Making Your Marketing Relevant to Sales

Useful communication between marketing and sales can be hard. One reason is perspective. This article tackles how to take that into account to improve alignment and results. It is based on experience with global IT vendors but just reflects how people’s workplace behavior is guided by their measures.

Consider how perspectives change from worldwide marketing to region marketing to sales — and presales.

  • Worldwide marketing works at a macro level, considering market trends, competition at a global level, and near to long-term product roadmap.
  • Region marketing tempers this with view with the immediacy of the region, understanding of local pressures and specific demands from sales for product or program support.
  • Sales lives in the immediate, what can be sold today, relatively easily, to make quota. You often hear “Sell what’s on the truck”.
  • Presales must understand the product and how it fits in the marketplace and also make sure they are successfully positioned in deals.

Successful organizations respect the differences in priorities and adapt communications to support them.

  • Worldwide realizes that it takes time for regions and sales to embrace — and act on — new products and solutions. That means a few best practices:
  • Let people at region level know what is coming.
  • Give them a chance to provide input. The act of asking does two things: 1) gets you the info you need, 2)creates goodwill and awareness prior to launch. You need both.
  • Think through “What’s in it for me” for region marketing and sales. This also applies to channel partners — make sure their point of view is addressed.

Any new program requires some sales tools. I always encourage clients to include region marketing, sales, even resellers and distributors, into the review process. We use an inner circle — outer circle model to manage reviewer input. This approach also encourages input because participants are invited by others that they trust.

  • Region marketing must allocate some time and resource to preparing for whatever is coming next. That means building a bit of leeway into marketing plans for net new efforts. In practice:
  • There has to be a catcher to begin local work in a timely manner. It will not work to say “we’re busy, you missed our planning cycle”. Such an answer puts sales at risk if a competitor starts driving a similar program.

Getting inputs from region marketing is critical to understanding the barriers to a successful launch. If they see merit in your program they will make time. Just make sure you have reasonable expectations.

If they are not supportive, it is critical to understand why. As the gatekeepers to sales, they must be respected. If you run into roadblocks, work with your management team to understand if there are options to improve local support. Remember, everyone you work with bases their work on understood expectations from their own management team. Respect their working environment and get to know them and you will see results improve.

  • Sales is the hardest place to make room for unexpected changes. To be successful, teams need to keep their plates full of actionable deals, with no time to spare for untested futures. For marketing to get the attention of sales, find a way to express a new opportunity in the context of ongoing sales.
  • Is the new piece incremental, so it can be added to deals already in the pipeline?
  • Can it improve margins and revenue easily?
  • Does it open a new market segment?
  • Are there qualified leads available immediately?
  • Can training be minimized, so reps don’t need to leave the field to get started selling and qualifying?
  • Are their resources on tap to assist with qualification, offloading the existing sales teams?

In one recent program, high end servers were treated as hard to sell and ignored by channel sales. To address this, we developed a sales model that focused on workloads and the customer advantages in some circumstances to go with specialty high end servers. Through that approach the high end servers became automatically included in the qualification process. Presales was essential to making that connection and reassuring sales that they were not being asked to sell a science project.

In another case, a small business unit in a larger organization was rebuilding market awareness and share after some tough years. The approach taken was to attach the technology to existing deals rather than restart standalone sales. Because the product was frequently part of a customer’s procurement requirements anyway — and added significant margin and revenue to deals, this was a welcome addition by the core sales teams.

In the waterfall process from worldwide to region to sales, the presales team is the linchpin for enabling faster reactions to new opportunities. The presales team has a unique vantage point:

  • They need to keep up with market trends and the implications for customers.
  • They are close to the customers and understand their needs.
  • They are trusted by sales and can provide guidance on locating best fit prospects for new products or solutions.

Regardless of your role, realize that the teams you work with have their own priorities.

  • Speak to them in their language.
  • Understand their priorities.
  • Make it easy for them to support you.
  • Presales is often the link you need to get traction with region or sales.

Good selling!