The Sales and Marketing challenge
Wherever you see the word Sales, it’s often followed by Marketing. You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a marriage made in heaven.
So why is this rarely the case for many companies?
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to work in marketing, sales, and for the last 16 years as a Sales and Marketing Consultant with companies across the UK and Europe, helping them to focus on the three levers for growth: Strategy, Brand and Communications.
Whether it’s training or consultancy related, it’s allowed me to reach a few conclusions of my own about the Sales & Marketing conundrum.
Vision and Culture
How sales and marketing work together (indeed all other departments) relies heavily upon Culture Vision and Mission.
For marketing and sales to maximise their impact, we need an open exchange of views and ideas, and a coming together of budgets, plans and how to reach and engage with all stakeholders both internally and externally.
Sounds a bit twee perhaps, but marketing or sales cannot promise what customer services or production can’t deliver. For that to happen, we need to know what customers think, we need to engage with internal teams, and for that we need an open and engaging culture.
For the right culture to develop, we need vision. What does the future look like for the business, it’s employees and partners? What standards or goals do we aspire to? How do we want to run as a business? What plans do we have to start delivering and living the vision?
Vision and Mission are the first steps towards galvanising teams of people, and refining these down into clear and measurable objectives.
Ideally we want a vision that stretches, not restricts the business and our thinking. This gives Sales and Marketing a chance to achieve their potential by working together on one cohesive plan.
One word, but broader than it sounds. Marketing in an SME or MSB can be a lonely place, so if you’re the only person with any marketing knowledge, you’re going to find it tough… especially if your direct line or ultimate MD doesn’t understand marketing.
As a result, pretty much all of your marketing will be reactive and short term focused, most likely to drive sales in the form of brochures, exhibition materials or social media (with few measures for success).
Your MD or line manager doesn’t have to be a marketing expert, but they must know enough to help you work towards the vision, and buy into what marketing is about, and how it needs to integrate within the business and the sales function.
Creating the role of Sales and Marketing Director/Manager isn’t the solution, if that person doesn’t understand both areas well.
If you currently employ a bright marketer in this role, and this sounds like your business, beware. Your employee will leave, or become so demoralised… you’ll want them to leave !
Beware though, having a marketer or sales person report to a ‘Sales & Marketing Director’ isn’t the obvious answer you think it is. Does this person really have both sets of skills?
Similarly does your sales team understand the basics of marketing, and how it can work with sales? Does your marketing team visit customers, and look externally for ideas? Do they work together to solve marketing and sales problems?
These problems can include how to raise company awareness, increase conversion ratios, enter new markets, or engage sales and clients with Key Account Management.
Finally, marketing is a broad subject so it needs to be resourced well. Do you want your team looking at strategy, the website, marketing communications, client analysis, advertising, copy writing, design or something else. What brings the most value?
If your business sells via the web, then you’re probably going to have to look at boosting your resources in this area. Whether it’s SEO, Websites, Social Media, Email Marketing, PPC etc, all of these take time.
Structure and Process
You might work in the same building, but are you in the same room… at least metaphorically speaking?
Having a structure and process for how marketing and sales work together is vital. This needs to be regular, and both formal and informal.
How and where do marketing and sales meet? Do they pose questions to each other, or are they simply reporting on current activities and performance in their allotted 30 minute time slot?
This should include joint budgeting, strategy development, ongoing progress and opportunities for joint problem solving.
Having shared KPIs and a common objective is a great way to start.
Which comes first, the business, marketing or sales budget?
In many cases, the budget ends up as follows:
- the business adds x% to last years budget, and asks sales and marketing (plus other departments to sign up).
- Or if you’re a bit more democratic, you ask the sales and marketing team for a budget, then you tweak up and down to suit.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I remember my early sales career, spending many sleepless nights wondering how I would achieve my target (last years figure plus x%), in the face of over capacity, declining customer demand and increased competition.
I also remember wondering what marketing were actually doing to support my clients, as we didn’t plan together. Whilst we undertook a large array of marketing activities, they were not aligned behind the business objectives or sales funnels in a cohesive way.
Last years figure plus X% is a tried and trusted formula, but it’s one that takes no real account of market opportunities, competitor activity, or even how marketing can support the sales function and vice versa.
The budget and forecast is more than just an opportunity to set next years figures, it’s the time to galvanise your team around your business objectives, explore new ideas, and as a result increase your chance of hitting/exceeding your aims.
It’s amazing what a bit of market research and customer analysis (recency, frequency, aov, margin etc) can do to your business forecast.
Key Steps in getting Sales and Marketing working together
- Ensure you have a clear Vision and Mission for your business
- Ensure you have clear Strategic Objectives for your business
- Align your Sales and Marketing Objectives around your Strategy
- Ensure you have the right skills in your team, and they understand each others roles
- Ensure Sales and Marketing build their plan together
- Make some KPIs shared across both teams
- Ensure they have a structure to work to, whether fortnightly, monthly or annually