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Chapter 6: Integrating the Sales and Marketing Processes


In many cases, the difference between a company that is enjoying success and one that is struggling is the degree of integration and cooperation among the functional departments. If the relationships among Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Finished Goods, Accounting, and so on, are poorly defined, you can have anything ranging from disorganization to chaos. CEOs are hired, in part, to create and maintain effective relationships among functional organizational "silos," and - in the best of cases - to break down the walls between those silos. And most CEOs will tell you that they're pretty good at that role.

Our professional experience has focused us on the interface between two of these functional areas: Sales and Marketing. (We'll use the generic term marketing, but in this and subsequent chapters, our focus is on product and tactical marketing rather than, say, institutional marketing, strategic marketing, or consumer packaged goods marketing.) We believe strategic marketing means looking at the convergence of market factors, technology trends, productivity improvements, and the like and asking questions like "Who and where do we want to be 3 years out? Five years out? What decisions must we make today to position ourselves for where we want to be in the future?" Tactical marketing's mission is to figure out how to achieve today's revenue targets with today's offerings.

In the business-to-business (B2B) world, our experience tells us that the interface between Sales and tactical marketing is often neglected, and frequently tenuous - limited, in some cases, to a lead's being passed from one to the other. On the face of it, this most common touch point is a weak reed to lean on. Imagine if the VPs of Sales and Marketing were each asked to define a lead. How closely do you think those two definitions would resemble each other?

If we dig deeper, we believe the root cause of the problem between Sales and Marketing is a lack of formal awareness and process to gather knowledge about how customers use their offerings to achieve goals, solve problems, and satisfy needs. In most organizations, product development is also culpable. How many technology companies have been founded by a technologist who created a solution that was looking for a problem?

Later in this resource we are going to show you how to create an organization's "core content" - content that will enable business conversations with decision makers and influencers. Content that will enable Web visitors to understand how they might use your offerings. Content that will permeate the rest of your tactical marketing vehicles - white papers, brochures, advertising, trade shows, and so forth - and make its way into your customer and sales training.

We believe that a key component of creating B2B core content is tapping the experience of our client's customer service people and professional services people. These are the people who are responsible every day for helping customers use their offerings to do their jobs and satisfy their needs. They have the customer usage knowledge we need to help them create Sales-Primed Communications.

In virtually all organizations, Sales and Marketing are expected somehow to collaborate. These two functions within an organization ultimately drive top-line revenue, and yet few companies have a working definition of how they are supposed to interact. Further complicating things is the fact that in many organizations, marketing activity is neither clearly defined nor readily measurable. This overall lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities contributes to what is frequently a strained relationship. In the extreme, when revenue targets and market share numbers are not achieved, the result is a rash of finger pointing.

An all too typical example of how each side views the other, when things get testy:

Sales on Marketing: Ivory-tower big-picture people with no clue as to what customers need!

Marketing on Sales: Overpaid order takers who will promise almost anything to get the business!

The executive to whom both functions report - most often, the CEO or another senior-level person - is sometimes called on to "referee" their relationship, especially after the finger pointing sets in. This is a difficult and unpleasant role. Who's to blame for the fact that revenue objectives are not being met? We've already seen how selling (in most organizations) is a pretty haphazard activity. And inside the walls of the organization, the assessment of Marketing's performance is almost entirely subjective.

Often, in the early stages of our interactions with a client CEO, we find an opportunity to ask him or her to describe Marketing's role as it relates to sales. Usually, there's a long pause, meaning that the executive doesn't have a ready answer to this question. (There would be no similar pause if the question focused, for example, on the relationship between engineering and manufacturing.) After some hemming and hawing, we tend to get responses like the following:

From the CEO's perspective, the good news is that over the past several decades, many companies have made huge progress in establishing clear and effective processes to govern the relationships among Accounting, Engineering, Manufacturing, and so on. The bad news is that Sales and Marketing have resisted this kind of progress. By any measure, this is an enormous lost opportunity. These two functions define, almost exclusively, the company's relationship with its customers, and ultimately are responsible for driving and achieving top-line revenue. Think how much a business could benefit from putting processes in place that would get these two functional silos - traditionally uncooperative - to (1) work together, and (2) work for the good of the customer.

A Natural Integration

We believe this is possible, because we've seen this transformation take place in literally dozens of different settings. Here's a necessary first step: Marketing must view itself as the front end of the sales process, rather than the back end of product development.

Sound simple, or like some sort of psychological sleight of hand? Not really. Before two groups can coordinate their efforts, they need to settle on one or more common objectives. We've already described Customer Focused Selling as a way of helping buyers achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need. Well, shouldn't that also be Marketing's objective, as well - to help potential customers understand how they can achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need with the company's offering? If, in addition to creating the "view from 30,000 feet," Marketing could contribute effectively to the conversations that salespeople have with their prospects and customers - the "view from three-and-a-half feet" - all would benefit.

But this can't happen unless Marketing joins forces with Sales. To restate the imperative stated above: Marketing has to believe that they are the first car on the train of sales, rather than the last car on the train of product development. Marketing has to learn to face the customer, learn from the customer, and enable the customer, rather than look toward the lab.

Many marketing executives, of course, claim that they are already supporting Sales. They are handling messaging; generating leads for Sales (but what really is a lead?); creating collateral for product and service offerings, seminars, and trade shows; and, of course, producing PowerPoint presentations for senior executives. The evidence suggests that whatever they're currently doing, it's not working. Feedback from the American Marketing Association's Customer Message Management Forums indicates that between 50 and 90 percent of the collateral prepared by Marketing is not used by salespeople in the field.

