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End the Blame Game (Between Marketing and Sales)

by Hank Barnes  |  September 10, 2013  |  1 Comment

My last post focused on the need for sales to step up to meet the needs of more demanding buyers.   While that is critical, the onus is not just on sales–it is on the whole organization.  And marketing bears a strong portion of that responsibility.

I am getting tired of hearing about the continued rift between sales and marketing (OR marketing and IT OR marketing and development OR marketing and support).  If marketing is fighting with these groups then nothing good is happening.   A great marketing organization should be the glue that ties all of this different groups together.  And yet,that still does not happen often enough.

But let’s focus first on ending the blame game between marketing and sales.   The start of the end is aligning around the customer buying cycle.  With it continuous nature, the idea of marketing owning the early stages and sales the later doesn’t hold water.  Buyers will be responding to marketing activities and sales interactions throughout their purchase process.  As a result, it mandates that marketing and sales collaborate, not conflict.


How can marketing step up?  First, it goes back to recalling the fundamental role of marketing.  In my mind, its two things that go together –

(1) Make it easier for sales to sell, and

(2) Make it easier for customers to buy.

With that in mind, here are some key actions that marketing needs to take ownership of, Now:

  1. Review, Refine, and Communicate Positioning – Positioning provides the foundation for messaging and other marketing choices.  A review of positioning is a great way to start.  Positioning is not a “marketing” thing.  Once done, communicate it across the company and make sure everyone, particularly sales understands all the details. (I’ve written a research note on this that Gartner clients can access, “Positioning Revisited”).
  2. Lead a deep segmentation exercise with sales participationDeep segmentation empowers both marketing and sales to be more effective.  The higher levels of segmentation efforts helps marketing develop target lists for marketing campaigns.  Deeper levels can be used by telemarketing, telesales, and sales to qualify prospects.
  3. Improve Messaging – Often, marketing spends way to much time describing the features of the product and not enough time talking about outcomes and creating the framework for great storytelling (that sales can use).   Once positioning and segmentation is done, the core elements for great messaging are established.  Use them. Then help sales develop compelling stories to engage buyers.
  4. Map All Content and Activities to Activity Streams –   As we’ve covered, the buying cycle consists of parallel activity streams.  All content that marketing produces or programs that it executes should be mapped to those activity streams.  This can extend out to preferred sales actions throughout the cycle.  Ideally,  each element should be clearly focused on addressing the buyer questions for one primary activity stream.  They may touch on other streams, but a dominant stream focus is important.  Once you’ve done the mapping, there are two more tasks.  First, look for any gaps that exist–that make it harder for the customer to make a decision.  Second, share this mapping with sales on a regular basis–since they will be engaging concurrently with you, they need to know what is happening (and so does marketing).  For Gartner clients, I’ve just published a research note that highlights which activities have the highest impact on buyers for various activity streams (“Tech Go-to-Market: Align Marketing Activities to Tech Buying Cycle Activity Streams for Highest Impact“)
  5. Double Down on Sales Enablement – While some larger sales organizations take responsibility for sales enablement in their operations function, it is really a marketing task.  You can’t over invest here.   All of the activities listed above need to be shared with and understood by sales.   Together, you need to constantly monitor and adapt activities based on customer buying patterns.  Sales training also should be rethought from a focus on teaching sales about the product as the primary goal to teaching sales how to uncover problems and communicate outcomes that the products enable.

With these actions–all of which require deeper collaboration with sales–maybe the blame game can stop.   Its not about marketing being measured on revenue (which I’ve already argued against)–its about marketing helping sales sell and customers buy–and everybody win.

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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: buying-cycle  marketing  messaging  positioning  sales  sales-enablement  segmentation  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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