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Can Sales & Marketing ever speak the same language - Part 2 ?

Welcome to my 2nd post covering 8 topics on the relationship between Sales & Marketing and why alignment fails to work at the coalface. The backdrop to this post is as follows:


Ask any CEO or CFO in a B2B Tech company if they have achieved perfect alignment in the Sales and Marketing function and you are likely to hear something like this:


1) It works ok

2) It could be better

3) It’s hopeless and we have gone through several VP’s in both Sales & Marketing and it’s still broken

4) It’s our highest area of cost


So, why is the combined overall effectivity patchy, with so much money being wasted?

My first post talked about ego and experience, and measurement as two key barriers to progress. This post covers two more issues that hinder progress:


Customer intimacy and references


Tech companies rely heavily on reference selling using customers to endorse solutions and business expertise. Salesforce.com made this the cornerstone of their strategy and the simple fact remains - happy customers spend more money!

For decades sales people have been trained to use storytelling and references to amplify capability. Digital Transformation stories have huge value and the lack of examples is often blamed on marketing. Across the tech industry salespeople are heard moaning in meetings:


“Marketing need to update the references because they are too old and don’t mention Digital transformation. We need example videos on the website like yesterday”


Sales teams and VP’s need to stop blaming marketing for lack of case studies. Customer reference production is down to both functions. Sales teams and sales management frequently have a deeper relationship at the point of contract than the marketeers. When a contract closes a relationship begins that requires aftersales care and attention. This is the time when sales or the client services teams needs to focus on getting the customer on board as a reference. Abdicating responsibility to marketing is flawed as they will rarely magic up a customer video without sales input.


Both functions must recognise that a customer’s willingness to collaborate changes. During implementation customers are focused on overcoming project challenges and will rarely do ROI case studies when the solution is unproven. Getting references takes time, patience, and effort from sales and marketing with both parties nudging the customer towards going public.


Most marketeers are usually eager to get involved in customer case studies but expecting them to magic up a reference or video without sales input is naïve.

Communication, not consultation after the money has been committed

Ten plus years ago I attended a meeting with a Sales VP who complained bitterly about marketing putting firepower in the wrong place. He talked about marketing constantly putting artillery fire on the wrong hill and ignoring the requests from the sales troops on the ground.


For years I have seen witnessed several marketing teams and managers squander 80% of the marketing budget doing things that they believed were really important. Sales were never in the loop and the following phrases were cited to defend the indefensible:


“We did not have time to talk to sales because of the marketing budget cycle”

“The event was nearly sold out and we did not have time to talk to sales”

“The white paper was going to be exclusive for us, including thought leadership with our branding on each page and £30k was a snip”

“Sales don’t understand what the market wants or the customer’s business”


Every week sales teams talk to customers directly gaining insight on what’s important for a customer. The best salespeople understand the customers business and develop powerful insight. The worst sellers may not always hear everything the customers says still gain insight.


Clearly marketeers talk to customers from time to time but will rarely get the same insight and much of their insight is from reports, industry news, and analyst communications. Marketing is typically a one too many relationship and sales should always have a deeper insight on actual customer need.


Both teams must talk to each other and listen to each other and reach joint agreement on which hills to bomb. The only way to make this work in practice is to talk on a weekly basis and to have a minimum monthly combined Sales & Marketing meeting to share insight and agree plans.


I would welcome any comments or insight you have and please like and share this as you see fit.


Best regards


Will O’Brien – Founder and lead author Day Five Consulting

Authentic Training Delivered

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