How to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

June 26, 2012

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This is a guest post by Brad Shorr.

Internal struggles between sales and marketing are commonplace in organizations of all sizes. Having worked on both sides, I’ve come to appreciate how difficult it can be to remedy the situation, and also how rewarding it is to get both departments singing the same tune. Sales and marketing can make beautiful music together in the form of more leads and sales! Here are a few thoughts on how to make it happen.

Problem 1: Political Infighting

Might as well start with the toughest and touchiest problem. Tensions abound when sales and marketing leadership are locked in a battle of wills. Everything each department says or does is seen by the other in the worst possible light, cooperation is virtually nonexistent, and the entire situation becomes a long and depressing tailspin into mediocrity.

One possible fix is to create a VP of Sales and Marketing role. The potential for infighting is high when two departments are battling for favored treatment from a neutral shared boss, such as a CEO or branch manager. Bringing the departments together may not obliterate turf battles, but at least they will be contained within a single department, and resolved there.

Another way to short circuit political issues is for executive leadership to clearly articulate the roles and priorities of sales and marketing. Some firms are sales-driven; others are marketing-driven. If a department doesn’t know where it stands, it will naturally push as hard as it can for as much as it can.

Articulating roles and priorities is not a one-time exercise, either. Priorities can change rapidly, depending on what’s going on internally and industry-wide. For example, consider a sales-driven company ready to introduce a new line of products into a new market segment. Marketing will now take precedence, but marketing will be tentative and sales will be frustrated if the new priorities aren’t understood.

Problem 2: Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt

You often hear sales types complain that marketing doesn’t understand sales. And just as often, you hear marketers complain that sales doesn’t understand marketing. Unfortunately, these statements usually contain more than a grain of truth, and nothing fosters ill will and ineffectiveness so much as ignorance.

Fortunately, the fix for this problem is simple: cross-training.

When marketers understand sales, their work becomes more relevant to customers, and more persuasive. When sales people understand marketing, they become more systematic and efficient. I don’t think it’s an accident that many successful marketers have had freelance experience, where they were forced to be sales people by necessity. And, throughout my career I have seen many sales reps become tremendously successful by incorporating solid marketing techniques into their work.

Cross-training also alleviates political infighting and internal communication issues. Having a better sense of where a person is coming from, and having some idea of the method behind his apparent madness makes for constructive dialog.

Problem 3: Poor Processes and Shaky Structures

 Sometimes, firms just don’t know what they’re missing by allowing sales and marketing teams to plow ahead without having an organized system behind them. When internal systems are ill-defined and chaotic, sales and marketing tend to clash not only on issues that matter, but also on ones that shouldn’t.

For instance, every marketing department should have a clear process for producing a sales brochure, a process that defines responsibilities and timelines. But for many firms, creating a brochure turns into a fire drill, and it’s never done the same way twice. As a result, steps get skipped, input is overlooked, reviews are haphazard, expectations run the gamut, and everyone generally walks away underwhelmed.

Even worse than poor processes is the problem of shaky structures. Many of us have seen the firm that delegates marketing to a customer service rep who took a few creative writing classes and uses Facebook a lot. And perhaps we’ve also run into the sales manager who checks in with his reps once a month and spends the rest of his time playing customer golf.

If a firm doesn’t appreciate the complexity and difficulty of sales and marketing, it is really setting its staff up for failure. Political infighting is at least organized fighting; when staffers are at each other’s throats because there’s no other way to get things done, you’ve now set the stage for a gang war.

These issues arise frequently in entrepreneurial firms that have enjoyed rapid growth; adding a little management talent is often all it takes to completely transform the situation.

Work On It

For executive leadership, I suppose all of these three sales-marketing problems come back to that same issue of working on the business instead of in the business. Sales and marketing are completely different disciplines with completely different mindsets. And just because both groups have the same goal of increasing sales, it’s by no means a given that they will get along. It’s a tough problem to be sure, but that’s why execs get the big bucks.

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an agency that does web marketing in Chicago. They specialize in B2B with clients in industrial niches from credit card mobile processing to machine knit fingerless gloves.


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Web Prototyping With PowerPoint

September 27, 2010

Prototyping with PowerpointWebsite re-designs are a common project on the hands of marketers at companies of all sizes. From quick home page makeovers to complete re-design and re-branding,there’s a lot of communication between the marketing team and web developers and designers, a process that involves lots of meetings, the developers spending hours on photoshop mockups that don’t look like what you asked, and a lot of scribbling on paper and on whiteboards.

How can we improve this process? The answer may lie in a tool most people already have… MS PowerPoint!

PowerPoint Prototypes

What I’ve successfully done in the past to help the communication between the marketing team and the designers is to use PowerPoint as a way to visually communicate with the how the new design and functionality will work. Instead of waiting for the designer to come up with a Photoshop or HTML mockup of something that doesn’t resemble what I asked for, the PowerPoint slide can serve as a guideline and visual discussion tool for everyone involved.

Marketers are good at visual communication, but not necessarily experts with the design tools. PowerPoint is something everyone knows how to use, though. So why not take advantage of this free (your company is likely using MS Office suite which comes with PowerPoint) tool and use it for some brainstorming? Mockups or prototypes created w/ PowerPoint are not supposed to replace professional wireframing tools such as Balsamiq, Justinmind, or Sketchflow, but should rather be used to help non-programmers and non-designers communicate their ideas. Plus, if you are discussing elements of the website design with other management team members or the CEO, the ability of quickly changing something on the slide will help you get approval faster.

Although you can make interactive prototypes using PowerPoint, my suggestion is to keep it simple and focus on key elements you’d like to communicate to the designers such as overall layout, placement of objects, and so on. You can get so deep into making sure your animations work if you’re going for a full interactive prototype that it will cost you many hours that will be just thrown away since it won’t be used again.

