centered on listening to customers, building customer relationships, and using customer information to improve marketing and sales functions. These goals should be the same for both marketing and sales in a broad strategic sense. These broad, high-level goals can then be cascaded down through the organizational levels with each lower level setting a goal that supports the broad common goal.

Think of a military commander setting his battle plan. His main objective is quite broad but Cascading Action Plansby the time smaller units establish their plans they are much smaller in scale. However, they still support the broad strategic goal. The General sets the strategy to win the war or decrease vehicle accidents – a Platoon Leader plans to take a hill or to ensure speed limits are strictly followed.

Marketing and sales must similarly agree on the big strategic goals. Smaller units will never establish plans that breach the silo mentality if they don’t agree on broader strategic goals.

Use Process Thinking

Marketing frequently thinks they move a customer to a certain stage of the buying cycle then pass the customer off to sales. Customers might enter the cycle at any stage though and regardless of their entry path they expect help. For instance, consider the commonalities between a conversation that occurs via an inquiry from your website and a conversation that occurs during a sales call. Is one a sales conversation and one a marketing conversation? Is one conversation more important than another? Are the personnel involved in one conversation more likely to be knowledgeable about your offerings and more experienced than the other and thus more likely to answer questions and meet customer expectations in a timely fashion?

It seems a bit short-sighted to have your most talented sales people answer face-to-face questions and some of your least experienced marketers answering website inquiries or participating in social media. If these customer interactions aren’t identified as processes first, it is near impossible to ensure customers get the experience you or they desire.
Once the need for a process is identified and the process is defined, then appropriate resources can be assigned to accomplish the task. Process thinking can then be applied to ensure the tasks are not only adequately accomplished but processes can be continuously improved using traditional quality tools.

The only way to really breakdown business function silos is to want to. If politics get in the way or there is a lack of leadership it will never happen. If the desire is in place however, steps in the right direction are to ensure goals are common between the marketing and sales functions and cascade supporting action plans down through the functional units. Then use process thinking to make sure the correct resources are in place to execute action plans and tasks and to continuously improve them. When the marketing and sales functions are integrated in their efforts big challenges can be overcome and great things can happen.

Contact me to discuss your specific marketing and sales challenges, how the Baldrige Criteria can help your organization, or look me up at the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit in St. Louis.

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