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Avoiding the Blame Game Between Sales and Marketing

09 February 2009

One of the strategic prerequisites of Sales 2.0 — the use of innovative sales practices enabled by technology — is the alignment of sales and marketing. Organizations often have different executives with separate goals, perspectives, and compensation-plan objectives running sales and marketing. This can lead not only to internal unrest but also to negative customer experiences or perceptions of your company, not to mention poor sales results. Those companies that engineer their organizations to guarantee sales and marketing cooperation, however, achieve both competitive advantage and improved revenue.

One company that exemplifies a high level of collaboration between sales and marketing is newScale, a company that offers IT service catalog and service portfolio management software solutions. This is due to the close working relationship and shared compensation-plan targets of the company’s EVP and head of sales, David Satterwhite, and VP of marketing, Mark Hamilton. Their partnership commitment is so strong that they not only co-develop integrated programs and practices, but they also make presentations as a team. These executives’ dedication to collaboration, elusive in many companies, earned them a market-leading position in its field, with more than 1.5 million users worldwide, including 20 percent of the Fortune 50.

David and Mark are evangelists of sales and marketing communication and collaboration at the top level.

•    They make it a priority.
Both believe alignment has a critically positive impact on both top- and bottom-line results and frees them to focus on making their numbers. They also stress that it is a prerequisite to a healthy and productive company culture.

David and Mark maintain their commitment to alignment by considering each other members of their management teams, attending the other’s management meetings, and holding weekly one-on-one meetings or phone calls. They treat the annual marketing plan as a customer proposal, with sales being the customer, and share staffing and head-count planning.

•    They develop shared rules of the road.
This includes assuming a positive rather than adversarial intent on the part of the other department, which they model at the highest level, and recognizing that they have a shared ultimate metric of success — revenue growth — on which compensation in both sales and marketing is based.

David underlines the importance of upbeat psychology, as well as personal relationships, in business. By coaching his sales team to give marketing staff the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong and by helping them resolve conflicts through trust, he avoids hours of management “therapy” and keeps his group focused on sales effectiveness and efficiency.

•    They leverage each other’s strengths.
David contributes his sales instincts for what produces revenue, understands what motivates his customers to buy and his sales team to sell, and has highly developed skills negotiating and winning deals. Mark is expert at operations, systems, and processes, distilling and analyzing complex concepts, and seeding and growing markets.

•    They collaborate on designing and implementing sales tools and technologies.
Price lists, closed-loop lead processes, weekly sales tips, win/loss programs, and continual surveys of marketing-program effectiveness are some of the tools the company developed that have passed the sales “sniff test.” Because they are designed by both sales and marketing, they actually get used.

Mark describes the difficulty he faced getting newScale’s sales people to report on lost deals. Sales people like to celebrate successes, not dwell on failures. By documenting the deals they haven’t won, sales people may feel they bring attention to their weaknesses in sales process or skills. When he asked his marketing group to call “lost” customers, though, Mark uncovered a solution to the problem of engaging the sales team. The calls revealed that many customers weren’t lost at all, as they weren’t happy with their chosen alternative solution to newScale’s product. Though newScale’s sales team didn’t win these sales initially, these customers became part of the pipeline a second time through Mark’s calling program. The sales group happily adopted the program when they understood it as a sales campaign that could unearth recycled, newly qualified leads.

Mark also recognized an opportunity to improve lead qualification and pipeline building using products from Genius.com, but he wouldn’t dream of signing up to try them without running the idea by the manager of David’s deal-development team. Genius’ products truly support a Sales 2.0 collaboration between marketing and sales by allowing reps in both departments to track and act on important data on potential customers (such as who is responding to e-mail messages, and what web pages they are looking at right now and for how long). By including the sales team in the evaluation and decision-making process, Mark succeeded in bringing a valuable sales tool into the company that is enthusiastically embraced by the lead qualifiers.

As customer requirements and economic conditions change, the old way of selling — independently of or in contradiction to marketing efforts — doesn’t work. Sales 2.0, the evolution of the sales function, includes rethinking sales strategy, people, process, and technology. With a business strategy that emphasizes sales and marketing alignment and collaborative planning and execution, companies will stay competitive and achieve sales success.

How well do sales and marketing align in your company? Tell us what works (or what doesn’t work) for you!