Clearly, something new is needed. We suggest that the first change needs to be a shift of affiliation within the organization. This is primarily a psychological shift, but it can also take many procedural and even physical forms. (How is the organizational chart drawn? Whose office is next to whose? Which departments are physically adjacent?)

A second step is to formally charge Marketing with the responsibility for developing and maintaining the company's core content - in other words, its sales messaging. Sales-Primed Communications must be created to support targeted conversations with decision makers and decision influencers. As stated in earlier chapters, this cannot be accomplished with product information, it requires product usage information positioned specifically for decision-maker job titles within targeted industries. We strongly recommend to many of our clients that they consider creating the post of chief content officer. This is an individual who takes responsibility for all product usage messaging - the positioning of an organization's offerings at all levels and through all channels.

In today's business environment, most companies are trying to eliminate positions, and we don't make this recommendation lightly. But think about the potential benefit that grows out of this kind of change. We now have a way to begin a natural, organic integration of the Marketing and Sales functions: Both Marketing and Sales share the common mission of helping customers achieve goals, solve problems, and satisfy needs through the use of the company's offerings.

The sales and support teams in the field are closest to the customers and prospects. If a tool doesn't work in making a call, they're the first to know. They therefore have to serve as constructive malcontents - meaning that they have to suggest how messaging tools can be improved and kept up to date. They have to bring back from the field new insights into how offerings are actually used, and not used, by customers.

Marketing, meanwhile, must own the content. It owns the responsibility for achieving consistency of message and dissemination across multiple sales channels, multiple product lines, and so on. In the past 20 years we have seen technology increase the touch points that are now available to Marketing. Consider web sites, social media, mobile phone apps, Webinars, digital ads, email, DVDs, and so on. Adding the responsibility of Sales-Primed Communications dramatically increases the scope of Marketing's job, which is the reason the title Chief Content Officer is more appropriate.

Learning from the internet

For a number of reasons, we love the internet.

One reason, relevant to this chapter, is that it tends to put Marketing directly in touch with buyers. Think about it: In most organizations, Marketing owns the web site. Every day, dozens - or hundreds, or thousands - of visitors show up on the organization's electronic doorstep. Some are only window-shopping, of course. But in many cases, they are trying to buy.

True, they may have gotten there as a result of a salesperson making an in-person sales call or a demand creation campaign. But now they're at the doorstep, and ready to be influenced, if the web site is up to the challenge. As a result, the internet is giving organizations - and specifically marketing groups within those organizations - the opportunity to develop a rich and nuanced understanding of what customers want to accomplish. In addition to information dissemination or even order fulfillment, web sites can be designed to help Marketing learn: "How do you use our products?" "What were you able to accomplish?" "How would you like to use our products in the future?"

This understanding can profoundly influence subsequent messaging (and ultimately, perhaps, research and development, product development, and engineering). When Marketing relates directly to buyers by means of a web site, they begin to understand the necessity for facilitating the buying process with meaningful electronic dialogs. You don't handle an objection on a web site; instead, you make it easy for buyers to get good answers to and work through their questions. You don't close a sale on the web site; instead, you make it easy for buyers to take action to satisfy their own needs. When the internet visitor hits "enter" and buys, it may be because Marketing was able to facilitate the buying process. In other words, in the electronic manifestation, Marketing has acted exactly like an effective, customer-focused salesperson.

The Web is not the answer to everything, of course. In most enterprise selling situations, for example, salespeople are necessary. But think how much more effective Marketing can be, in providing tools and collateral to support enterprise selling, when they have had sustained, iterative contact with the customer base through the internet. They are far better prepared to develop Sales-Primed Communications to support all the many conversations that add up to an effective customer-focused sales process.

Toward a Selling Architecture

Sales-Primed Communications, as we've already noted, means empowering salespeople to have meaningful conversations with decision makers and decision influencers about how they can achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need through the use of the offering. Sales-Primed Communications also empowers Web visitors to understand how they can achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need through the use of the offering. When you combine this effective core content with sales process, you gain the capability of codifying, or architecting, sales conversations and sales cycles.

As we've already seen, many organizations are currently struggling to implement customer relationship management (CRM) systems. With Sales and Marketing integrated at the salesperson level, the desired return on a company's CRM investment now becomes achievable. But in real life, most CRM systems are failing because the sales force automation (SFA) component is failing. We believe that by integrating product usage messaging with defined sales processes, the manual sales productivity system can now be automated. We have developed "best practice" sales processes for multiple industries. With the SFA component enhanced with sales process and just-in-time Sales-Primed Communications, CRM systems can begin to produce tangible, measurable results.

And this is a big deal. The CRM business is in trouble. There is a huge amount of CRM "shelfware" out there. CRM software companies are being forced by their market to become CRM solution companies. Recognizing this gap, at least two CRM vendors (Siebel Systems and Onyx Software) acquired sales training companies in the late 1990s. If sales processes can be integrated with marketing processes, which include Sales-Primed Communications, CEOs can gain control over generating top-line revenue, and organizations can improve their relationships with their customers.

In subsequent chapters, we'll describe the components of a sales process that allows sharing of best sales practices, defines the relationship between Sales and Marketing, facilitates creation of Sales-Primed Communications, allows managers to ensure pipeline quality while assessing and developing their direct reports, and ultimately results in an improved ability to forecast revenue at the opportunity level.

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