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Frontline effectiveness and the sales and marketing civil war

Tensions between your marketing and sales teams are running high. Your employees are heading for the trenches and are taking their positions. It is just a matter of time before the next civil war of words commences. Other departments take sides or feverishly try to stay neutral. Your customers watch in agony and start to create plans to escape.

This could be a script for a movie, but unfortunately, while not this extreme, it is reality for many companies. The dissonance between marketing and sales departments or even individuals is an issue, which can severely undermine your frontline effectiveness and your overall company performance. There are ways to address these issues; but quite often, these paths lead through political minefields or into clashes of different business beliefs.

Is your sales and marketing force effective?

Here are a few questions you could ask yourself or your team to get a feeling if there are sources that could affect your efficiency: 
  • Is your sales force complaining about your marketing team? 
  • Is your marketing team complaining about your sales force? 
  • Does everyone know the role and responsibilities of each other in your frontline? 
  • Are the sales and marketing roles overlapping, complementary or are there mismatches? 
  • Are incentives aligned and does sales know the targets of marketing and visa versa?
  • How much real customer insight does your sales and marketing team have? 
  • … 
You can likely think of many more questions and by now, you will have an uncomfortable feeling that it might not be as effective, despite possible market share gains or revenue increases. Recognition is the first step on the road to improvements.

The problem

In 2007 the AMA approved the following definition: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.” This means that marketing is in charge of everything! Undeniably, marketing has a very broad role in almost every company.

The broad range of responsibilities also lead to misconceptions and here are some typical ones:
  • Marketing is marketing communication (marcom). Not. Whilst marcom is, or should be, a part of your marketing department, marketing and marcom is more than a logo, a website, a brochure or a color scheme. 
  • Sales is the slave of marketing. Not. In many companies marketing, by means of product managers, marketing managers and alike, is tasked to drive sales. Often this is executed as “they have to do what I say”. The marketer is mostly not the direct boss of the sales people. Therefore this can lead to tensions. 
  • Marketing is sales and sales is marketing. Not. The process of generating and qualifying a lead all the way up to a closed sale, is by itself not a very efficient process (hence “a sales funnel”). This is why in most companies sales and marketing are separate disciplines: it is more efficient that way. 
A starting point to improve effectiveness of your frontline should be the acknowledgement that both sales and marketing are equally important functions in the same process. This may sound common sense, but given the complex or historic organization structures that companies might have, this on itself might be quite a challenge.

Improving the sales and marketing cooperation and frontline effectiveness

Here is a list to get you started: 
  • Stop the civil war and recognize that it is a management issue. Whatever side you are on, a low frontline effectiveness does not mean that your employees are doing a bad job. 
  • Get the basics in place. Assess if you have the right basic tools and minimum resources in at at the right place for sales and marketing to do a proper job. 
  • Let sales and marketing report to the same manager. In many organizations, sales and marketing join at an executive management or even CEO level. To promote cooperation and effectiveness, consider to put this a few levels lower in your organization.
  • Clearly communicate the directions, roles and expectations to both the sales and marketing employees. The key word here is both. In addition, you may want to communicate this regularly as changes over time are unavoidable. 
  • Align targets and incentives . In situations where your employees renumerations are significantly incentive based, you have to make sure that the targets are not only aligned with the directions, but also across employees that need to work together to achieve that target. 
  • … 
Before making any changes to your frontline, it would be good to do a full assessment and prioritize actions based on return-on-effort. This should not stop you from reorganizing your frontline if needed. But as reorganizations are typically long-term transformation projects, it is advisable to prioritize some smaller actions with immediate results first.

Sales and marketing civil wars are counterproductive and lower your frontline effectiveness. Its roles are intertwined and heavily dependent on each other. An ineffective frontline affects your revenues, market share, growth plans, customer insight, customer satisfaction and much more. Hence, sales and marketing effectiveness should be high on the priority list of every mid- and high level sales and marketing leader, if not on the executive management’s agenda.

© 2011 EnFeat

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