Prior to the mid 1990’s, the thought of digital marketing was unheard of. Until the World Wide Web became such a pervasive entity in everyday life, there was no place for digital sales and marketing. Social Media was the brainchild of a few visionaries but was yet to be born.
For those of us Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who have experienced life as a sales or marketing professional prior to the internet, we can readily recall the days when catalogs, print advertisements, billboards, and broadcast media were the vehicles of choice. From the sales perspective, cold-calling was the standard mode of operation for the B2B teams. Legwork was exactly that and many a pair of shoes were destroyed in the endeavor. As we progressed through the launch of the internet, social media, search engines, and websites, one had to adapt to the constantly changing environment. The consumer moved towards a digital world and if business wanted to succeed, they too have to move in that direction.
The relationship between sales and marketing has always existed. The need for communication and partnership between those two functional groups had always been necessary but many looked at each other as adversarial and somewhat as a necessary evil. Discussion revolved around sales OR marketing. Perceptions of need were based solely upon which side you were on. Both sales and marketing believed that they had the answer and the other side just didn’t understand. And you can be sure that lack of sales were blamed on the other side… sales blamed marketing for not having the right strategy and marketing responded with blaming the sales teams with failure to execute.
In this digital age, marketing plays a very important role. While the numbers vary from 80%-97%, research data indicates that the majority of consumers use online media and use search engines as part of the buying decision process. And when the purchase price grows, so does the level of use of the internet to mine for information. Without a well-structured strategy that includes search engines, websites, social media, and other digital platforms, a company’s marketing department is destined to lose business and market share to the competitor that is on top of their marketing game.
The well planned marketing strategy is an integral part of a company’s success. Hopefully the sales team shared in the discussion that resulted in the development of the marketing plan and have a sense of ownership in the plan. Now it’s time for them to execute. The consumer is better informed than ever before. So too should be the sales professional. Having a daily plan of action is a must. Lead generation may start with marketing but the sales team owns the follow up and the closing of the sale.
There are plenty of analytics available to measure marketing results objectively. On the sales side, metrics are specific and measurable but the cause and effect analysis is more subjective. Determining why a sale was or was not closed has many variables. While only one aspect of the overall process, the sales professional, by and large, it the one constant. Many will achieve goals regardless of the circumstances. Many others will fail to achieve sales success in similar situations. Sales is not for the weak at heart and accountability looms over one’s head daily. Productivity is typically the determining factor for continued employment. Sales leadership is also accountable. First they must determine with 100% assuredness that the sales team has all the tools necessary. Products, training, marketing support, competitive pricing, and leadership support are all addressable needs. After all, leadership should be removing obstacles, not creating them!
Finger pointing not allowed!
Failure to make a sale over a short period of time can result from the newness of the product and lack of information that is readily available to the purchaser. Product availability is another short term issue when demand has exceeded the available supply. And admittedly, other factors also play a role in short term challenges.
Long term lack of sales typically falls into two categories, one being the product itself and the lack of demand. The other is the sales professional failing to execute. If the product itself is not the underlying reason, then the sales professional is. It’s time to revisit accountability. The sales professional that is being held accountable understands the rules of the game. It will come as no surprise that performance issues become the main topic of discussion. On the other hand, if those discussions do not occur, why would one expect performance to change? If sales performance is not addressed, it must be acceptable, right? It would seem that way and it then becomes necessary to look at the accountability of the sales leadership. They too must be held accountable.
If sales are suffering, make changes. Some will be focused on marketing. Others will be placed on the sales team. Quoting a line from “Good to Great”, ask yourself “is the person in the right seat on the bus?” It may be that the role is not what they are cut out for. And the longer it takes to determine that fact, the longer sales will suffer.
Even the good needs to be updated and changed. As an example, billboards still exist. Many have evolved into the electronic variety. From having the ability to change messaging on a moment’s notice to the overall visual appeal, it holds an edge over the old style of billboard. We can do the same across all groups within the sales process.
It’s time to ensure that sales AND marketing are a team with a single focus and a single measure of success. Just like the puzzle above, you need all the pieces! Communication and feedback is vital. Working as partners will lead to improvement and ultimately, sales. If your organization is still sales or marketing, it is time to change. No one wins alone. The team celebrates success or suffers through failure as a group.
Make your team one of sales AND marketing and be more successful than ever before and hoist that winner’s trophy.
Originally appeared on LinkedIn October 2014