Monday, 6 October 2014

How to Repair a Rift Between Sales and Marketing Leadership

If there were ever two groups of people that should naturally get along like kindred spirits it’s salespeople and marketers.

After all, they’re both responsible for ensuring profitable revenue generation, and, done correctly, both reinforce the others roles and effectiveness.
Yet, as authors Philip Kotler and Neil Rackham shared in a 2006 article in Harvard Business Review, the relationship between the two functions is far closer to one of war than of mutual cooperation, collaboration and reinforcement.
There should be no debate whatsoever about the importance and value of aligning sales and marketing within an organization. A study conducted by The Aberdeen Group highlighted that, “highly-aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease.”
In my experience, alignment is crucial to ensuring successful penetration of a market, lowering the cost of customer acquisition and increasing the lifetime value of a customer.
With such a big payoff, why is it that there is often a rift between sales and marketing?
For more than the last 20 years, I’ve been working with both sales and marketing groups (either with clients or at my own company) to ensure both alignment and effectiveness.  I’ve learned that while both view profitable revenue growth as their core focus, they approach the task from completely different perspectives.
As a result, miscommunication becomes the rule, not the exception.  This miscommunication leads to dysfunction, infighting and confusion.  As a general rule, marketing often view its role as ending too early, while sales view their job as beginning too late. The resulting chasm leads to a degradation of both strategy and execution.
The good news is that creating alignment and fixing such a rift is neither overly complex nor difficult.  It simply requires clarity, agreement and alignment around five vital principles.

The Five Areas of Alignment Are to Fix Any Rift Between Sales & Marketing

1) Roles & Goals

The first step to repairing a rift is clarity of roles and goals.  What is the end result, and what’s the process for getting there.  It’s crucial that both parties be reasonable in this process.
Far too often sales poisons the process by putting unrealistic expectations with regards to the volume, timing and quality of leads.  Marketing poisons the process by failing to step up and own a quota. 
Agreement on the key performance indicators each group will follow, and the creation of a clear service level agreement between the functions serves as the foundation to a long, reinforcing and highly profitable relationship.

2) Buyer Personas

The biggest warning sign of a fracture between sales and marketing occurs when you ask each group to define their ideal market and the answers you get are different.
single, clear picture of your buyer personas is central to any effort to grow predictably, consistently or sustainably.  If you haven’t created clear personas, stop now (yes, I mean right now) download this tool, and schedule a time for both sales and marketing to discuss.

3) The Buyer’s Journey

Good organizations ensure that there is clarity on personas, great organizations go one step further and ensure there is clarity on defining the journey that each buyer goes through. In my experience, this is the #1 cause of misalignment between sales and marketing teams.
For far too long, sales organizations built flat funnels.  This worked when money was free and demand was through the roof. Today, both teams must be clear, and embrace, the full journey of their buyers.

4) The Message

With the first three components done, most of the rift will naturally disappear.  It is also at this point where messaging becomes clear.  Both teams need to align behind a global message, and a segmented message for each persona at each stage of their journey.
An effective message challenges your customer, ensures that everyone is speaking from the same book and allows for the personalization for reps and prospects.  A message that is either too restrictive or loose will seed the very dysfunction you’re trying to fix.

5) Feedback

Finally, you must close the loop. Sales and marketing must regularly brief and review KPIs and SLAs.  Effective analysis not only ensures alignment going forward, it shortens the journey to profitable growth.

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