Friday, February 5, 2010

When Sales and Marketing Communicate

Happy Friday!

Yesterday, we talked about the oft mentioned problems that salespeople have with the tools they're given.  We even saw some data that backed that up -- rather depressing but a surmountable challenge nonetheless.  

The thought I left you with in the last post was the obligation that marketers and salespeople have to one another.  It's not enough for marketers to inform / educate salespeople and expect them to accept the information or material blindly.  Similarly, it's not right for salespeople to not engage further in the conversation, criticize without offering a viable alternative or even remain silent whilst fashioning their own customer material.  This street does go both ways.

The brand / product may very well be romantic and the tool may be a gamechanger but there needs to be a free flowing and robust symbiotic conversation between marketing and sales.  When products are developed, marketing collateral is designed and sales tools are created, there must be a discussion that covers, at a minimum, some of the items listed below (likely more) and the output should be common ground between the two groups as to brand message, product value proposition and meaningful differentiation from competitors.
  • Whom does this benefit?
  • What does it do?  Does it solve the customer's problem?  
  • How does this help the customer expand and grow?  How does this measurably help the customer's revenue stream?
  • How is it different from the competition?  How is it consistent with brand / product promise?
  • Where is this application useful?
  • Why is this a good investment of money, time or other resource?
  • When is this useful?  When will we see/feel the improvement in efficiency/quality/etc.?  When will there be a payoff from the investment?
Coincidentally, I came across something interesting yesterday morning about what skills marketers should develop (see this site).  The #1?  Sales!  This suggests that marketing stay engaged through the close of sale.  It is no longer sufficient to pass qualified leads to sales almost like an assembly line -- marketers have to ensure the right tools are available to support the process and consequently they should learn (more) about the sales process and its many nuances.  To be clear, this doesn't mean marketers attending sales calls; rather, it means that there should be a sales feedback loop involving marketing to enhance or reinforce the message.  If sales and marketing are integrated, the result is better overall sales servicing.

As you've learned by now, I always have to put my "two cents" into everything.  My comments are the following:
  • To make this concept stick, marketing departments should also have a specific target for closed, qualified leads during annual goal setting.  By tying some of Marketing's performance metrics to closed leads, you are formalizing the stakeholder relationship.  Some may call it passive aggressive but I call it insurance.  If salespeople are paid in commission, marketing should also have a share of that pressure.
  • Sales goals should include integration in the marketing process.  This could be involvement in the creative process during reviews and acting as Voice of the Customer (or Prospect) using the questions above.  According to the data, salespeople do not feel the marketing collateral helps to differentiate from the competition hence their need to rewrite or create their own tools.  If salespeople redirected the understandable frustration and energy to early in the creative process, there will be more differentiation and cohesiveness of message.  
  • Finally, there should be consistent executive sponsorship and collaboration between the heads of Sales and Marketing.  The only way the first two bullets will work is if this becomes a committed approach from top down.  And yes, committed means tying compensation to this performance.
Needless to say, what I've covered in these two posts are not new nor are they easy.  At the core of it, to provide solutions, we have to build a better communication mousetrap; one that fits within our business structure and culture.  What I've talked about here is my "focus group of one" take on it.  What's yours?  I'd love to hear from you!

Have a great weekend!

Parissa Behnia

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