The key is to keep it nice and clean. A good starting point on how to do this is Travis Isaacs presentation “How to Wireframe Like a Ninja“. It talks about Keynote (a presentation tool for the Mac), but 99% is transferable to PowerPoint.

It also helps if you download something like this PowerPoint Prototyping Toolkit from Long Zheng, which gives you some nice tools you can start using right away.

So what are you waiting for? Start prototyping today! 🙂


What Type of Marketer Are You?

May 18, 2010

After interviewing many marketers for different positions at my company and meeting marketing professionals regularly at events, I came to the conclusion that there are two types of marketers:

  • Passionate Marketers
  • Job Marketers

The first group is comprised of those that, as the name suggests, have a real passion for marketing. They read about marketing, they talk about marketing outside work, they go to events and try to educate themselves. They often participate in discussion forums and might even have a blog. Everyone in the family knows they do marketing, friends ask them for some advice and they often times talk to telemarketers trying to sell newspaper subscriptions at eight o’ clock at night because they think it’s fun. Telemarketers often regret the call because the passionate marketer keeps analyzing their sales pitch instead of buying something.

Job Marketers are, unfortunately, the majority out there. I’m not sure whether it starts in school, their first full time paying job or it’s just the way they are. This bunch sees marketing only as a job. If they were offered more money to create TPS reports they would switch to doing it in a heartbeat. Outside work they don’t want to check out a blogabout the newest lead nurturing technology, or fly out to attend a marketing conference. They see these activities as “work” and as such, shouldn’t be performed after 5:29pm.

Funny thing is, Passionate Marketers are not necessarily better at marketing than Job Marketers. Both can be very effective at what they do.However, from what I’ve seen, passion makes some rise quicker through the ranks and get accolades, while the simply “employed”stay for years at the same company and position because, hey, that’s just a job.

When hiring someone for a marketing position, it’s important to know these different types exist. Hiring marketing people is tough enough as it is, one has to understand the type of person they need for each specific position. If you want a marketing assistant that will be still with you 30 years from now, a Job Marketer may be just what you need. Who do I want to work with? Passionate Marketers. From interns to the VP. Not that the other group wouldn’t be fun (after all this is a characteristic about how they feel towards marketing in their careers, not their personalities), but when you have people who are passionate about what they do, it tends to rub off and the whole team benefits. We need more people who are passionate about what they do.

What type of marketer are you?


Effective Marketer Principle 8: Say “We” rather than “I”

February 6, 2009

“Think and say we” is Drucker’s advice. There are two good lessons here, one being that you should earn the trust of your team and you can only do that if they see that you are not going to go at it alone without giving them any consideration. It is also a good reminder of the great art of delegation, which is getting work done through others.

The marketing manager that thinks in terms of “we” will get more accomplished because he will be:

  • Sharing with the team the vision and direction of the company and of the department
  • Sharing with the team the marketing plan for the year and the goals for each campaign
  • Asking the team for feedback, ideas, and criticism
  • Giving feedback to the team on what they are doing right and what needs to be improved – Sharing with the company the successes the team as a whole has achieved
  • Trusting the team to make the right choices at difficult moments and allowing them to make mistakes along the way
  • Giving each team member additional responsibilities so they can learn and grow as professionals
  • Taking on more responsibilities and important projects now that he can share with the team the burden of ensuring successThink We Rather than I

A final, bonus if you will, lesson from Peter Drucker’s insightful article is about the art of listening. He says “listen first, speak last”. Good listeners will be better at understanding what needs to get done and will be more effective. So if you are ready to becoming an effective marketer, master these 8 principles (see previous posts for the other seven principles) and you will be one step ahead of the competition.

The road to effectiveness is not an easy one, but is definitely a rewarding journey.


Effective Marketer Principle 5: Take Responsibility for Communicating

January 17, 2009

To get things done you need to communicate, ensuring the team is aware of the plan, deadlines, and expected results. Effective managers in general are good at taking the responsibility of communicating their decisions to the organization, ensuring everyone is on board and aware of what will happen. As you discuss the plan of action with your team and with the stakeholders (see previous post), you are also getting buy-in for carrying out the tasks. In marketing is especially important to ensure that the company as a whole is aware of what is being done. Marketing, after all, affects every part of the organization.

In big companies as well as in small ones Marketing can oftentimes be considered a necessary expense, the department where money gets spent without consideration and where results are difficult to be measured. If this looks familiar to you, then you need to start practicing Principle 5 of the effective marketer and start communicating what you do, why you do it, and how it impacts everyone.Communicate the Marketing Plan

As the marketing plans are shared with the rest of the company, and details on why each campaign or activity is being carried out together with their expected impact on operations and sales, the reason for marketing and why we have this department should become clear. Marketing is not just a concentrated effort from the staff in that department, it should be part of every employee’s responsibility. The business cards that are presented to partners and potential customers are part of marketing branding, the message being delivered about what the company does is tailored and perfected by marketing, the collateral material that is distributed and that sales people use at trade shows and site visits is also marketing, of course. Therefore an understanding of what this all means, why each piece is important and knowing it is part of an overall strategy helps when delivering the message(s).

The principle of communicating also applies to ensuring the marketing manager gives the necessary information to others in the company to get their jobs done. Sales, finance, operations, shipping, each department manager needs specific information that will help them do their jobs. The effective marketer knows what information they need and provides it to them (market intelligence will help sales, packaging and placement are needed for shipping, cost per lead and campaign ROI will make the CFO happy). This shows that marketing is involved in almost every aspect of a company’s operations.

Learn how, when, and to whom communicate, and you will learn how to gain support to carry out the marketing plan.


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