By Christopher Kenton
BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. It is the content of what marketers create that seems to frustrate sales people, rather than the intent. Most sales people I spoke with understand the value of brand-building activities and strategic positioning, but don't see such goals translating well into successful sales or realistic expectations.
Gaffey + Associates' Barsi explains: "Marketers are invaluable in helping to brand a company and its products and services. They're eager to make their ideas realities: designing, ordering, cradling, and releasing tons of collateral; encouraging the 'on hold' music to be replaced with product-release announcements; and begging for the PC in the company's lobby to have a rolling banner of products and services. When they spend their efforts building awareness, they want results now. What is often misunderstood is the length of the sales cycle -- which could be 12 months long."
Sometimes, the strategic goals directly undermine the sales forces efforts. One respondent, who for obvious reasons wished to remain anonymous, decries the "flavor of the month" approach to branding and positioning. "Branding and building awareness is important to sales. We get it. But marketers don't understand that we build relationships based on those promises," he said. "We had a recent situation where marketing came up with a strategy to position us as the 'flexible' partner -- which meant we had to take on smaller orders and special orders we had never before accepted. That meant a lot more work for sales, which we griped about, but we got with the program and became 'flexible'.
INSUFFICIENT THOUGHT. "Two months later, corporate suddenly realized the strategy was destroying our margins. Fulfilling each sale was costing more than it was worth, so they came down and told us to stop. Well, we just made promises to partners who made promises to customers, and now we were being told to break our commitment. You can't just walk away from partner commitments. Those relationships take years to build. And of course, we were still expected to make our sales numbers as if nothing happened."
Tramco's Richards sees similar issues in promotion campaigns. "Marketing has its idea of how things need to be launched. They do their research, create pricing models, build collateral. But there's not a lot of thought given to how to support the sales cycles those campaigns bring to the table. Marketing does their blitz, and suddenly sales people are being asked all kinds of questions they can't answer. That doesn't make them look very good.
"We see the same thing with partnerships," she continues. "They're just not thought out well enough to avoid channel conflicts. Every software company needs partnerships to extend their reach, but when channels are running into direct sales and fighting over commissions, we blame marketing for not having a plan."
WORKING TOWARD SOLUTIONS. There are plenty of complaints by marketers about sales: Sales teams don't care about strategies like segmentation or "customer lifetime value," they only care about making a sale and getting a commission. Sales teams are overly territorial and don't understand value or channel partnerships. Sales teams don't track leads, and don't follow up on the valuable leads marketing delivers. Sales teams make ridiculous promises to prospects to close a sale that can't be fulfilled.
In a non-integrated sales-and-marketing program, these complaints are usually delivered as defensive justifications for weak performance. In an integrated sales and marketing program, these issues are embraced as the starting point for building an effective cross-functional relationship, which is the subject of the next article in this series.
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