Nowhere else in the executive suite of corporations are two functions as closely intertwined as sales and marketing. Yet for all the shared responsibility, the marketing and sales relationship has often been a contentious and lopsided. Sales dominate in B2B sectors while marketing leads in B2C ones.
The joint challenge today for CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and the heads of sales (or CSOs – Chief Sales Officers) is: How they can work together to discover insights that matter, design the right offers and customer experiences based on those insights, and then deliver them effectively to the right people across multiple channels to drive growth?
McKinsey research shows that companies with advanced marketing and sales capabilities tend to grow their revenue two to three times more than the average company within their sector. But to get to that top tier, marketing and sales executives can no longer afford the inefficient silos that characterise the relationship.
Crucial Elements of the Marketing & Sales Partnership
There are three important elements of the CMO-CSO partnership which need proper calibration. These are a:
Joint Local Strategy
CMOs and sales leaders need to become experts at identifying and tapping micromarkets where there are often significant overlooked growth opportunities. But the real power of the partnership?The ability to deploy the resources and competencies of either sales or marketing departments synergistically in capitalising on micromarket opportunities.
Sales directors tend to set their goals geographically, while CMOs target customer segments, making it difficult to have a common baseline for comparing and checking progress. Leaders need to create meaningful targets combining the best of either approach.
One example is an Asian telecommunications company that found 20 percent of its marketing budget expended in markets with the lowest lifetime customer value. The company shifted resources to its most lucrative markets, where two-thirds of the opportunity lay.
Marketing then partnered with sales to reset customer acquisition goals at each micromarket, basing them on each market’s potential. They set, and met, revenue targets that were 10 percent higher than in previous years.
The CMO and head of sales should take the lead in pulling their departments together to jointly identify the best growth opportunities and translate the resulting insights into tools and plans the marketing and sales teams can use.
One important way to focus the effort is by managing the sales pipeline together.Linda Crawford, EVP and GM, salesforce.com, explains “It is very important for the head of sales and the CMO to have ongoing discussions about pipeline strategy and how the pipeline gets built. People nailing that are taking the lion’s share of the business these days.”
When this process works well, marketing often takes on an expanded role by. For example, it provides sales with data analytics and supports the development and testing of sales plays for a specific micromarket or customer peer group.
Customer Decision Journey Collaboration
Collaborating around the customer decision journey is another important area.Lynn Vojvodich, CMO for salesforce.com, explains that “Because customer expectations have changed so much, it’s even more important that marketing, sales and even service work closely together. Ultimately, you want to create personalised customer journeys that seamlessly integrate touch points across these functions.”
CMOs and sales leaders must develop mechanisms to create a consistent customer experience and identify which marketing and sales investments will yield the greatest returns. That starts with developing a deep understanding of how customers behave and make decisions.
While deep data analysis will get you partway, interviewing sales reps is also crucial to uncovering what customers want. It’s critical to listen to the people taking calls 24/7 and dealing with customers, as they possess insight into and understand customer desires.
Marketers and salespeople should be spending a significant percentage of their time with customers, in order to understand current and emerging needs. One well-known product company bypassed distributors and embedded engineers in paint shops. The reason? Customers had reported having trouble keeping the walls clean.
While there, they discovered that the dust in paint bays was causing defects. So they created a new system for distributors, reducing paint job defects by 49 percent.
For this sort of collaboration to succeed, the CMO and head of sales need to be deliberate and visible in working with each other. CMOs and Sales Directors should map out skills and capabilities needed to reach their goals, identify the skills that currently exist and where they reside in the organisation and identify and plan to redress talent gaps.
These two leaders need to identify disconnection points between their two groups and develop processes to bridge them. When it comes to data, marketing insights teams have to adopt more of a customer service mentality, approaching sales reps on the front lines more like customers. From the sales side, teams need to be trained to take the insights generated by marketing and act on them.
Teams from each functional area can also participate in joint assignments, and team members can be rotated through each other’s departments. Field marketing can also bring marketing closer to the sales force – and the customer. One European retail bank, for example, set up “opportunity labs” in its branches and agencies (i.e. at the point of delivery to the customer), where marketing could meld with sales to develop new customer programmes.
Technology Engine Matters
Create a technology engine that powers the front lines is also crucial. Investing in better and more useful technologies is critical for sales to move more quickly and effectively on the leads that marketing can uncover. This means investing in technologies to help turn ubiquitous mobile devices into sales tools and becoming more sophisticated about collecting data.
In some industries (e.g. high tech), marketing can work with sales to define what data would be valuable then work with product development to create sensors that provide that data. Products can then provide feedback on when to get maintenance and when the product will have reached the end of its useful life.
But for all the potential technology provides, it’s important not to lose sight of what the point is. The fundamental truth about technological innovation is that it needs to help salespeople make better decisions on the front lines. In the rush of excitement to build great tools, the resulting analysis is often either too complex for sales people to use or irrelevant to the immediate business opportunity.
The challenge for CMOs? Reduce heavy backend analysis to a set of simple actions and guidelines that front-line salespeople can use. And the challenge for the sales directors? Effectively articulate what insights are needed to make better decisions.
For instance, a cargo airlines marketing team developed a complex model that took all the frequently changing dynamics of the cargo industry, as well as opportunities for different negotiation strategies based on supply and demand, into account. But the real win? The company took all that complexity, hid it behind a simple dashboard and it gave to the sales force.
This dashboard provided simple guidelines on flight capacity, corresponding pricing, and competitor options. The result? A 20 percent boost in market share.
The CMO and sales chief stand on the front lines of growth. They are best positioned to spot and understand emerging trends, build strong bonds with customers, and distill new opportunities into real action. But finding above-market growth will remain elusive until CMOs and sales leaders take the lead in developing a more cohesive approach to the marketplace.