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Making a case for Marketing & Sales Alignment
Nilkanth Iyer
Nilkanth Iyer
Leader - Marketing & Strategy, IBM Software
An artist at heart - a professionthat does not generate any revenues, he makes his living leading... more>>
Marketing & Sales- are they both really so different that they need to be aligned. Marketing, as its classic definition says creates customer demand, sales - progresses the demand and fulfills it and ensures customer success. But in reality fundamentally both are focused on one single objective customer success. Customer success is central and is the only defining factor which separates great organizations from the average ones.

But having said that over years, both have become specialized functions, with people ending up with narrow views on their chosen professions in marketing or sales. When people end up as specialists they loose the bigger picture that is the customer. Then they start guarding their domains leading to a bitter battle between marketing and sales as to who screwed up. That's when the question of alignment really surfaces.

Sales is a high pressure game, you have to be right there reading the pulse of the customer every moment, your heart has to beat to his every single movement. Marketing in my view should provide the direction to the brand, should understand from research, should slice and dice the data available to really determine where the brand should head, what its consumers expect the brand to stand for, what are the brands values, associations and how do I tune it to resonate to my customers experience. Marketing has to be the "headlights to the business" and sales the embodiment of the brand's experience promised by marketing. Marketing promises, sales delivers.

I have seen successful leaders being able to seamlessly integrate these two functions and deliver power packed business results

Some tips/gyaan for better Marketing & Sales Alignment

a) Exchange Hats regularly

1)Marketing should meet customers regularly. A typical marketing organization ends up sitting in office they have absolutely no clue of the ground reality, the challenges faced by sellers on the field, what customers want. There is no better place to come up with great marketing insights than the customer's reception a customer's reception shows the pulse of his organization.

2)Sales should drive marketing marketing should be part of a sales person's strategy and plans in his territory. A seller has to actively promote his organizations marketing capabilities to his customers and how they can help the customers business in return.

b) A lead is a door to a goldmine

1)Sellers typically ignore marketing leads with a pre-conceived notion that they will be cold and not worth following up. Marketing $ is one of the biggest investment a company makes for its sellers, especially in today's global economic scenario. Every marketing lead is a goldmine-every marketing lead has been warmed-customer is ready to talk to a seller- the door is open. Companies should have a stringent cadence mechanism to review marketing leads as aggressively as sales pipeline on a weekly basis

c) Planning & Strategy

1) More often than not marketing is like the Indian police of the movies -they come in after the climax of the movie is over and the villain is dead. Marketing is not
just an integral part of the sales planning process it should be the beachhead to the sales organization. Marketing should lead the sales planning process rather than the other way round.

d) Sellers let your hair down!

1) Having been a seller more than I have been a marketer- I know how depressing life can get. How often a seller hears the same visionary statements from bosses that 'life is a race' this is the most important quarter of our lives, 'its now or never'. Let your hair down - the world of digital marketing is free for all- blog a little, get famous, make new business contacts on Linkedin, post some FB posts on how cool your company or brand is - its fun and you are promoting your business and yourself too! Participate in marketing and have a blast!

e) Involve the customer

1) Run your marketing plans, campaigns, strategy and ideas with your key customers. There is no better critic that your key customers -it will help you avoid sure shot disasters even before your campaigns are launched. Get customers to run your event for you - by getting them to invite their peers, their colleagues and manage your show for you. That makes them proud, gets tears to your seller's eyes for getting his customer so involved and you make two new friends- the customer and seller. Its only party after that!

To sum it up- marketing & sales are just two sides of the same coin which Amitabh successfully used in 'Sholay'- they represent the same thing-eager to make the customer successful!


The views in this article are the author's personal views on the topic of Marketing & Sales alignment and in no way represents the views of the organizations he is working for or has worked for in the past.

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