Five techniques to bridge the marketing-sales chasm

Marketing-Sales Alignment

Much has been written about the Marketing-Sales chasm. And, we’ve made contributions to that oft-told theme, too. That’s why I was struck by a post by Christine Crandell in the Forbes blog on how Marketing and Sales can gain alignment.

In that post, four techniques were offered to assist in aligning the Marketing and Sales effort.

  • Ride-Alongs – Marketing leadership, demand generation, product marketing, sales enablement, business development, and product management should each go on at least 6 sales calls a quarter.  Make sure the sales calls are with different sales reps, in different territories and industries, and at different stages in the sales cycle. 
  • Joint Territory Planning – Regional sales leader, demand generation, and sales enablement should sit down every six months and do three things: Analyze the revenue potential for the territory, evaluate past marketing/sales activities and develop/update marketing plans, and set joint targets/metrics.
  • Common Vocabulary – Too often people assume everyone is using the same definition when the complete opposite is happening.  The best way to develop a common vocabulary is to have a small joint working team develop a common vocabulary with documented definitions and publish it.
  • Working Teams – Set up joint working teams of 3-5 people made up of quota achieving sales reps and marketing members who meet monthly on key touch points that impact the pipeline.  The charter of these teams is to understand what’s working, the root cause of what isn’t and fix it, monitor organizational compliance, and measure the impact on the pipeline. 

In addition to the suggestions in the Forbes post, a fifth alignment idea, and an easy one to start with, is Sales Training.  The first step is to invite marketing to sales training.  Too often they don’t even get an invitation.  This is a missed opportunity.

A particularly high payoff situation is when the sales training is focused on a new product.  This is when Marketing usually does get invited to participate in sales training – to “educate” the sales force about the product to be sold.  The result most often is “one way” learning where Marketing serves as a “product expert” providing go-to-market information (such as competitive product advantages, prospect profiles, and value propositions) and fielding questions from Sales. In return, Marketing might hear some initial reactions from Sales.

While sharing this information is important, the “product expert” role does little to close the chasm and in some cases can even degrade whatever Marketing-Sales alignment exists. True synergy can be developed when Marketing participates in sales training programs on a more equal footing – as a participant. For example, we’ve seen “lights go on” when Marketing and Sales participate in sales simulations – both parties learning directly from one another … and beginning to develop a common vocabulary. Training programs designed to foster “mutual learning”, like sales simulations, can have both short and long term payoffs.  If you want people to play as a team – train as a team.

The lack of alignment between Marketing and Sales is pervasive – occurring in many companies, including market leaders. It can extract a significant price. Yet it’s a price which needs not to be paid – there are several approaches with proven track records for creating alignment.    

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC 

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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