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Customers win with marketing and sales harmony

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Recently, a client asked me about my experiences regarding the relationships between sales and marketing during my business career. I have seen examples of tremendous collaborations and success and, unfortunately, I have also seen testy sales and marketing turf wars, where a referee would have been welcomed. Continuing on last month’s theme that marketing can be a force for good, let’s explore the components of a strong relationship between these two functions.

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Recently, a client asked me about my experiences regarding the relationships between sales and marketing during my business career. I have seen examples of tremendous collaborations and success and, unfortunately, I have also seen testy sales and marketing turf wars, where a referee would have been welcomed. Continuing on last month’s theme that marketing can be a force for good, let’s explore the components of a strong relationship between these two functions.

The marketing function should be the keeper of all things related to customers. This concept of being the central repository of customer knowledge is essential, so all data points can be properly consolidated and shared. It is especially important to remember that this is not so marketing can hoard or hide data from other departments. This is so one department can be the primary caretaker and consolidator of the data and insights in order to better support other corporate functions.

Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” This statement by the “Dean of modern management” underscores the reason for marketing to be the central repository of all things related to the customer.

However, in order for sales to be successful, marketing must share its insights about customers, competitors and emerging or impactful market trends, so the sales department is well-equipped with the most current data to help affect change for their customers. Sadly, this lack of sharing of information leads to compounded problems and the creation of a “blame game” mentality between the two functions.

A 2006 Harvard Business Review article discussed the reasons why there is animosity between sales and marketing. Incredibly, the majority of the issues and challenges noted in the article still occur 16 years later. There is a lack of alignment and understanding about what each function’s role is. For example, pricing is one of marketing’s ‘Four Ps’ and is a critical element to company success because it drives the revenue. Sales often thinks marketing’s pricing is not good enough to help them sell. And marketing thinks sales just wants to sell on price and drives the price lower than needed. While these may seem like generalizations, I have lived this in corporate roles and seen it with clients many times.

Why can’t we all just get along?

In an inspired way, there is hope on the horizon. Marketing is tending to drive a renewed focus on their company becoming customer-centric. And the development and implementation of improved sales approaches are moving away from the old-school approach of “here’s why we are best.” The innovative approach guides sales professionals so they are truly helping their customers buy what they need, not just selling their product or service for the sake of a sale.

Anthony Iannarino, a colleague, and good friend whose opinions I hold in high regard, is the author of Elite Sales Strategies. He makes the following key points that can help improve this relationship for the good of the customer. He says, “Marketing needs to recognize the current environment and that much of the ‘why us’ content and the promotion of the company’s brand does little to enable the sales force to succeed. In a world of uncertainty, marketers would do well to help the sales force explain the forces that cause clients to struggle to produce the results they need. The content marketers provide the sales force should help the sales force to answer, ‘why change?’ and help create certainty in a world that is plagued by uncertainty.”

If marketing was to embrace the concept of openly sharing information they have with sales, everyone wins — especially the customer. This sounds like an easy solution to implement, however, keep in mind that you are going to be changing the behaviour of these two departments that may have existed for years. Industry-leading companies have learned to be patient and deliberate in approaching this concept.

As Iannarino notes, “Marketing must provide the sales team with answers that will help the customer know why they need to change.” Notice that there is no mention about a specific solution, product or concept solving a problem. This is employing thought and analysis to become better informed, and being willing to help clients improve their position in the market.

Marketing is more than just social media and digital advertising. Sales is more than simply pushing the lowest price to meet this month’s quota. With a total focus on the customer and working together in their best interests, marketing and sales can deliver improved revenue results and customer satisfaction into the future.

Tim’s bits: When both marketing and sales have a customer-centric focus and a supportive approach to providing value for clients, the likelihood of success increases. The best teams I played on had positional experts that came together to support each other in their winning game plan. Your winning game plan ensures that these two critically important business functions operate as teammates, not opponents.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

tim@tk3consulting.ca

Tim Kist

Tim Kist
Columnist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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