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CEO: The Key To Fix ingThe Marketing/Sales Collaboration Problem

We all know that achieving better alignment, synergy and cooperation between company marketing and sales departments is vital, but oh so elusive. Despite all the talk and more talk in the media and at national business gatherings, nothing significant ever seems to happen.

The reason nothing happens is that there is only one person who can truly make it happen: The Company CEO. Unfortunately, CEOs don't seem to be getting the message.

Why is the CEO the key?

In virtually every company, the president or CEO is responsible for setting the primary direction and goals for all parts of that company's operations. Many CEOs practice a macro style of management, delegating many of their responsibilities to others, which is usually good. But delegating does not absolve them of using their influence over major changes in the company. The CEO is ultimately the weathervane for determining what does and doesn't get done ? especially major changes, like getting better marketing and sales collaboration.

What is happening?

Left to their own devices, sales managers and marketing managers will continue to work separately while feigning collaboration. Numerous software providers have given these managers an easy way to avoid having to seriously collaborate person-to-person. These providers champion the solution of having a Customer Relationship Management program in place. CRM has its merits and some have found it successful, but the jury stills seems to be out on how applicable it is to this problem. While we wait for more data, I don't see significant change in selling/marketing habits or department cooperation. There is still no serious collaboration on permanent change.

Other vendors say the answer is to develop new customer-centered messaging. This will bring success, they say, with both departments centered on knowing what the customer wants, needs and feels about the company. From what I hear, this idea hasn't found great success either. Perhaps it's not successful because it is left to each department to interpret how it sees and uses this messaging information. Perhaps it is because message-centering isn't a strong enough mandate for permanent change in both departments' behavior.

I maintain that if an idea, technology, or policy suggests a significant change in the importance, behavior or role of either department, it probably won't get priority attention.

We can paint a new target color on prospects, describe them in different detail, or agree on new messages, but what will motivate marketing and sales departments to tear down their silos? What motivates them to overcome their own lack of knowledge and fears about the other's role and importance? What's in it for them? After all, it took decades to build these departments, and we don't easily eliminate territorial imperatives in corporate America.

Do Marketing and/or Sales Vice Presidents see this problem?

Here are some interesting observations:

a. In a recent survey, 40% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) said they can't/won't measure the effectiveness of their own marketing programs.

b. In that same survey, 39% of these CMOs said their department doesn't work well with their sales department.

c. Sales departments said 70% of their marketing materials end up in the trash. (If the marketing budget makes up 23% of the average company's revenues, that's a lot of money going down the drain.)

If Sales and Marketing Vice Presidents agree on this problem, why no action?

1. Nobody relishes accepting and addressing a major department behavioral change. This is hard, time-consuming and strange territory for most.

2. There is real career risk and fear in either person taking the initiative.

3. Most don't have the depth of knowledge about how to make this type of change.

4. Day-to-day activities give good excuses for not focusing adequately on this.

Most importantly, why doesn't the CEO get involved?

Several possibilities exist:

? Maybe the substantial dollar value of the results from this change isn't clear enough.

? Maybe CEOs enjoy being "referee" for these two department squabbles.

? Maybe CEOs fear making a wrong decision.

? Maybe they believe some new technology will be the answer.

? Maybe CEOs don't understand change in marketing and sales actions are essential in today's marketplace.

What will work:

During my 25+ years of business development experience in 50 different industries, I've had a lot of first-hand experience with the "corporate silo issues" and bickering between marketing and sales departments. I've seen shocking, contradictory answers to the question of a company's key competitive advantages as expressed by these two departments.

Buying new software or adopting some new pictures, slogans and buzz terms for prospect/customers is NOT the most important first step. The keys to solving this collaboration problem are simple and very doable:

1. The CEO must accept that bold change within these two departments is vital and that he or she must personally start this ball rolling.

2. The CEO must believe certain changes in behavior, attitude, knowledge base and work procedures are essential for any effort to be fruitful.

3. The CEO must initiate and set the expectations and measurements.

4. The CEO must expedite the hiring of an outside facilitator who can quickly establish credibility and leadership with both departments.

My approach is built on proven employee change techniques, tweaked to fit this current challenge. The key success components are:

- Getting both departments to see personal benefits in significantly changing their business behavior, activities and responsibilities

- Having department individuals build the plan for change together

- Moving both departments closer together physically

- Facilitating cross-training between departments

What's in it for the CEO?

The CEO has a heavy stake in sales and marketing department collaboration. When these departments finally work together, the way they should:

1. ROI for both departments will improve and be much clearer.

2. Marketing and sales costs will be reduced.

3. Sales revenues will jump noticeably.

I believe most CEOs are tired of the mediocre sales growth that comes from departmental struggles and constant finger pointing. It is time they get the message: It doesn't have to be this way.

###

Sidebar

What are the key considerations for successful implantation of this corporate change?

1. The outside facilitator must have balanced credibility in both the marketing and sales professions. Insiders can't do it themselves (This has been tried but failed because one or the other department felt pressured to favor one department's philosophy or the other).

2. The CEO must agree on what constitutes quantifiable measures of performance and return on investment. (A good facilitator will help here.)

3. The employees must design, agree and implement the new collaboration action plan. They must "own" and drive it, not management.

© Rick Wemmers 770-565-8727

Rick Wemmers Rapid Business Development Expert

Rick brings 25 years of business development secrets, gathered from experience consulting companies in 50 different industries. Fortune 50 clients such as: Scott Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Seagram Distillers, Kimberly Clark, Coca-Cola, Georgia Pacific and Chap-stick, and a host of smaller, start-up technology companies.

He shows how to:  find and use undiscovered competitive intelligence.  focus energies/resources for more profitable selling.  improve sales force productivity.  create commanding sales presentations.  leverage small budgets to achieve big results.

Rick is experienced with all types of sales channels: direct & rep sales force, wholesalers, distributors, direct sales, telemarketing, OEM, alliances, partnerships, retail, and Internet. He is skilled in the use of all selling tools and tactics: all forms of paid advertising, public relations/publicity, direct mail, email, point-of-sale, contests, discounts, sales force incentives and one-on-one presentations.

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