Root Out the Marketing and Selling Disconnect

Hello everyone,

Running between some vacation days and client appointments this week, I was interviewed by Forrester Research late last week on the topic of how to get sales and marketing to cooperate better. This week’s article deals with that very issue. Originally published in RainToday a couple of years ago, it’s worth revisiting.

Until next week.

Michael Webb
April 9, 2008


Root Out the Marketing and Selling Disconnect

Originally published Aug. 3, 2005, on

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 sub optimizes 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 are 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 and advertising 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 J. Webb
April 9, 2008


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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