Now What? Tough Times Require Tough Decisions about Marketing and Sales Alignment

This week’s blog comes from Ben Bradley, managing partner of Macon Raine, Inc.and Robert Hamilton, manager of Macon Raine’s interim marketing executive practice. Macon Raine helps clients find new customers with agile sales, marketing and lead-generation campaigns.

Back in pre-history — maybe 12 months ago — there was a lot of talk about misalignment between marketing and sales. The argument was always the same: marketing accused sales of slack follow-up and sales accused marketing of low-quality leads.

How quaint all those discussions seem now, when two-thirds of your marketing department was whacked in this week’s downsizing, and the underperforming half of your sales force was shown the door two weeks ago.

Now, you need to make the best of the current situation. The decisions you make now about marketing and sales alignment will greatly impact your company in the coming years. In these times of change, especially at the scratchy intersection of marketing and sales, any “reassessment of essential activities” should begin with these few basics:

  1. For any company aspiring to build effective processes for uncertain times, the first step has to be leaving as much “us versus them” baggage as possible by the side of the road. Too many people who wrestle with alignment issues are privately still thinking about marketing and sales departments as they last experienced them.
  2. Organizing marketing effort segments based on actionable commonalities and determining how best to allocate resources against potential revenues is still required for most companies to operate at optimal scale. Growing a company (or surviving) is more than knocking on every possible door one at a time. As tailored as solutions can get, most companies are far from every customer being absolutely unique.  Natural groupings of buyer behavior still exist.
  3. Even if marketing’s materials were often miscast and sales feedback from the front lines ignored, equipping the prospect with a story about the product/service that he can internalize and apply to his challenges is still the essential ingredient in sales relationship building efforts. Relevant content is more than just posting PDFs of the product spec sheets to the company’s website.  These and other “facts” are important, but without some compelling narrative that connects facts to challenges, resources and yearnings of a prospect, closing a sale is elusive.

In short, everything is on the table now; the times we live in have made it so. Updating our current core processes to be faster, leaner, less expensive or with richer content won’t save the majority of companies facing tough markets.

The times have become “post-departmental,” and every activity that departments used to provide to each other is on the table now for review and possible reassignment.

The closest roadmap is the behavior of those customers the company most highly values.  Mapping the activities throughout the customer’s buying lifecycle, without the departmental labels, seems the place to start this transformation.