‘Collaboration not control’ – how sales and marketing can work together

Despite the fact that 80% of businesses recognise the benefits of greater alignment between sales and marketing, most (60%) aren’t unifying their divisions. So says a new report from recruiter Ranstad. However, unification doesn’t mean a full shake-up of departments or a new sales and marketing boss, instead marketers need to find ways to collaborate more closely with their sales colleagues, much as they do with the rest of the business.

Asleep at the office

The growth of digital has meant there is a closer connection between marketing and sales. Brands can now embed a call to action in almost any piece of digital marketing – think Google or Twitter’s ‘buy’ buttons.

As Ashley Friedlein, founder of Marketing Week’s sister publication Econsultancy, puts it: “Any piece of digital content, any ad, video, piece of ‘marketing’ or customer service, also becomes a point of sale.”

FMCG brands have been fastest to adapt to this trend. Mondelez has recently hired its first global head of content and media monetisation in Laura Henderson as it ups its focus on driving sales from its content following a global partnership with Facebook.

Nestle, meanwhile, has appointed Amazon’s former consumables director Sebastian Szczepaniak as global head of ecommerce. And Diageo is exploring how to let customers purchase direct from advertisers for brands such as Haig Club.

It is no surprise, therefore, that FMCG brands are restructuring their businesses to bring sales and marketing closer together.

Pernod Ricard has unifed its sales and marketing at group level to refocus around luxury, digital acceleration, innovation and shopper experiences. Heineken did a similar thing earlier this year by combining its global chief marketing officer and chief sales officer into a new position – chief commercial officer.

Diageo has stopped short of a structural overhaul but has organised its marketing and sales around the same customer objectives. Its aim is to use digital to bridge the gap between its strategic marketing initiatives and more tactical sales efforts.

Randstad’s research suggests most businesses know there are benefits to aligning sales and marketing but aren’t sure how to go about working more closely together. Is the answer a new boss of sales and marketing like Heineken or just a closer working relationship?

Why a sales and marketing boss isn’t a ‘panacea’

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s director of strategy and marketing Thomas Brown believes the legacy starting point for this debate – whether there should be a single sales and marketing function – is less relevant today. Instead, marketers must look at how they can work more closely with business functions – not just sales but also customer experience, operations, IT.

“Marketing and sales are both key parts of an organisation’s value chain and, much like any chain, remove one link (or have a weak link) and the chain will break.”

Thomas Brown, director of strategy and marketing, Chartered Institute of Marketing

“An organisation’s marketing function should be closely integrated with all business functions – sales being a key one but only one.

“The old world of ‘command and control’ is over. Today, collaboration is the new currency and we believe that senior leaders should be focused on alignment of priorities and plans across an organisation – not just these two (legacy) silos.”

CIM says this should involve shared objective and priorities, aligned planning and closed loop feedback.

“The most important thing is to make sure the destination is a shared one. The old days of marketing plans being developed in isolation from sales where goals and activities are passed from one silo to another won’t cut it,” says Brown.

He adds that one sales and marketing boss is not the “wrong thing to do” but that it “isn’t a panacea”.

“There’s no one size fits all answer or silver bullet. It’s important to remember that structure and reporting lines aren’t a solution in and of themselves, they’re an enabler of something happening in a certain way,” he explains.

Donovan Neal-May, executive director of the CMO Council agrees. It recently conducted a B2B study which found that in most cases sales is not building on content being produced by marketers and is not leveraging thought leadership platforms to interact and engage with customers at a strategic level.

‘Sales and marketing must work hand in hand’

It’s 2014 ‘State of Marketing 2014’ study found that while 46% of the more than 600 participants thought their greatest accomplishment was the realignment of marketing to better support sales, only one in four marketers thought they had made strides in better targeting and converting business.

“When it comes to content marketing, both sales and marketing should be enjoined at the hip. However, our study shows this is not the case. Softening the beaches is critical to sales success,” he adds.

Pete Markey, CMO at the Post Office, told Marketing Week that in his experience sales and marketing work best when they work “hand in hand”.

“Their ultimate aim is the same, which is business growth, so appreciating this is the platform for better working. Ultimately sales and marketing are very often reliant on each other – marketing might for example drive the online or phone leads that power a sales force. Likewise, sales leads might power a marketing CRM programme.

“At Post Office, we have a regular weekly trading board specifically to bridge between sales, marketing and product to ensure full alignment across activities, plans and performance – this works well because the goals are common and aligned and there is a clear view of dependencies between the teams. When I worked in telecoms I saw this work less well and it was adversarial between sales and marketing – that’s because goals were misaligned and MI/data was mixed which created a blame culture and lots of rocks were thrown!”

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