Finger Pointing While the Prospect Walks

Finger Pointing While the Prospect Walks

The Secret to Getting Marketing & Sales to Cozy Up and Win the Deal

Who among us hasn’t run head first into some big dust-up between the marketing and sales departments? Is it because marketing and sales attract the very people who need the spotlight, who stubbornly fight for their agenda at all costs?

Well, not exactly. The answer is a bit more complex. Clearly, many CEOs get frustrated when marketing and sales work at cross purposes to each another, with both believing they hold the power to close the deal, or are singularly responsible for the voice of the customer.

The function of marketing and sales differ widely from company to company in both organizational structure and responsibilities. When they work well together, it’s akin to watching Tracy and Hepburn in crisp word play. When they don’t, it’s pure Stephen King.

What happens if marketing and sales are not aligned and left to duke it out. Plenty.

Consequences of Disconnect

  • Sales cycles stretch
  • Prospect accounts sit dormant
  • Decisions revert to status quo
  • Perfectly good leads die a pitiful death

Like you, I read a lot about our profession. Marketing and sales captures human behavior with all its quirks and surprises as few other professions. Alignment between marketing and sales is a hot topic in the business literature. And statistics tell us we’re not doing a good job of making alignment a reality.

According to Sales Benchmark Index, nearly 60 percent of all qualified leads in the corporate pipeline end up in the dead lead file—a completely avoidable waste.

What’s more, a study by business giant McKinsey & Company documented that an incredible 75 percent of all solution selling efforts were deemed failures within a scant three years. Read that sentence again. This stat points the finger at all of us for missing a tender spot in the sales process that’s screaming out for attention. And here it is:

Failure to learn and focus on the real issue the prospect wants solved.

How do you know what that is? Prospects go through their process at first by doing a great deal of online research on their own, before meeting with salespeople. Ideally, we’d like to believe they are influenced by marketing at this point because marketing exists to generate demand. Armed with research, prospects begin their thinking process.

We know from research, prospects operate with three styles of thinking when facing a decision.

Psychologist J.P. Guilford in his book The Nature of Human Intelligence proved that human decision-making involves three distinct but interrelated thinking processes, like computer subprograms, which tend to always unfold in the same order.

  1. Cognition thinking enables decision-makers to understand the situation he or she faces.
  2. Divergent thinking helps the person to explore options and solutions.
  3. Convergent thinking guides the person toward selecting the best solution.

How does this affect the alignment of marketing and sales?

Because if we do not rally everyone involved in making the sale to stop, size up the sales situation, give the prospect ample time to fully understand the issue he or she faces; that is, roll through their thinking process, and then help her quantify the impact on her business, we can lose the sale.

Guilford did us a supreme favor by defining this Cognition stage because it is the precise point where buyers seek better understanding of their situation, determine whether to address their issues now, and identify who within their sphere of influence they want to pull in for help.

While this stage or phase may be confusing for the buyer, it is the opportunity for you and your organization to harvest results. And, may I say, the perfect alignment spot to apply the intel and ingenuity of marketing and sales.

Pitch & Payroll

Recently, I was interested in a new payroll service. The first thing I did was to ask colleagues what experiences they had with such services, and several offered a referral. Then I asked fellow YPO members (Young Presidents Organization) what services they used; then I searched the Internet which allowed me to self-educate on the subject.

Most sites sold services. But one took a more educationally based approach listing the pros and cons of outsourcing, and the various things I must consider. Not long after, I received an invite to attend a webinar from another firm. Coincidence? I attended, learned a lot, and discovered a slew of available options, which I reviewed for differentiation.

I decided to talk to a few firms who supplied even more information including the firm that presented the webinar. By the time Ireached out to a sales representative, I had already moved onto Dr. Guilford’s Divergent phase, where we weigh our options.

It was here that both sales people entered the process. One tried to sell me on why his company had superior services (although I couldn’t tell the difference) and focused on price.

The other stepped back to return my thinking to Cognition. He wanted to fully understand why I was considering a change and wanted to learn more on how I was going to make my decision. Smart. He provided me with a comprehensive white paper by his firm, gave me additional education, all without the sales pitch.

The Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-AlongSolution

Again, the one spot in the sales cycle where marketing and sales sing in natural harmony is the cognition phase when prospects are developing their thinking. Marketers love to shape opinion. And, of course, we know salespeople love to give them (just teasing).

Marketing or sales aren’t dark arts. They both follow strategies and tactics. They both demand creativity and patience. They both yearn for the win. Honestly, I think “what we got here is a failure to communicate.”

Marketing and sales must be allowed to speak with a unified voice and align their communications to each stage of the buying process. No more silos. This is no easy task. You’re dealing with personalities and turf. But break ‘em down.

Because when you achieve alignment, a fertile field of business benefits sprout up:

  1. Prospects know they’re heard and understood so trust builds
  2. Marketing and sales campaigns roll out with precision and success
  3. Messaging gets through to overstimulated minds of target prospects
  4. Budgets shed waste and boost efficiency
  5. Top line sales vibrate with optimistic numbers

Here’s a good breakdown on how marketing and sales can work as a relay team, offered by Harvard Business Review.

So let’s sum this up.

The Short To-Do List

For Marketing

  • Bring marketing in extremely early to the prospect development process
  • Give marketing enough time to do critical upfront research
  • Encourage marketing to contribute to strategy and tactics
  • Teach marketing to understand the sales process; many don’t know
  • Listen carefully to what sales has to say, and show respect

For Sales

  • Ask sales to share field information generously; no one owns prospects or clients but the company itself; then follow-up to see they do it
  • Encourage sales to understand and accept how marketing contributes to its success
  • Don’t let sales abuse marketing with last minute deadlines for collateral
  • Insist that sales take marketing on occasional sales calls to see the action first hand
  • Listen carefully to what marketing has to say, and show respect

The next time you encounter a dust-up between marketing and sales in the hallway, conference room or wherever, ask yourself: Are their responsibilities well defined and is there clear accountability?

You may discover it’s not them at all, but rather how the company is managed.

See you on the upside, Bill

News Alert

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