Are You Marketing or Selling?
Many entrepreneurs confuse sales with marketing or vice versa. And it is not very different for some of the learnt senior executives too. I remember one very successful HR specialist-turned- politician who believed these to be one and the same. I guess it is a perennial issue in the business world: Are sales and marketing different or the same? Should it be different functions or the same?
Do executives mean sales when they say marketing?
I am not going to discuss the fundamental differences between these two functions here. Rather, I will say, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. You need both as marketing’s role is different from sales’ and it is important to maintain a healthy relationship between the two considering that it is part of the same coin in every sense.
What is the relationship in your company between marketing and sales? How do sales people rate their relationship with marketers? Bringing alignment to sales and marketing is one of the biggest challenges faced by most companies today. If done right for alignment, the benefits are many: Effective marketing planning, lead generation, conversion and overall results of sales and marketing. Together, they can do many powerful things within the company, demanding better delivery from production, supply chain and other support functions. When companies examine the drivers to operational efficiency and profitability, they find that a key challenge is defining shared processes in sales and marketing. The way content is generated in collaboration with sales and how marketing takes responsibilities for lead generation are important in driving better harmony in the relationship between these two functions.
The best of the organisations we have worked with in the past have shown some interesting practices, which could be guidelines for others. For instance, more than 45 per cent of the sales forecasted in the best-in- class companies are generated by marketing department whereas the industry average is only 20 per cent.
Where sales and marketing have been in synch, companies have grown double the industry average. Best-in-class companies also ensure that sales and marketing have regular meetings every week, at least 50 per cent more than the other companies. These companies have demonstrated the regular coordination between the two functions by deliberately constituting joint working groups for special projects such as key account management or a new marketing campaign. Such organisations also take the performance of marketing function seriously in that an individual or team will be made responsible.
These companies share such performance details of campaign successes and failures with the key stakeholders. Wherever sales and marketing have performed in synch, there were common templates and data sheets for each to share and collaborate on. They have also built a system for developing and sharing whitepapers, case studies and CRM data for seamless use between the two functional teams instead of waiting for the other to ask and respond back, thereby saving time and bureaucratic tangles.
So, how can other companies become a best-in-class performer? What do these benchmark companies offer the also-rans to shape up and drive sales and marketing together? Here are a few pointers: Get marketing and sales to work together by making Sales “own” the customer in terms of bringing customer’s views to Marketing. This will make Marketing to act on inputs that are on-ground, real time and owned by a colleague. This may not completely replace market research but someone within the organisation will start listening to the customer seriously. By doing this, marketing will have to bring in content that is in tune with what sales requires.
This along with the shared templates, white papers, case studies, collaterals, etc can be very powerful in driving alignment between the two. More importantly this will send the right message to all concerned for driving alignment.
Assign an individual or a team to have responsibility for marketing performance. Most successful best-in-class companies do this and it has seen tremendous results. This has a high probability of making sales and marketing work together in synch. It is important for marketing to get its act right and this kind of responsibility assignment and monitoring is the first step in driving a good process of working closely with Sales. Alignment is a result of such small but firm steps in an organisation. Companies that have average performance should immediately plan this as part of marketing operations in order to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Once campaigns are done, make sure that the results are shared across all stakeholders, primarily with Sales. More than just measuring and reporting to the CEO, it is more impactful for alignment to share the learning and best practices across stakeholders. This is what best in class firms do. Why it helps?
It teaches the organisation what works and what does not, what needs improvement and what needs total destruction. Most critically Sales will have more sense of ownership and will support marketing leads to a pipeline. Once adopted, these three pointers will help improve the relationship between sales and marketing, ensuring that the two sides of the coin indeed work best for the company.

(The writer is the CEO & MD of CustomerLab Solutions)
M Muneer