Marketing & Sales Alignment – when two worlds collide

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Over 20 of us gathered in Manchester last week for the BMC event on aligning Sales and Marketing and, I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was pretty sure it would be all “them vs us” with dramatic tales of arrogant Sales teams demanding last minute campaigns and brow-beaten Marketeers doubling up as personal assistants to their Sales colleagues. But, far from it. While there is clearly some way still to go, I can report that the tension between Sales and Marketing in North West based organisations is definitely a healthy one.  Here were my big takeaways:
Share a culture not just targets
The use of technology is clearly helping, as targets and results are able to be openly shared and visible to all at the touch of a button. But as a group we felt that simply sharing the target isn’t enough for real alignment. Several attendees highlighted how the Sales & Marketing functions sit side by side, go out on customer visits together and build a camaraderie that leads to a much deeper sense of ‘sharing’ issues or challenges. In the case of Brother UK, an entire team sits between the Sales and Marketing functions, measured by broad business goals that require the involvement of both.   Ultimately, however, we agreed that any culture change needs to be led from the top and those organisations that are most closely aligned tend to be led by a management ethos that values Sales and Marketing equally.
Create an air of confident credibility
The skills that make a great Sales person are not necessarily the same as those that make a great Marketeer. We need to be louder and prouder about what makes Marketing great – creativity, empathy, ideation, analytical interpretation and general people and communication skills. Many of the attendees admitted to feeling ‘second best’ to their more confident Sales colleagues and to feeling that Sales was rated as more important in their organisation than Marketing. But we have a responsibility too – to establish greater credibility for the function by understanding what makes those same colleagues tick and to talk in their language. Understand the organisation’s commission plans and incentive schemes. Know what makes a ‘good’ deal for any specific Sales colleague and be aware of the impact of any campaign offers on individuals as well as the broader organisation.
In the absence of anything else, share the customer
At the receiving end of any communication, campaign or product demo sits the customer. In Manchester, we all agreed that not enough is made of this shared asset. In some cases however, Marketers have been able to take much greater ownership of the customer simply because they have nothing to sell. Customers are much more willing to have open and constructive conversations about their experience of the brand or product.  In some organisations this responsibility still sits with the Customer Services teams but this can lead to a heavy focus on tactical problem solving or complaint handling. Look instead at how you can support your Sales teams with independent customer visits, feedback programmes and account reviews. The insights gained, especially around current and future needs, will benefit not just Sales but the whole organisation as you enter next year’s planning cycle.
Karyn Bright

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