I had a chance to speak with Rick Jensen, senior vice-president and chief sales and marketing officer at Constant Contact, when we brought Marketing Smarts to Boston and recorded the show before a live audience at the Old South Meeting House (my other guest that evening was Kenn Elmore, Dean of Students at Boston University, and we will release my conversation with him next week).

Listen to it later:

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I invited Rick to Marketing Smarts in part because I'm very interested in the evolving relationship between Marketing and Sales, particularly in a B2B context; considering his title, I thought he might have something interesting to say about the subject. 

I was not wrong.

The Customer Doesn't Care 

Before explaining the rationale and benefits of bringing Sales and Marketing together under one roof, Rick wanted to make one thing perfectly clear, "The customer doesn't care."

He's absolutely correct. The customer doesn't care how your marketing and sales teams are organized or who reports to whom. The only thing that matters to customers, as Rick put it, is "are they getting the right message at the right time with the right products."

But, he continued, "to do that effectively, you have to have both of those organizations truly aligned."

End-to-End Conversations

The power of aligning Sales and Marketing in one organization can be felt, Rick said, in the types of conversation that you have "when you realize that you're one team going for one common goal."

In contrast to the more traditional model in which Marketing develops the messaging and go-to-market plan then throws it over the fence for Sales to execute, true alignment allows—in fact requires—ongoing collaboration between all stakeholders.

At Constant Contact, this means that key messages and positioning elements are developed jointly with the involvement of marketing, sales, and product teams. At the same time the message is being crafted, so are sales scripts. The customer examples that Sales will rely on in its work will in turn be shared by those responsible for contributing content to blogs. And all of this will be woven into the marketing communications used to move the "trialers" (those taking advantage of Constant Contact's 60-day product trial) from trial to purchase.

With everyone working together, you get both a shared sense of ownership and you avoid the classic blame game, wherein Sales accuses Marketing of being out of touch and Marketing accuses Sales of dropping the ball.

Focus on the Customer Need

As Rick emphasized throughout our conversation, creating this kind of organizational alignment is not a power grab or some crazy experiment cooked up in a business book; it's all about figuring out what's best for the customer. (Marketing and Sales are, in his words, "subservient to the customer.")

Such intense customer focus provides the entire organization with clarity about what's important and what isn't.

"If you focus in on the customer need and what you're trying to solve," he said, "some of those conversations about 'where is the power' go away."

Conversations about power and organizational infighting are a distraction, not only from the customer's concerns but also (ultimately) from those of the organization as well: After all, the organization serves the customer not out of the goodness of its heart but in the pursuit of commercial success. 

And probably the best reason for other organizations to consider trying it out for themselves is that the kind of Marketing and Sales alignment practiced by Constant Contact supports that pursuit.

"If it's all about the commercial success of our products," Rick explained, "and making sure we're focused on the right things that resonate with our customers, then let's bring those pieces together than enable that to happen."

If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Rick Jensen, you may listen above or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. You can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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