The logistics of merging sales and marketing
In my ongoing series on marrying sales and marketing, I have addressed the necessity of effectively merging the sales and marketing departments of companies in order to increase profitability.
I've discussed the importance of the top leaders in the firm - the vice presidents of sales and of marketing - driving the integration of these two departments as well as addressing the obstacles they face in doing so.
The ultimate goal of this integration is that by merging these two departments with the right attitude, interest and energy, using an effective sales methodology will have major impact on top-line revenue. By focusing on the same goal through having a sales and marketing plan written and implemented, they can create buying momentum and enjoy the financial benefits that come with it.
But how, specifically, can these departments synthesize to create this positive result?
After all, we know that bringing these two separate entities together often isn't a harmonious courtship. The process can be fraught with challenges and resistance on both sides.
To examine the delicate logistics of forging this union, I consulted with Jeff Rogers, managing partner and founder of OneAccord in Bellevue (www.oneaccordcorp.com). Rogers has been involved in sales management for more than 25 years and has experienced and dealt with the problems that occur when these two departments work independently of each other as well as the challenges that can arise during the process of integration.
"We have seen that frequently, if not the majority of the time, marketing and sales are often in different 'silos'; sometimes they're on two completely different farms," Rogers said
"Although they each have an idea of what the "crop" should be, what the sales team wants from marketing is content-relevant materials that deal with the customer 'hot buttons' - the real problems that their product/service can solve - in a unique and compelling message."
However, as Rogers points out, before these two groups can get to the point where they're solving customer problems together, they must first acknowledge and address the problems that exist between them.
"Coming from a sales context, I find marketing leaders wanting to serve the sales team and revenue engine. Their problem often stems from the sales team running at Mach 7 with their hair on fire (resulting in) a lack of communication between groups. Salespeople are also adapting their own messaging around product/service value and benefits, which are sometimes one-offs that don't align with any current documentation. Not only can this lead to potential credibility gaps, it doesn't scale. You can't build a business around this."
Don't assign blame
In acknowledging problems created by the disconnect that exists between these two departments, the most important component in the integration process is the ability to be open-minded and accepting of mistakes and limitations and, above all, to not assign blame.
"In the salesperson's defense, they are only trying to hit their numbers, make quota, and stay on top of their goals," Rogers said.
"Nevertheless, how is a marketing team ever going to adapt messaging and processes where a lack of consistency becomes the accepted norm?"
Understanding the challenges these two departments face and the different approaches that have kept them apart so often in the past, is there hope that they can ever harmonize?
"Solving this cultural environment is not overwhelming and can be accomplished in a business cycle or two. A beginning point is to have the marketing team ride in the field with the sales team for a few days, then vice versa. Have the two groups come together to set goals; not top-down corporate goals, but goals these two groups (have set for) themselves."
Several years ago as Tyson Foods worked to develop a sales methodology for its food services division, the senior vice president of sales and marketing insisted that the marketing people attend the sales-training program with the sales personnel.
This enabled marketing to develop support materials that were consistent with the sales methodology and communicated an effective sales message.
Rogers knows this approach is effective because he's had clients who've experienced the successful marriage of sales and marketing. There is one key to making the process work, however. It's something very basic, often overlooked and greatly undervalued.
"As difficult as it is, humility plays a part in the success of teams pulling on the oars together. Is it the good of the individual or the good of the whole? While a marriage of the two groups is ideal, it would be nice to have them at least engaged or in a serious dating relationship ... rather than battling it out like a relationship gone bad," Rogers said.
"Usually one of the two needs to extend the first olive branch. They really aren't that far off -- somewhere in their career infancy they were both taught to bring in and grow revenues. Two sides of a coin, but still the same coin."
In his experience with firms integrating their sales and marketing departments' efforts, Rogers knows this works because he has seen everything from international markets opening and new verticals being developed, to private equity firms with portfolio companies miraculously turning around.
"I've seen a local manufacturing company bring in $10 million in new revenue after two years of decline. We created an integrated recruiting and training process with 40 percent improvement in sales-team retention in the financial services industry."
"Implementation of an integrated sales and marketing system (brought) 300 percent top-line revenue growth, two-thirds of which directly attributed to a revenue generation culture rather than fragmented departments," Rogers said.
If companies take Rogers' advice when it comes to bringing together sales and marketing on their own terms and with a sense of understanding and mutual respect, they can expect to see the kind of revenue growth he has seen.
"We've seen great results in multiple vertical markets - manufacturing, technology hardware, software, services, retail, (business-to-business), (business-to-consumer), etc. Truth is truth. With healthy environments, top-notch people, clear vision, collaboration and scalable and repeatable processes - revenues grow."
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.