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Marketing’s Knowledge of Salespeople

I was looking for some good blogs to link to on this site and I came across Seth Godin’s post from June 2006.  What a winner!

What a salesperson would say: “There is no comparison, NONE, between an inbound call (one that you created with marketing) and a cold call (one that you instructed me to create with a phone book.) Your job is to make it so I never need to make a cold call.” 

I know the subject of sales and marketing alignment has been the subject of webinars, seminars, articles, books, research projects, and the mission statement of at least a few companies. 

Here is a piece I did for my column in Sales and Marketing Management magazine, expressing my view on the subject:

The first time I remember hearing the term “sales and marketing alignment” was in the mid 90’s.  By then I had served as a vp of sales for a time, then later as a vp of marketing. Alignment was the perfect word to describe what I did not have with my counterparts in both of those jobs.  Sales and marketing alignment-the idea intrigued me. One of the leading sales training companies was facilitating a workshop with that title for a client, which they had given me permission to audit.  During the workshop the facilitator attempted to identify the key obstacles preventing an effective working relationship between the sales and marketing organization and went on to offer insights, tools, processes and unambiguous recommendations on how to align the two departments. 

Although the program content appeared solid, a turf war was in progress at the client’s company.  During the two-day workshop, the VP of marketing was combative and didn’t exhibit any real interest.  That was far better than the VP of sales, who didn’t show at all on the second day.  The workshop turned out to be a disaster-a metaphor for the relationship between the two executives running marketing and sales. The global vp of sales and marketing, to whom these two executives reported, arranged this workshop hoping to mend some fences.  Bad decision.

Now, a dozen years later, I received three email invitations, all within the same week, to programs and workshops entitled “Sales and Marketing Alignment.”  One, based upon research by this magazine, suggests that it is, “The Next Competitive Advantage.”  What’s going on here? 

What’s going on is that many CEOs, COOs, GMs, and other executives haven’t figured out that sales and marketing alignment is more about culture, philosophy and business orientation than it is about marketing providing sales with leads, marketing messages and sexy product brochures and sales selling enough so everyone, especially those in marketing, gets to keep their jobs. 

Sales and marketing are very different functions that serve very different masters.  In companies where there is alignment, marketing leaders understand that their team serves sales (and serve other masters as well.)   I’ve seen laminated cards pinned inside cubicles of marketing staff people that said, “My job is to help our sales people sell more of our products.”  That’s the idea.

Marketing leaders who have no respect for the sales function or for people that sell will not align with them, no matter how many workshops they attend.  By the way, I recommend to CEOs that they strongly consider hiring marketing leaders that have successfully sold at some time in their careers.

Sales understands that they serve the customer.  Their job is to help people buy.  To do that, they need ongoing support from marketing.  Just to set the record straight, sales is accountable to marketing as well.  Sales has a responsibility to follow marketing’s direction regarding product positioning and target markets, among other things.  They must also provide feedback on what they observe in the field-industry trends, what the competition is doing, how customers doing, as well as providing useful feedback about the quality of leads being passed to them.  

Sales leaders who believe that “people who can’t sell become marketers” will not likely ever find themselves in the enviable position of working for an industry leading company.  Asking carefully designed questions of sales leader candidates about their experiences working with marketing can mitigate some of these risks.

Sales and marketing alignment is more than a good thing.  It’s absolutely required for competitive advantage.  But the alignment begins not with strategies, tasks and activities, but rather with the philosophies and values of the sales and marketing leaders.

©2008 — Dave Stein — www.ESResearch.com

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One Response

  1. Dave,

    Excellent post. I’ve worked with many companies where the unspoken (on occasion spoken) attitude of marketing is that sales is the stepchild whose only real function is to follow up the leads marketing provides–and that sales does a pretty lousy job of doing it. Unfortunately, often in the same companies, the sales team’s attitude toward marketing is just as destructive to any alignment of the two.

    Both departments are not only not working in alignment, but are sure the other department is actively working against them. This happens just as often in companies where the Sr. VP is head of both departments–he or she can’t even align the two areas when they have direct control over them.

    Until the two can come together and work as a unit, they’ll be handing a tremendous advantage over to their competition–except most of their competition is probably in the same boat.

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