Are your sales and marketing aligned across Segments?

Robert De Nero and Anne Hathway starer “The Intern” has a particular scene wherein the sales analysis shows the company has been spending more marketing dollars on low value segments and practically nothing at all on high margin low volume segment.  Does not this sound familiar? While companies realize Sales and marketing need to be tightly aligned, but that seldom is the case.  A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet sales find the coverage insufficient.

Companies spend a fortune on the conferences and events but the outcomes belie expectations. It is not surprising for many corporates to find 75% of the participants who attended their events came for free lunch or a swanky dinner. Many of the participants may not be the decision maker or influencers, but pretty junior in their organization. Corporate gifts, industry exhibitions cost a dime, and yet ineffective. Albeit companies continue to pursue many of these acts they are afraid to pause and question fundamentals. What is the objective of the event?. Why this city and this hour?, How this format will help sell their ware?. Unfortunately, many leaders want to just follow the herd. Therefore it is not surprising when studies across industry indicate:

  • 50% of marketing budget is totally wasted
  • Only 34% of feel their content marketing works
  • 25% had no marketing strategy
  • 44% had no alignment between various marketing media

So how can companies ensure their marketing dollars are well spent and drive intended sales outcome. On the outset, it is important to realize marketing function serves three objectives. These are inform, influence and advocacy.  Any marketing activity is to help consumers associate with the brand, help differentiate its offerings and seek higher revenues. Companies use various marketing assets to communicate to the interest group their unique existence, product/service offering set, pricing and other advantages. The objective is maximize reach at an affordable cost. Companies use several approaches to drive influence. Awards, citations, sponsored industry events, directed online community forums, endorsements are all effective mediums of influencing consumers. Advocacy is to enlist willing individuals who would eschew the role of brand ambassadors and drive positive word of mouth.

Different marketing assets serve different purpose and effective at different stages of sales cycle. Assets such as breakfast meeting facilitates more personalized one on one discussion that may be more effective in later stages of sales cycle. On the other hand,   assets like newsletter or blog may be more useful in the early stages of sales cycle. Marketing assets also vary by their cost and impact. Some of these cost a dime and more effective to lock-in, while some may be low cost approaches to increase reach only.

Companies can realize better return on investments in their sales and marketing when these functions are congruent and well-coordinated. Congruency can be gained by ensuring same goals drive their quarterly activities, common goals entwine both functions at various levels and incentives encourage them to support each other. Coordination improves when event plans, promos, content marketing and other assets are aligned with sales motions. It is important to realize sales motions differ across segments within a company. Segments vary on the “value” of purchase and the number of customers in that particular segment. It is common to have a segment A that has few numbers of customers with a high purchase value. B and C segments are those with lower values of purchase and incumbent sizes. Each of these segments exhibit different sales behaviour. Purchasing cycles may be longer and more formal in Segment A, while the decision making could be shorter in Segment C.  Sales may have to interact and influence multiple owners in enterprise segment. Order qualifying criteria may not be just enough in Segment A. Marketing must be able to push the company over to order winning plateau.

Segment A requires an enterprise sales approach where formal decision structures and vendor registration and assessments exist. Customers in this segment may be well informed about the happenings in the markets, and well-endowed to invest high ticket investment. Many customers in this segment may already been served by your competitors and would only move if there is a compelling value proposition in terms of cost, or innovation advantage. Sales function is completely managed by direct sales as relationships and continuous coverage matter to enter and grow the revenues. While inside sales functions support the direct sales with deeper profiling of people and secondary data analysis, direct sales has a key role in engagement of the segment.

Customers in segment A place a high premium on scalable and proven solutions. Prior experience and in depth expertise of the vendor play a key role in awarding the project. Marketing platforms must facilitate experience sharing and credibility reinforcing functions for direct sales to influence and close deals in this segment.  Thought leadership vehicles including standards, industry frameworks and innovation ideas fly well in face to face meetings with the customers.  Breakfast meetings, Industry association, standard setting bodies, and Knowledge sharing conferences serve as valuable platforms for direct sales to position the company at state of art knowledge.  These platforms allow discussions to be personalized and centred on solving the problems the clients face, hence meeting service immediacy.

On the other hand, segment C, which has large number of customers with low ticket value may need a marketing and sales approach where the total transaction costs are optimised.  It is practical to have inside sales as the champion to host and on board customers in segment C. Marketing functions role for this segment is to improve the reach across the market and reuse the content to improve the richness of various marketing assets.  Companies can improve the reach and engagement with Segment C by adopting a consistent campaign blast policy. Mail them a newsletter, case studies and customer wins to increase awareness about your brand. Emphasize on content creation, curation and extension to reduce investments in content development. Content can be text, video and other formats. Use social media platforms to connect owners and decision makers and also to run campaigns.  Figure 1 presents the alignments between Segments and Marketing assets.

Figure 1: Alignment between segments and marketing assets.


