Root Out the Marketing and Selling Disconnect


I’m attending a conference for Internet entrepreneurs this week in Orlando. It is interesting to compare what makes Internet marketers and corporations successful. Obviously, it is all founded on an understanding of their customers.

A cartoon on the wall in my office shows a dog sitting in front of a computer screen with the caption, “In the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

It is true, and this puts Internet marketers at a disadvantage compared with many other kinds of business. Internet marketers must work hard to demonstrate to their customers that they are real, and that their offers are credible. Bigger corporations could learn a lot from the insightful, creative ways they do this.

Interestingly, although these entrepreneurs don’t use jargon like “Voice of the Customer,” that is exactly what they do. Further, they isolate the characteristics of their ideal prospect, down to what that person wears, and specifically, what their frustrations are and what they want to become. They name the character, and write their articles and sales letters to this person. I’ve heard of much bigger businesses that use that technique very successfully. Then, the challenge becomes how to help that person get to where they want to be. You give them free information, really good guidance, make it easier for them to get closer to their goal. If there are people out there who fit your character, they will respond.

All markets are the same in this respect: We are all human beings, we all have problems, and we would like to solve those problems. One of the main benefits I create for my clients comes from helping them move closer to this kind of thinking and away from the traditional, functional mindset, where marketing and selling are distinct, separate functions.

The customer doesn’t care whether you are a marketer or a seller. They only care about solving their own problems. Your business needs to help them.

This week’s article addresses this marketing and selling disconnect. Think about what stands in the way of helping more customers in your business, and then do something about it. You’ll be glad you did!

Until next week.

Michael Webb
February 26, 2008


Root Out the Marketing and Selling Disconnect

The VP of Sales and the VP of Marketing were squared off in a debate about how to invest the sales and marketing budget for the coming year.

  • Sales VP: "I want to create a new position and hire a Director of Sales and five additional salespeople."
  • Marketing VP: "I want to invest in a marketing and advertising campaign to make the B2B brand stronger."

If the budget allows one or the other, but not both, which is the right decision to make? Isn’t this a "chicken or egg" dilemma? Which comes first—sales or branding? Is there even a solution to this perennial problem?

You bet there is. To see it, you have to get to the root of the problem, which is this: Which choice will create more value for the customer?

What Value Does Your Sales Process Create?
Self-interest makes prospects read headlines and respond to promotions. Decision makers are influenced by what’s in it for their companies and for themselves. As individuals, marketers and sellers work hard to identify the self-interest of prospects and customers so they can be valuable to them.

Too bad most businesses don’t see the purpose of marketing and selling in terms of their value to the customer. Instead, they traditionally see marketing, selling, and servicing as activities with separate purposes. Marketing designs communications about the company and its products and "gets the word out" via branding and market-awareness exercises. The sales force turns over rocks trying to find opportunities to make their quotas. The service department tries to respond to customer needs while staying within budget. Each department essentially fends for itself.

This approach suboptimizes results because that is what it is designed to do! It spawns conflicts over resources because of its faulty assumptions about what marketing, selling, and servicing really do.

Anything Not Creating Value for the Customer Is Waste
Companies would become a lot more effective and efficient (not to mention more profitable) if they designed their marketing, selling, and servicing activities to solve the prospect’s or customer’s problems instead of pushing their product or touting their "brand."

Do you know what hinders people in your marketplace from doing what they want to be doing? Do you know what it costs them to deal with those problems, and what work-arounds they use? You should. You should also know how your company’s offer can alleviate those problems. Answering these questions is the key to getting people to:

  • Read your advertisements
  • Take actions such as inquiring for more information or opting-in to some offer
  • Take your salespeople’s calls and share information
  • Consider salespeople’s proposals seriously Buy your company’s solutions

The work of your company’s marketing, selling, and servicing departments should be a production system designed to generate actions like these. If it does, you are  creating value. If people don’t take the actions you want  them to, what you are producing is waste.

How to Turn Your Sales and Marketing Into a Lean Six Sigma Production Machine That Runs Like Clockwork (And Do It in a Way Your Salespeople Will Love!)


The Goal: Making Money Now and in the Future
Marketing, selling, and servicing are a production system for finding, gaining, and keeping the right customers by solving problems for them so they can make more money. You might initiate promotions, hoping prospects will respond. Or, perhaps you react when prospects take certain actions. Either way this production system must have a procedure with measurable steps.

In such an environment, marketing is anything that makes sales easier. Marketing should be analogous to engineering: It must find the niches in the market and develop the most efficient ways of mining them. Sales is like production, implementing the activities that cannot be automated. The analytical tools of the quality movement can and should be leveraged to identify causes of bottlenecks and variations in this production process so corrective actions can be taken.

Operating this way is the key to an ever-growing stream of profitable business. It is also the best defense against changing markets, competition, and technologies.

Root Out the Dilemma
If marketing, selling, and servicing are seen in terms of producing value for the customer, so-called "conflicts" between marketing and sales dissolve easily. Let’s consider the "conflicting" goals again:

  • Sales VP: "I want to create a new position and hire a Director of Sales and five additional salespeople."
  • Marketing VP: "I want to invest in a marketing andadvertising campaign to make the B2B brand stronger."

What value will either of these actions create for prospects, clients, or customers? What actions will they take as a result? How can you measure it? Chances are, both executives will have to do some thinking to answer those questions. That is good because the result of their discussion might be the first time they have actually identified their production system (aka, their sales process). In addition, it will cause them to design an approach that creates value for customers, so customers are more likely to follow it.

Once they have a process customers follow, improving results is a matter of doing experiments. It is likely that some entirely different ideas would surface for improving results. Regardless of what they decide to do, they should be able to run two slightly different processes side by side (or sequentially) and be able to measure the result. Hire one or two salespeople, or test part of a brand campaign in one market segment. Measure the results.

Improved results are proof you are on the right track, and provide valuable feedback on what your market wants. Best of all, this establishes a framework for measuring and maximizing the talents of marketing, sales,and service people in the service of the customer, as well as to your own company.

Michael Webb
February 27, 2008

This article was originally published Aug. 3, 2005 on 

        Michael Webb

        Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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