Effectively merge marketing and sales departments


In an article I wrote a few months ago, "Marrying sales and marketing to improve the bottom line," I addressed one of the most critical issues facing business today - the necessity of merging the separate silos of sales and marketing to increase profitability.

I encouraged companies to see these entities not as separate groups or costly overhead but as assets that can work together seamlessly with the right approach, commitment and focus.

To illustrate this, I consulted a friend and colleague, John Haskell, who operates the www.DrRevenue.com Web site.

He has been helping companies merge their sales and marketing departments and increase profitability for more than 20 years.

He recently shared with me some insights into the necessity of integrating these two groups and how attitude, interest and buy-in from both sides make all the difference.

As these two departments often operate like silos with limited communication or cooperation between them, I asked Haskell how and why this happens.

"The 'silos' develop when marketing people are brought into the company with no sales experience. In my opinion every marketing person has to have experience 'carrying a bag.' Unless you have actually been face to face with a customer asking for the order, you really cannot be effective creating programs to support the sales force. I tell marketers, 'marketing eliminates excuses by salespeople.' Unless you have been a salesperson you can't do the job."

This illustrates an important point.

Empathy is an important factor in developing a relationship between sales and marketing. As things are structured in many organizations, however, there are additional obstacles to helping these two departments to recognize the value and contributions of the other and ultimately work more closely together.

"Frontline exposure and respect are the biggest challenges," Haskell said. "Marketing people have to sell. There can't be walls between the two groups. Both groups have to respect and even like each other. It should be a mutual admiration society that makes money."

As Haskell said, to increase profitability, sales and marketing must be focused on the same goal.

Each will be integral to accomplishing the goal; therefore, learning to appreciate the role each plays and the skills each brings to the table is key to getting buy-in. Each group also must be willing to participate actively in order to make it happen.

Additionally, the leadership of a company is critical in facilitating this "marriage" process.

"I find that ... companies can only be successful integrating marketing and sales when the top leaders drive everyone to be salespeople first and foremost," Haskell said.

Leaders must make selling their No. 1 priority if their organization is to be successful. They must model this behavior if they expect the team to make it their top priority.

Selling is the lifeblood of the organization and is the only activity that brings in the dollars.

Although companies are focused on increasing top-line revenue, the value of bringing together sales and marketing is not necessarily something every company recognizes. Merging these two departments and providing them with the tools and encouragement to be successful can have dramatic impact on any organization.

"The marriage of sales and marketing creates tremendous energy," Haskell said. "Marketing team members are always striving to help the salespeople. Salespeople, in turn, look for ways to make heroes out of marketing by feeding back ideas and suggestions that turn into programs and tools that help customers and create buying momentum."

In addition to marketing and sales having the right attitude, interest and energy, it is my belief that using an effective sales process that covers all the bases and leaves nothing to chance is essential.

Haskell shares a similar belief and has integrated the "track selling" system, a selling methodology that utilizes seven steps - approach, qualification, agreement on need, sell the company, fill the need, act of commitment and cement the sale - into his consulting approach.

"I have used 'track selling' for over 20 years as a key part of my marketing and sales plans. The program helps me get both marketing and salespeople to be real, professional salespeople. It establishes a common language within the marketing and sales groups and takes all mystery out of the selling process. We all know what has to be done, where we stand in the process and where we have to go. We also know what to look for if we aren't getting results."

Haskell shared with me that he has seen measurable differences in the sales results of his clients that use the "track selling" system as an integral part of their sales and marketing efforts.

"My clients have experienced life-changing results. Sometimes ... a successful person finds that he/she moves up very fast from salesperson to sales manager. Other times the results catapult the salesperson's income up much faster than expected. Other times the establishment of a professional sales system has resulted in total company change. I always get results from 'track selling' and those who use it feel the difference immediately."

I asked Haskell to offer his best suggestion for how to most effectively utilize the expertise of marketing and sales to impact top-line revenue.

"Write a marketing and sales plan. Ninety percent of all companies with sales under $500 million do not have a written plan. When the plan is written, it serves as the driving force for making results happen. The written plan combined with 'track selling' is a powerful combination."

As companies look toward the future, they should consider Haskell's advice.

Merging marketing and sales can create a leaner, meaner, more effective machine and the use of a proven sales process will increase the flow of ideas, support and success.

Key in bringing it all together is creating a plan that integrates them.

There is no such thing as accidental success; it is only created by a team that commits to a plan, works together toward a common goal and uses the right method and tools to get there.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.