Article by: David Roche
(Customer Marketing Manager, Central Garden and Pet)
These famous words from Albert Einstein speak to the importance of different disciplines not only tolerating each other, but working together to maximize their respective contributions.
The same can be said for Sales and Marketing. There is an almost universal conflict between Sales teams and Marketing organizations across Corporate America.
Here are some common perceptions from Sales:
- “The Tower and the Trenches” – Marketing is in the tower, and we’re in the trenches. They just don’t get it.
- Management has a clear vision, but it has not trickled down yet (lost in translation) – we don’t know how to articulate our vision or strategy to our customers.
- Field staff feels disconnected from corporate decision making processes.
- HQ is not listening to our needs and doesn’t understand what we’re dealing with.
- The organization needs more closely aligned goals and direction.
The specifics will vary somewhat by organization, but the themes will be very consistent. In order to address these issues, there are specific actions that can be taken. My experience is that a Customer Marketing team is the most effective way to tackle some of these issues and ensure a better integration between the Sales and Marketing functions. However, these actions can be taken in any organization:
1. Better understand needs, wants, and issues with key constituents:
2. Set up interviews with the following groups:
• Senior Management
o What are the business drivers, current performance, resource deployment?
o What are the 1, 2 and 5 year business plans? How are you tracking against objectives?
• Brand (Voice of the Consumer)
o What is the brand equity? How is current brand health? Penetration, strategies, competition?
o Product sku’s? Turn rates?
o What are consumer needs and occasions? Functional and emotional benefits?
• Sales (Voice of the Customer)
o What is the importance of the category to the customer?
o How does the customer sell the category? What problems does the customer have with the category?
o What is the customer’s strategy with the consumer?
Once you have collected answers to these important questions, you can take the most important step – get the parties in the same room and talking about how they’re going to collectively meet the organization’s challenges. With most conflicts (whether they’re personal or organizational) better understanding is the most effective way to find common ground. Facilitating an exchange between Sales and Marketing where each is heard is a great first step toward achieving better integration.
Defining clear action items and ensuring follow up after the meeting is also critical to maintaining trust and enhancing effectiveness between Sales and Marketing. If there is no follow-up after an exchange, the credibility of each group will be tarnished and the teams will quickly revert back to their earlier positions of frustration and mistrust.
As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
And so it is with Sales and Marketing integration. It’s an everyday thing.