The reaction from the VP Marketing after a couple beers was all too familiar. I’d asked a simple question – how well does your team work with sales? – and received a litany of complaints about her colleagues in the sales organization. How they’re “out of touch”, “always seem to view us as collateral producers and nothing else”, “dismiss the target prospects we’ve provided as time wasters”, and “generally self-centered, technological Neanderthals who in general opt for the easy life”. Apart from the crowd, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Despite organizational attempts to bridge the sales and marketing gap with titles (e.g. the VP Sales and Marketing title), offsite work sessions, and job rotations, we still find a considerable gap between sales and marketing over many issues, especially customer acquisition. Which led us to wonder why sales and marketing would be out of synch over what should be a unified exercise, i.e. finding new customers for the company’s products or services.
Invariably, the disagreement between these departments starts with divergent answers to a simple question: who is a good prospect? Despite companies having access to data from CRM systems which tell them where to find the most profitable prospects, disagreements over who to target or focus effort on have proliferated. The reasons, and some potential solutions, are as follows:
a. Easier Life – Sales may understand that one prospect, while less profitable than another, is a lot easier to find, close, and service. This is a tough one to tackle without senior sales management support over their team resource allocation. A good starting point is reaching agreement on account classifications (what is field, inside, or marketing led sales), and then drilling down to agree a prioritization within each classification based on current and future business opportunity.
b. Cost to Service – Marketing and sales may disagree on the actual and opportunity cost to service a customer, based on individual experiences. Hence allocation of time/resource becomes a bone of contention. One way to handle this challenge involves preparing detailed analysis of cost to service across all classifications of customers, including allocating a time cost for sales follow ups and reporting, in the calculations.
c. History of Disappointment – Previous marketing efforts at finding prospects may have met with limited success, owing to poor data or poor management of expectations from a new prospect data source. Once this happens with sales, and they perceive their time having been wasted, marketing’s credibility goes through the floor. The way to deal with this situation is clearly managing expectations, perhaps by acknowledging that a source is being ‘tested’ for quality and enlisting sales support in conducting the test. Invariably, it also means involving sales earlier in any decision making where new lead sources may arise.