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Five Classic Mistakes to Avoid in a Decentralized Sales and Marketing Organization

by Kris Bondi  |  
January 31, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to effectively align Sales and Marketing within your organization
  • Fixes to five common mistakes made when trying to align Sales and Marketing

As companies embrace the idea of aligning their decentralized sales and marketing teams, they occasionally make decisions that are counter-productive.

A 2008 CMO Council report, Closing the Gap: The Sales & Marketing Alignment Imperative, spoke of an urgent need for marketing, sales, and channel management to align by changing processes and adopting new technologies. More recent studies show that need has only grown.

Since CMO Council's report, many marketers have believed that simply forwarding leads with varying degrees of qualification or making marketing collateral available to a sales team meant sufficiently supporting Sales. That isn't the case.

In fact, a recent IDC study, citing the 80/20 rule, states that "up to 80% of the content [that] marketing generates is not used by sales, even though a lot of it is specifically created for sales and channel enablement." Ouch. For marketers, all the wasted time and money—not to mention potentially being seen as not adding value—hurts.

Beyond the obvious mistake of assuming that Sales and Marketing alignment means simply addressing when the sales team receives leads, marketers continue to make these five classic mistakes:

  1. Not listening to the field
  2. Giving Sales the wrong materials
  3. Assuming the field will "make do"
  4. Keeping too much control
  5. Embracing one technology fix

Although those are not the only mistakes that marketers make in the case of a decentralized Sales and Marketing organization, addressing them will help create the framework for identifying other mistakes and ways to correct them.

1. Not Listening to the Field

Sales, particularly field sales or channel partners, are often "out of sight, out of mind." Marketers need to work harder to better understand their needs. That doesn't mean dropping all planned programs to focus on the sometimes whimsical requests of the sales team. Despite the issues of interpersonal communication, marketers need to admit that people in the field are experts at knowing prospects' and customers' needs and desires.

The Fix:

There are entire books written on interpersonal communication and organizational management, so I won't pretend to address any deep-seated organizational issues. Instead, I offer a three-step process to begin to address this issue:

  1. Identify what a prospect is, what a qualified lead is, what the complete sales process is, and where Marketing or marketing materials should touch prospects during that process.
  2. Create baseline or templated materials and campaigns that can be used by field staff as a basis for outreach.
  3. Measure every aspect of every marketing action. Of course, that means measuring the click-through and conversion or marketing-related leads that hit the sales forecast. It also means measuring which templates are being used and which ones were linked to closed deals. Then, repeat.

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Kris Bondi is vice-president of marketing at Luma and leads its global positioning and marketing efforts. Reach her via Twitter @kbondi.

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  • by Stephanie Janard Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    As a copywriter, item #2 in this article particularly got my attention. I cannot overstate the importance of understanding the prospect's real world problems and heart's desires. One way to get an idea of this is to listen in on sales calls with customers and prospects (with permission from both parties, obviously); visiting message boards where your prospects congregate (don't spam these boards, btw); and also interview sales team members and newly signed up customers to find out the initial inclination to learn about your company's products/service and the primary driving factor that closed the sale. Take what you learn and put it in real world language in your marketing and sales materials.

  • by Gary Muddyman Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Interesting piece, thanks Kris. Believe it or not, I think there is a still a genuine lack of understanding of how the sales process works. I think working on both sides getting together to understand at what point marketing materials hit the prospect will help marketers better understand what those materials should do. Point 4 is valid too - hard to give up, but better for everyone when it happens!

  • by Tim Redpath Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Good advice Kris.

    I think Marketing has a number of roles in any organization:
    Strategic planning (working with Board)
    Business Development (working with Sales)
    Customer Support Programs (working with Service)

    Hopefully you'll wrtite about the 5 Classic Mistakes in the other two areas.
    I look forward to reading the piece.

    Take care.

  • by Kris Bondi Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Thank you to everyone for the feedback. I appreciate your additional points.

    And, to Tim Redpath, I will definitely consider writing pieces on the other roles of marketers and the classic mistakes made in these areas too.

    Thank you again.


  • by Nadine Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Totally agree with Gary - I think that a truly successful marketing force should have either experience in the sales end of the business or at the very least put in some time shadowing the sales force - that might mean listening to phone calls, sitting in on presentations, or working the floor.... It's amazing what fantastic ideas can be born when sales and marketers have conversations!

  • by Jonneke Grim Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    That's a great piece of advice and I wish the whole world would listen. It's what I try to tell all my clients. Wherever Sales & Marketing work together well a company's results clearly show it!
    Keep up the good work!

  • by Bill Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Nice article Kris, and on point. Sad that we often are sales vs. marketing rather than "&".

    At the risk of being a butt, when I went to your site to learn more about Luma, and clicked the "free trial" link, I was immediately hit with a long registration form. Ick. People want the freedom to sample and learn without threat of being spammed or hammered by a sales call. If the product is worth it and intriguing, they'll seek you out. FWIW...

  • by Kris Bondi Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Hi Bill. I'm sorry to tell you I disagree.

    I think most things on a website should be free to see (customer case studies, whitepapers, viewing videos, etc), but there are a handful of areas where registrations should be acceptable. Viewing a demo is one.

    And, yes, it part of a lead gen effort. We want to know who is interacting with our platform. Guessing if the website is attracting the right viewers does not make a healthy website and in compliance with EU privacy laws, we aren't looking over your shoulder.

  • by Raul Colon Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    I think simple things as creating templates or checklists to keep every one track and then facilitate the use of the data collected is something any company can do with little effort.

    Another thing I run into is people not sharing marketing material for many reasons. They forget that we live in a world where transparency can give you an edge over your competitor.

    Great tips I can pass along to some of my clients.

  • by Jim Joseph Tue Feb 1, 2011 via web

    Nice post. Classic issues that we have all faced with collaboration between marketing and sales. Perhaps technology can now help us to bridge some of these gaps in management and communication.

  • by Karen Janowski Tue Feb 1, 2011 via web

    We've found that one of the best ways to get sales and marketing on the same page and well-aligned is to make sure they are focused on the needs of the customer or channel partners. For B2B markets, understanding the BUYING cycle -- i.e. the process customers undergo when making a purchase -- is a much better construct than focusing on the SALES cycle. The focus on the customer's needs can create a common vision and common goals in sales and marketing - rather than internal struggles for control.

  • by Bill Hoelzel Wed Feb 9, 2011 via web

    A small correction to your third point -- "Assume the field will 'make-due.'" I think it should be "make do." See Yahoo's comments on this one:

    [Editor's note: Bill, you are correct! And the error has been corrected. Thank you.]

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