The Mansfield Sales Blog

Sales and Marketing Alignment - A Key to Sales Growth

Go back a couple of decades and you will find that most companies had a unified Sales and Marketing function. Today, even in mid-sized companies, the Marketing function is often separated from Sales. Marketing is the "keeper of the brand" and creates "sales support materials" but really doesn't actively engage in "selling".

How did this happen?

Probably we need to assemble a team of MBA's to study this phenomenon for a couple of years and present their findings to uncover the truth. But allow me put forward a theory – it started with the systemization of Marketing at Harvard and other leading academic institutions. Great and important work that really helped elevate brand management, but also started to separate Marketing from Sales.

Does it matter who did it? Not really. The real key is to fix the problem.

Jumpstarting Sales Growth

Breaking down the barriers between Sales and Marketing is one of the fastest ways to refocus your organization on what matters and jumpstart sales growth. In most organizations this is not an easy task but a determined CEO can make it happen. Here are a few examples of successful efforts.

  • Just get them to talk – honestly: One CEO I know decided that he would call regular Sales and Marketing meetings. He didn't engage in any formalized Sales and Marketing Integration process. He just worked to foster communication and dialog between his two departments. He held Sales and Marketing Team meetings every week and focused the meetings squarely on a discussion of disconnects and missed opportunities – and how to solve these problems. He mandated honesty. Some of the meetings were tense; a few were almost out of control. After several weeks, however, the meetings started to become productive. Realistic plans for change were developed. The Sales Team started to feel like they had a voice in the entire process. The Marketing executives got credit for actually doing some things right and became less defensive about change. Over time, the meetings evolved from problem-solving sessions into a way to brainstorm sales growth strategies and to synchronized efforts. It didn't solve all the problems, but it helped.
  • Exchange student: What is the fastest way to connect Marketing to Sales? It may be to make the key marketing executives actually sell something. A CEO faced with a struggling division did just that. He took his VP of Marketing and put him on the phone, selling the division's services to small business owners. Much to the VP's dismay, he was assigned to the task for a month and given a sales quota. After a week or two, the VP’s perspective started to change. He learned that the division’s lead generation program had significant gaps and he re-evaluated his vendors. He also discovered that it was hard to sell the division's service, that the company lacked a clear competitive advantage. The experience not only built a new respect for how hard it can be to sell, but it also inspired him to reconfigure the service offering and build in meaningful advantages. The division continues to struggle but the refocused sales and marketing program have started to make a difference.
  • Shared goals, clear roles: Every CEO knows that success is almost impossible without common corporate goals and strategies that are understood. But it is equally important that the roles and responsibilities with Sales and Marketing are well defined and properly interconnected. Usually there are clearly written job descriptions neatly filed in HR and quickly forgotten. Sometimes outside venders have formal goals. But rarely does anyone take the time to make sure that all the key players know what their roles and responsibilities are, and to eliminate any gaps or gray areas. One large corporation has solved this. They hold quarterly Sales and Marketing conferences to make sure that everyone is on the same page. All of the key members of the Sales and Marketing team are included – both internal and external. Many companies hold similar meetings but what distinguishes this company is that they always spend the first session on making sure that there is clarity and agreement about goals, roles and responsibilities. Then they move on to planning the upcoming sales effort. Everyone knows what they are expected to do and what they must accomplish to achieve the sales goals.
  • The sales presentation is useless: A consultant was hired by a CEO to develop a sales training program. The consultant first learned about the company and sales process. Not surprisingly, she discovered a disconnect between Marketing and Sales. The Marketing Team had put together tools and presentations for their sales team that bore little resemblance to the actual pitches given by sales. The sales team didn’t support marketing’s program and they quietly developed their own pitch. As a result, there was a disconnect between the benefit statements, key concepts, and core message in the company's advertising and sales support materials vs. the sales presentation. Clients and prospects were confused, and sales lagged. The consultant went back to the CEO with a proposal to help the company integrate its sales and marketing efforts. Sometimes an outside consultant can identify and help solve these problems more effectively than internal staff.

Is there a Grand Canyon between Sales and Marketing in your organization? We can help.

Topics: Sales Strategy


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