Bridging the gap

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

Avoid sales vs. marketing conflicts by formally integrating the two processes

Question:
My marketing and sales directors seem to be in a constant battle. Instead of working in a collaborative fashion to streamline processes and improve market share, they are constantly engaged at some level of the blame game. How can I resolve this without losing my cool?

Answer:
Conflict between marketing and sales usually erupts when performance goals are missed and pressure is escalating from the top. Marketing says sales didn’t execute. Sales people say marketing didn’t equip them with the right tools.
While it may be interpreted that a rift between marketing and sales is the result of personality conflicts, it’s more likely a by-product of a lack of an integrated process for linking each phase of marketing into the sales process.
For example, when sales is told that there will be three new product launches this year, they get excited – something new to talk about with their customers and prospects.
When the kick-off event happens and promises of significant new revenue growth are projected, the sales department gets that twinkle in the eye and the fire in the belly to accept the challenge.
However, when they get back to their desks and are missing the materials and scripts to effectively position the product lines’ unique selling propositions, they complain, or quietly disengage, and eventually, sell only the products/services where they are comfortable. That triggers the blame game and reinforces the gap between marketing and sales.
When the lines of communication between marketing and sales and the processes to integrate their functions are deficient, marketing’s role, in many cases, defaults to that of a promotions department.
The resulting gap costs companies dearly.
– Pretty sell sheets that are not linked to the selling process are designed and printed, and end up collecting dust on the shelf.
– The wrong message is communicated to prospects/customers.
– Thousands of dollars are wasted on advertising and other forms of promotions.
– Leads are passed on to sales that are perceived as worthless.
– Proposals are rejected.
– Projects are sold below target margins.

Sales, rather than focusing on customer strategy and building relationships, are forced to create unique selling propositions without the demographic analysis and market research to back it up. Time, energy and money are wasted.
Effective communication between departments will help bridge the gap between marketing and sales. But how do you identify the gaps?
In a fiercely competitive market that is saturated with noise (offers, promotions, the deal of the week, etc.) companies need to clearly and effectively communicate why customers should buy from them.
To initiate the process of bridging the gap between your marketing and sales functions, review the checklist below to benchmark the areas that may be impeding your success. Identify the top two areas from each function that need improvement.
Each core competency provides an overview of a critical process that integrates marketing into the selling function.
This approach minimizes personality conflicts, and identifies factors that are contributing to the blame game.
Marketing core competencies
1. Positioning: A process that bridges the gap between your target customer and the sales message that is being communicated.

2. Assessing opportunities: A process to identify key market indicators that can be leveraged to achieve your internal and external audiences.

3. Strategizing: A process that integrates marketing and sales plans.

4. Equipping: A process to ensure that all sales tools are directly linked to your selling processes.

5. Marketing online: A process that integrates your online marketing initiatives with sales.

6. Managing: A process that drives marketing accountability through measurements.

Sales core competencies
1. Prospecting: A process that identifies and connects sales professionals with people who can help them generate new business.

2. Qualifying: A two-sided, mutual discovery process where both the buyer and the seller determine if there is a valid reason for doing business together.

3. Strategizing: Most people have it backwards. Sales does not drive the buying process; rather it’s the buying process that drives the sales process.

4. Presenting/Selling: Once the key information has been gathered and the approach defined, the goal of the sales presentation is to "wow" the customer and eliminate the competition.

5. Negotiating: When fundamental negotiating principles are employed, options are leveraged and mutually acceptable agreements are achieved.

6. Nurturing: After the contract has been signed and the product implemented, the sales professional’s responsibility is to identify and develop new business opportunities.

Once the areas for improvement have been identified, the key to bridging the gap between marketing and sales is to improve the quality of communication and collaboration between the directors.
Now that you have identified the top two areas for each function, ask both directors to complete their assessments of their function’s core competencies. Then facilitate a team meeting with the directors. Review the needs improvement areas each director has targeted. Facilitate a discussion to reach consensus.
Ask each director to develop an action plan to address the top two target areas. Meet again to review the plans and set timelines to manage follow up.
If it becomes apparent that some knowledge, skills or competencies are missing, you may want to use an outside consultant to facilitate the process.

Note: Free to SBT readers – Christine McMahon & Associates is offering a more comprehensive assessment for identifying the gap between Marketing and Sales. E-mail: ccm@christinemcmahon.com or fax: 414-290-3330. Include in your correspondence your name, company, phone number, and the words Free Assessment Gap. If you fax, include your fax number on the correspondence.

Christine McMahon is the owner of Christine McMahon & Associates, a training and coaching firm in Milwaukee. She can be reached at 414-290-3344. Small Business Times readers who would like a negotiating situation addressed in this column can send a fax to 414-290-3330, or e-mail her at: ccm@christinemcmahon.com. Her column appears in every other issue of SBT.

Sept. 27, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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