Bridging the craters between Sales and Marketing

Most companies in traditional industries during the formative years typically have marketing and sales managed by a single department. On the marketing front, companies usually make rudimentary investments as part of sales efforts. They at best participate in related industry events or advertise in local media. However, as organizations grow, the need to manage marketing and sales as independent and yet complementary functions becomes necessary. In our observation, most companies run into the puddle of creating silos with no tight alignment between marketing and sales departments. In some companies the lack of synergy permeates product development and delivery functions also. The result is that product development does not use marketing to get market inputs, marketing does not use sales as their antennae in the market, and sales does not use marketing to drive a marketing led sales approach to grow revenues. The need of the hour is for greater co ordination between the two functions to succeed in the highly competitive and uncertain environment. Integration is ensuring the team coordinate and complement each other as in a relay rather than a 100 meters dash.

Mechanisms to integrate: Sales and marketing need to be consistent, congruent (same goals, support each other) and co-ordinated (event plans, time promos, content marketing with sales visits). Some mechanisms in Process, Structure, people and Goals can be used by managements to achieve integration.

Processes is all about ensuring communication flow is seamless, no information hoarding happens and internal latency is nil. Process is to ensure the owner has the complete info and authority to drive the outcomes and outputs. that are well designed and implemented are most useful. Process are effective only when the actors are embedded deeply. Defining a process for marketing where certain inputs are mandated to be obtained from sales, and outputs shared with sales can help to tie down integration and embed this in the process itself. Same thing can go for sales, where they seek marketing inputs into presentations, collateral required, target customers etc. Defining a detailed process with inputs, outputs, metrics and persons responsible is very useful.CRM systems can be used to achieve a degree of integration between sales and marketing, especially when it comes to co-ordinating marketing campaigns, lead management, getting information through call reports from sales etc. Marketing and sales have different customer experiences and information. The experience a sales person has with the customer can be very different from the experience a marketing person would have in interacting with customers. Somewhere these need to be woven together to build the real picture. When integrated with an effective CRM to provide one view, it becomes a powerful tool for insight and effective action.

Structure can be used to integrate sales and marketing. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing will allow effective integration.  In large companies, cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will be useful. They will be driven, there will be ownership and it will be effective.  Though. At times, it could be slow due to consensus issues and expensive as well, due to the redundancies built in. The new trend is for companies to have Integrators or SDR (Sales Development Reps) who act as co-ordinators between sales and marketing. This can be an effective low cost structure, But the KPIs of the SDR, sales and marketing folks need to be tied down to common objectives.

People aspect needs attention as well. When the culture in the organization is such that people have too much affinity for functional areas, and there are interdepartmental politics and fights, integration is not easy, and one knows for sure that this needs to be ironed out. The level and experience of people at the boundary units (like sales) makes a big difference and determines structure, process maturity, etc. When sales persons are mature and experienced, companies can work with loose processes, informality and uncertainty. But when we have in experienced and junior teams, and there is churn, systems have to be robust to help the organization withstand the confusion at the boundaries. This is a call leaders need to take – if the role is critical and processes weak, then place mature people in such roles. Co location of product development, marketing and sales is good, especially for large dispersed companies. It builds affinity and cohesion, but there could also be some trade-offs here. On the cultural front, facilitating Informal social ties, having an open environment, being job oriented rather than individual oriented, being result oriented rather than process oriented, are issues that need attention and tweaking.

Goals Integrated: In many organizations the adage “what you measure gets done” is the norm. Companies can use common objectives and goals to tie up complementary functions. Marketing and sales responsibilities can be designed around the customer buying processthe steps that the customer goes through – some call this the revenue cycle and not the sales cycle. Hence how do marketing and sales together funnel leads through awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and purchase is the key. Earlier, only the TOFU (top of the Funnel) activities qualified as marketing and the rest was sales. But as consumers research &educate themselves, 75% of buying decisions are made even before the sale begins. Hence marketing now extends all the way to the bottom of the funnel as well. Marketing is becoming more about content while sales is more about expertise, and these need to be well knit. Incentive design and linking good performance management systems are keys to get teams to work together. A lot of attention needs to be paid here, but companies are typically weak in this area, and a schism in inter-functional coordination always exists. Job rotation programs also help in getting sales and marketing folk to appreciate the challenges on either side and enable them to work well as teams.

When the above systemic, structural, cultural/people, and goal oriented issues are analysed and designed to be integrative in nature, high levels of sales and marketing integration can be achieved, leading to substantial performance improvement.