In the spring of 2015 Alexander Group ran a series of four Chief Sales Executive Summits focused on the critical role of the sales function in both planning for and delivering sustainable growth. The importance of selling in the growth equation is obvious on the face of it. But the role that the sales organization must play in building a reliable growth engine has changed. To understand this better we asked Summit executives to consider this proposition:
Delivering more reliable growth demands a more tightly integrated relationship between Marketing and Sales, one where Sales has enhanced prominence, because today’s customer has:
More information than ever about products;
Intense cost pressures and growth challenges of their own;
Professionalized procurement functions to manage costs;
Nevertheless … become more open to learning how vendors/partners can help improve businesses processes … if compelling messages and associated proof can be supplied to decision-makers who care more about results than costs.
The Summits explored how the Sales and Marketing team is evolving to better convince increasingly knowledgeable and cost conscious customers that products are worth buying, at a premium, if they can be shown to improve business results. To understand how this fascinating new “engine” operates, we discussed the following questions:
In what ways is the partnership between Marketing and Sales changing?
Where do the value-centric messages and stories come from?
How do Sales & Marketing determine which customers to target with value-centric messaging?
What are the keys to enabling the sales force to sell and deliver value?
This blog article explores the answer to the first question … how is the partnership between Marketing and Sales changing? Subsequent articles will address the last three questions.
A New Marketing and Sales Ecosystem Fuels the Shift to Value
In what ways is the partnership between Marketing and Sales changing?
Said one executive, “We need to develop ‘market in’ thinking at all levels in our company.” Building on that, another executive commented, “We need to better understand where the buyer is going.” That means “getting insights from Marketing and packaging these in a way that sellers can use to influence the buyer.” To accomplish this, a new symbiotic relationship is emerging where Sales and Marketing co-discover customer needs and leverage mutual wisdom to find ways to meet them. Success in this new relationship hinges on how mutual wisdom is accumulated and cultivated. This begins by understanding what Marketing and Sales are uniquely expert in. As one executive put it, “The intellectual capital that Marketing brings to the table revolves around vertical issues and solutions. Sales brings deep insight into the issues and practices of specific customers.”
A balanced exchange of insight is achieved through more thoughtful and systematic interaction between the two functions. Executives told us this is achieved through a combination of processes, programs and structural approaches, as follows:
Processes; two stood out:
Marketing Motions. Several executives referenced more systematic “marketing motions” that revolve around weekly and monthly interactions between the two functions to review and improve messaging, enablement tools, training and lead development.
Centers of Excellence. Several companies have Centers of Excellence dedicated to key verticals and the products/services/solutions to address key issues both now and in the future. These centers serve as a kind of laboratory for Sales and Marketing as well as customers to share insights and explore opportunities with the potential for mutual benefit.
Programs; two caught our attention:
Advisory Boards. Comprised of sellers, marketers and customers, these Boards are managed to bring diverse and energetic opinions; a) different size customers and different verticals are represented … a few “global partners” are not allowed to dominate; and b) members are rotated on and off in regular cycles … it is not a lifetime assignment.
Metrics and sales compensation. Sharing and dialog is greatly enhanced when functions share common metrics, goals and incentives. As one exec put it, “There is nothing like a common revenue goal to get Marketing and Sales pulling in the same direction!”
Structure; we noted three options of interest:
Field Marketing. Establish a “Field Marketing” group that lives in regions and works shoulder to shoulder with Sales. In particular, Field Marketing was often paired with a strategically-oriented Sales Analytics team to better access real time data, develop insights and produce customer-ready collateral.
Disruptor. We noted several instances where a position was established, reporting to the Chief Revenue Officer or even the CEO, whose job was to observe customer/market needs and engage BOTH Marketing and Sales in dialog about what could be done to best meet these needs. In short, the job was to disrupt the status quo between Marketing and Sales in the interest of finding new ways to bring value to customers.
Chief Revenue Officer. An emerging position that is seen with ever greater frequency, the CRO is charged with running all functions that affect what and how much customers buy and whether they remain loyal. This usually boils down to Product Marketing, Field Marketing, Sales, Sales Operations/Analytics and Customer Service. The objective: identify the obvious overlaps in each function and ensure that NO opportunity to add value and enhance loyalty is overlooked.
The intent of all the programs, processes and structural tweaking can be boiled down to one thing: get Marketing and Sales to combine their talents to better serve customers and improve differentiation from competition. One executive indicated that internally they had begun to refer to their new more closely aligned Sales and Marketing departments as “Smarketing.” In this new arrangement, Marketing creates the value props while Sales “fine tunes.” Together, a more “consultative marketing function” enables delivery of more consultative selling.
Gary Tubridy is a senior vice president of the Alexander Group and the general manager in charge of the firm’s management consulting business. Gary’s consulting work is focused on increasing marketing and sales effectiveness with particular emphasis in technology and medical products industries. Gary has deep expertise in diagnosing sales management issues and helping clients execute action plans to improve results. His research is focused on best practices of leading sales organizations in North America with particular emphasis on sales force transformation and the role of sales leadership. He leads the Alexander Group executive events series and hosts the Operations and Executive Forums. He is one of three founding stockholders of the Alexander Group.
Gary has been with the Alexander Group for over 35 years. Prior to that, Gary was in sales with the IBM Corporation. Gary holds a B.A. from Brown University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.