The "Good" - forming a true partnership between Sales and Marketing where both parties have skin in the game.
Continuing from my last post, here are some of actions I’ve used to bridge the gap between sales and marketing.
When you join a new organization spend the first 2-3 weeks out in the field with as many account executives and customers as possible before doing anything else!!! You want to get real customer input before being biased by headquarters thinking.
- For both reps and customers ask about their business challenges, what they value in a company/vendor, how the company compares to competitors, etc.
- Ask the reps what marketing support they really need. If they had limited money and could only pick one thing what would it be (leads vs. awareness)? Have them define their ideal lead … i.e. what makes an A lead different from a B lead? Get tons of input on this and then publish the lead-scoring criteria to all reps for comments. This is essential before you start shooting leads to the field! (I'll write lots more posts on this later)
You must also spend a couple of days double-jacking with Inside Sales reps, CRMs and Customer Service reps as they complete the picture of the customer experience. Ask them the same questions and you’ll likely get different answers from the field reps.
Work closely with the Regional Sales Directors to get their honest assessment on marketing and what needs to be improved. Attend their regular staff meetings to keep them up-to-date on changes you’ve made and solicit their feedback. Once a rapport is established you gain valuable real-time feedback on plans and tactics.
Create a formal Advisory Council with representation from each region and the CRM group but try to keep it manageable in size … about 6 members. As mentioned in the last post, make sure to have senior management establish the council as recognition/reward for top performers or it will fail.
- Fly the council into headquarters for a full-day strategy and brainstorming session on the product mix, segment priorities, competitive threats, value-proposition, positioning, best marketing tactics, etc. (do this twice a year at a minimum).
- Then include the council as formal reviewers as you progress through the marketing plan development. Use a Wiki or online team-room where council members can post their comments/plan edits for all to see and modify.
- Once you’ve finalized the plan, have several of the members present it to the rest of the field via web conference. Then it becomes everyone’s plan not just Marketing’s.
- Once in execution mode, have each council member take ownership for reviewing / improving one specific tactic. For example, one rep can review/edit the customer presentation, while another can review/edit the direct marketing materials. Keep it focused on one tactic since they don’t have much time and need to stay focused on sales not marketing.
- Systematically communicate the recommendations of the council to the broader sales force (a bi-weekly summary email works well) as this recognizes sales contributions and helps with buy-in.
Obviously this is just a cursory overview of a very involved process, but in my experience, it is absolutely worth the investment. When I joined Pfizer I followed a process similar to this that enabled me to develop a true partnership with Sales and marketing plans/actions that really hit the target. In contrast, when I started at another company, marketing worked in an ivory tower and you can guess how that impacted relationships with sales and the efficacy of marketing plans.