Sales efficiencies can be gained only when direct sales team are running after few accounts with a deeper insight and ownership. Also, how the inside and partner (indirect) sales team complement the direct sales matters for Segments B and C. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both sales and marketing functions for each segment. Have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging will emerge with each asset to engage and influence customer. Having a common Head of Sales and marketing or marketing aligned with sales in another structural approach that can be tried. Cross functional teams tasked with joint activities across sales and marketing will also be useful.

Dr TR Madan Mohan



Phase-wise approach to successful Business Transformation

Business Transformation is the radical and holistic change companies undergo to grow the business faster, make them more relevant to the market, and de risk them from any technology or environmental change.  Like any change companies can either pursue a big bang approach or a state-wise approach. In this blog, we share our experience of companies that have successfully embarked and achieved business transformation using an incremental approach.

Like the Chinese proverb, a long journey starts with small steps, successful business transformation starts with small but measured initial steps. The first question when companies attempt transformation is which process to touch. In most businesses, the easiest function that is amenable change and one without too much dependencies and investments is “sales”.  Moreover, any minor changes in sales function has a direct impact on the “outcome”, be it new customer acquisition, or more orders from existing customers. Either ways the outcomes impact the overall mood and functioning of the company.  Sales outcomes are also highly visible, all across the organization people can see the flurry of activities that start once a new client is gained. Any win, however small, can uplift the mood for change and thaw the resistance to change. Employees should not feel threatened by it; instead they must be allowed to participate in this change – especially the critical members of the team who are key influencers. It must vibe with a sense of growth and pride in the organization. What such changes do is to convince fence-sitters that change is good and doable. A highly visible short term win will also enable the top leadership of the firm to start change on a winning note.

Once this clarity of purpose is communicated through changes in sales, it becomes necessary to get the second level. It is best at this stage to use existing resources within the firm and enable them to drive change on two areas eliminate waste and improve visibility.  Create groups to improve the operations, ask them to identify and drive changes where they feel empowered. Next involve people in information, communication and advocacy changes. Ask the employees to suggest changes to website, the sales and marketing collaterals that work best and ask them to drive these improvements.  Their buy-in is absolutely essential to drive the second-order change. Now that we have a broad based team that believes in the new vision, we need to build a sense of urgency so that the change that has been demonstrated can be capitalized upon.  Once this happens, creative inputs on products, offering and markets start to pour in. It also gives everyone a chance to delve deeper into the core offering to examine possible extensions. This helps build the roadmap for the company as to which markets and products they need to be in. Once we have the top and second level of leadership involved in this exercise, they believe in the new vision and positioning, especially since it is their aspiration that has been translated into the firm’s vision and strategy.

Once there is trust, comfort and belief in the vision and need for change, it becomes easier to begin small structural changes within the organization. The structure needs to align the capabilities within the organization to the new goals and strategies. Given today’s environment, no team or division can work in silos. Hence it becomes imperative that we put in place review mechanisms that will facilitate cross functional work. Implementing measures and balanced scorecards that help break silos should be thoughtfully designed and implemented. Training and reviewing team members to drive this, building their capabilities and motivating them becomes essential.  Working as teams and leveraging off each other needs to become a habit, a new way of working. Once success can be shown in a couple of inter-functional initiatives, a broad base of employees becomes adept at adopting such structures across the entire organization. Making change happen in other functions and departments new becomes a lot easier. Hence managing transformation in stages with the right vision, by building the right capabilities, help build the foundation for a large business transformation.

– R M Sanjay

Making your sales effective!!!

Many a times, the sales of a firm  starts off from the founder’s personal contacts and then expands into newer territories. As firms grow and expand, there is  need to diversify and derisk customer base, both in terms of revenue from a particular segment and percentage of contribution from a the top few customers. However, most companies find this desired state alluding, for many reasons. Sales structure, team reporting, carving of markets and sales measurements are the major roadblocks that hold back the company’s sales achievement. Many firms do not get the required ROI despite hiring more direct sales people, training them, and arming them with heavy technology & gadgets.  

How do you get your sales engine firing and delivering the expected results? Start with the basics of your sales strategy, what is the product or service, what would be the best channel to sell, is push or pull the right approach, commercial policies etc. Once your sales strategy is clear, evaluate the structure to see whether it is aligned to deliver the results. Do not just follow the herd by putting more direct costly sales resources, often a good combination of low cost backend and high touch direct sales force is not only useful but cost effective.  Identify systems that cane be deployed without much hoopla!. You do not need Bazooka’s to kill a fly. Do not buy overkill sales systems if you can keep your process simple and stupid.  Importantly, your systems must be able to allocate activities to resources, make them own and drive outcomes. Systems that require less monitoring and less control always work best. Keep away the burecarutic multi-report systems, they are just too much of file pushing, but no juice at the end of tunnel.  

The size and structure of the sales team is also important. The right account and territory assignments, the type of sales resources that you have, their effectiveness, the number of each type of resource, coverage of territory are issues to be kept in mind here.  Most companies make a cardinal mistake of allocating geographic regions interspersed with named accounts. This is a classical “falling between two stools” folly that one must avoid. Follow a simple principle – either geographic or account wise dedication, and stick to it for some time. Intelligent sales managers often rotate sales resources between the geographies to break the monotony and avoid the “familiarity breeds contempt” effect.

