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  • Marketing & Sales: Frienemies Forever!

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    Making Marketing & Sales Work Better Together

    It’s intuitively obvious: A workplace where Marketing and Sales are aligned and working in tandem toward the same objectives should be more productive and profitable relative to a situation where the two departments are at odds.

    How much of a difference could it make? A whitepaper from marketing automation provider Act-On states: “According to a 2011 Aberdeen Group study, highly aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth—while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue. Yet according to another study from Forrester, just 8% of companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing.”

    Those are eye-catching numbers. Even if the disparity isn’t quite as big as reported, it’s clear that improving alignment between Marketing and Sales is a worthwhile undertaking. Here are three approaches for you to consider.

    1. Ad Hoc Improvements
    In the previous two topics, “How Marketing Supports Sales” and “How Sales Informs Marketing,” we’ve identified a number of the issues that both departments tend to stumble over. In many cases, clear communications about each group’s intentions, strategies, and concerns have the potential to decrease friction. Sharing information earlier, rather than after it’s too late, sounds easy to do but can be difficult to implement due to people’s busy schedules.

    Even the angriest salesperson’s complaint, “Nobody can tell me what to do who hasn’t tried to sell something for at least six months!” has a grain of truth. Experts advise that sending marketing people out on a sales call or two can be informative and productive.

    2. Let the System Drive the Process
    In “How Sales Informs Marketing,” we mentioned that marketing and sales automation software often has standard workflows built-in. Simply as part of learning how to use the new system, Sales and Marketing will, by necessity, also learn new ways of working together.

    While this could be done on an ad hoc basis, it may make more sense to approach the problem strategically. In this scenario, the system upgrade would be part of a consultative process designed to define and optimize the roles of Sales and Marketing.

    Here’s a detailed description of what this kind of systems-driven process might look like. Keep in mind that this approach might work better for companies who need to work through a high volume of leads, as opposed to B-to-B operations or services companies who are trying to establish long-term relationships with a smaller number of customers.

    3. The Fully Customized Process Overhaul
    If you want to design the optimal alignment of Sales and Marketing, then you will need to start from the ground up with the help of a specialized consultant. Aldonna Ambler has a sophisticated model that she describes in the Harvard Business Review. Ambler defines four possible states for the relationship between the two groups:

    1. Undefined. “Meetings are likely to be devoted to conflict resolution rather than proactive cooperation.”
    2. Defined. “Marketers and salespeople know who is supposed to do what, and they stick to their own tasks for the most part.”
    3. Aligned. “The groups engage in joint planning and training.”
    4. Integrated. “Both groups redesign the relationship to share structures, systems, and rewards.”

    As you can see, it’s just the “integrated” state that requires the full redesign of the relationship. The process starts with an assessment of the organization’s current state. The consultant will examine your company’s culture to see how difficult the transition might be to one of shared responsibility. The redesign will also look carefully at your business challenges. Ambler says that integrated relationships work best for companies dealing with complicated or quickly changing situations.

    A big part of the solution will be the installation of appropriate systems. In addition, the org chart may change with both groups reporting in to a common “Chief Revenue Officer.” And a big effort may be required to encourage employees to buy-in to the new culture.

    As Ambler concludes, “Not every company will want to—or should—upgrade from defined to aligned relationships or from aligned to integrated relationships. But every company can and should improve the relationship between Sales and Marketing.”

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    Do you love statistics? Here’s a page full of numbers showing how different approaches to Sales and Marketing can impact business results.