Most crucial, but often got wrong, is the issue of talent. Account mining is different from opening, hence characteristics of KAM is different from hunter. Having the right mix of hunters and harvesters is key to effective sales management.  Recruitment and selection of the right candidates, putting in place appropriate development and training plans for their sustained success is also a key component. There also has to be clarity on the sales culture that one needs to build and strengthen. If you want to create a group of interdependent collaborative sales teams, ensure the mining and acquisitions teams appreciate this aspect and are culturally attuned to this joint outcomes. Do not fall into the trap of aligning culture using incentives, it seldom works, especially in sales.  When high standards, clarity, transparency, teamwork and commitment are part of the culture and are followed diligently and imbibed in our systems, success is closer then imagined.

Finally sales can be only effective if it is fortified as a continuous and learning system. Systems to gather competitive intelligence, sales support, performance management, rewards & recognition and IT systems such as CRM, KM, BI etc., are all typical support systems that need to be aligned. Hence, building a high performance sales organization is not just about hiring more sales people, or using technology. It is about putting in place all the inter-dependant components in the system that will fire in unison. While the above list is by no means exhaustive, they are just some of the inter-dependencies that need to be built and aligned to have a reliable, consistent and effective sales organization.

 R. M Sanjay, Director (Sales and Marketing Practice)


Right align your rewards & recognition system

Rewards and recognition is an important organizational element that used wisely can hasten the pace of business transformation and bring about the desired change in behavior and outcomes at various levels. Rewards and recognition come in many forms: monetary, prize, gifts, awards, empowerment, etc. A common fallacy in many organizations is that they tend to use the rewards & recognition programs without any consideration of life-cycle of the organization, or the stages of any change management program or the intended role of R&R systems. Role of right rewards and recognition in organizational development and change management is highly researched topic. Accordingly, in the initial stages of the company, the focus is on getting things right. For example, in a software product company the R&R must focus on “do” part. CTO would have broadly identified a product/service to develop, a software developer role is to develop the code in time without any bugs and within the accepted or budgeted number of revisions. In the initial phase, the rewards and recognition systems must be more on “directing” the required outcomes. R&R at this stage may include proficiency based pay, performance based incentives, feedback, appreciation letters, initiative to complete the work faster, extending beyond role, recognition and interdepartmental coordination.   As the organization grows the focus is on improvements that can be initiated within the teams and at individual levels to gain from efficiency, effectiveness and knowledge management. Appropriate R&R at this juncture must emphasize individual incentives to encourage incremental innovations, public recognition, town hall appreciations, employee of the year/month, sponsorship for conferences, training and higher education keeping in mind the developmental path of the employee. As organization matures, the emphasis of R&R must shift to encourage innovation as conscious efforts must be encouraged and attempted at all levels of the organization to ensure it does not become a victim of “Core rigidity”. Many successful organizations and family led businesses fail to survive longer because they tend to adhere to their core competencies and do not invest enough to diversify and de-risk the organization from technology and market changes. Hence, while continuing with some of the earlier R&R measures, more focus should be on designing measures such as gain and risk sharing incentives, team goal sharing incentives, new product or process application awards, hall of fame awards, high-priority skunk team awards,  nominations to benchmarking tours,  suggestion over-the wall award, etc.   

Analysis of successful long term change management programs also indicate the R&R scheme must change with the stages of change management. While there are many frameworks describing the change management process, most models have three common stages. First stage “Initiate”, is the preparatory stage, where the new directions are discussed to obtain buy-in across the organization, and change leaders are identified.  Few fundamental initiatives that can showcase positive outcomes in short time are rolled out to win over nay says and increase the adoption rate of change management activities. In the second stage,  “extend”, more departmental and sub-departmental level changes in line with the major changes attempted in initiate stage are deployed. Departmental integration and managing outcome becomes the focus at this stage. In the third stage, “sustain”, continued efforts are made with the changes adopted in the previous stages to gain efficiencies and productivity. Scaling up of business operations to benefit from both economies of scale and scope gains are pursued. In this stage change management focus also must shift to identification of activities to improve profitability, new revenues streams and products/services to de-risk the business. Consistent with the above stages, we argue R&R systems and their focus must vary across the change process. In the initial stage, the R&R must be a heavy mix of extrinsic measures like skill based incentives, performance based incentives, written and town hall awards. In the extend stage, the focus would be on mix of individual recognition, financial awards and appreciations to  encourage the employees to own and drive changes. In the sustain stage, the R&R measures must be a heavy mix of monetary awards, individual and group recognition and development support (training, professional development, college education, specialized courses, etc).  Such alignment of R&R systems with focus on evolutionary stage of the firm and change management will help in designing appropriate R&R systems that can be goal directive, supporting and reinforcing the behavioral changes.  

S Indupriya