Graham Ruddick
Graham Ruddick 17 February 2015

Sales Vs Marketing: The Battleground That Kills Great Customer Experience

The second of this series of articles about improving a brand's ability to deliver a consistent and engaging customer experience looks at the relationship between Sales and Marketing.

The second of this series of articles about improving a brand’s ability to deliver a consistent and engaging customer experience looks at the relationship between Sales and Marketing. In many organisations this relationship is fraught, if not distinctly antagonistic. 

It’s an important issue because both teams have an enormous impact on how a customer or potential customer sees a business and how they feel about the experience of dealing with it.

Where Does Marketing Stop And Sales Begin?

The traditional organisational view is that sales and marketing are somehow two separate processes. They have evolved to have separate languages and approaches to what is essentially the same task: communicating the business’s values and persuading people to become customers. It might also be argued that key objectives for both are to retain customers once they have converted and to ensure that the business continues to deliver value to those customers.

Let’s be clear; sales and marketing are parts of the same thing. In fact if a marketer ever felt that they were not part of the process of recognising potential new customers, communicating value to those people and helping convert them, then it would be legitimate to question their existence. Equally if a sales person ever felt that they were not part of the same process then one would have to ask what they actually were doing!

The important aspect is that customers don’t care whether they are talking to sales or marketing. They legitimately expect that the value and benefits communicated by either sales or marketing are consistent, true and deliverable. They demand that interactions across an organisation feel joined-up and not differentiated by whichever department they are dealing with at that specific moment.

Creating A Good Value Proposition

The absolute root of all good behaviour within an organisation is the creation and maintenance of excellent value propositions. In general terms a value proposition is mostly created by marketing and mostly transmitted by sales. It is unusual that in the handover between the teams, the value proposition survives unscathed. 

There are a number of drivers behind this disconnect:

  • Chinese whispers – it is very rare that the value proposition is communicated directly to the front line by those who have created it. It’s rarer still that the front line have any large input into creating it. All too often the transmission of this key message internally is left to chance and the assumption that people not involved with creating it will somehow just ‘get it’ and understand how it is applied.
  • Sales guys don’t understand it or buy into it – as a follow-on from the previous point, the sales guys are likely to ignore the core proposition and, worse still, start to create their own. This is when, as a marketer, you start to hear things from the sales guys like “I say this because it works, or because it’s easier” to explain why they are so off-script.
  • It doesn’t actually work for customers in a real-world application - all too often the value proposition is disconnected from the experience both of the sales team and, more crucially, the customers themselves. 

In order to start to place sales and marketing together in the creation and application of a useful value proposition, there are a number of areas that should be considered:

  • Who has developed the value proposition and were sales deeply involved?
  • How was it tested and has it changed with changing circumstances?
  • Has it been driven by sales insight?

A ‘good’ value proposition must by definition be one that works internally across the entire organisation and externally resonates with a substantial part of the customer base.


Sales Teams Are From Mercury; Marketing People Are From Pluto

This might be overstating the distance between the two teams, but all too often the customer’s view of an organisation is of a disconcertingly bi-polar structure. This is continued when you talk within the business.

There are a number of significant fracture lines that indelibly affect the ability of a business to deliver a joined up customer experience:

  • Sales teams are driven by different metrics to the marketing team – this issue is common. How can sales and marketing deliver a consistent and excellent customer experience when they are measured in fundamentally different ways? A particularly startling area is timeliness. Most sales teams are measured on a month-to-month basis (sometimes this stretches to quarters) while most marketing teams are measured across a year. Even this difference is enough to trigger quite different reactions and statements to the audience, and thereby disrupt the customer experience.
  • Attitude – although it’s easy to joke about this, there is often a profound difference in attitude between the ‘soft fluffy’ marketing guys (or increasingly the coldly rational data crunching guys) and the ‘attack dogs’ of the sales team. Although these statements may be stereotypes, a degree of each can be found in most organisations. This produces, at best, a different tone of voice coming out of each team. At worst it creates two sets of messages that serve only to disrupt a smooth and integrated customer experience.
  • Tools – a sales guy uses the CRM as a tool to gain an advantage on his peers (or competitors if the sales person is particularly enlightened); the marketing people look at those tools as an intense intellectual challenge. That’s if they are actually using the same tools and data sets. In many cases even this basic bit of joined-up thinking is absent. This can lead to a myriad issues for the customer from the trivial (they get a marketing message the week after they have signed the contract) to the profound (the sales message is different in significant aspects to the marketing message received at some point beforehand).

Put The Planets Back In The Same Orbit

There are a number of things a senior business leader might look at doing to help rectify the separation between these two key teams. In so doing they help to create a situation where good customer experience becomes a desirable by-product of good internal practices:

  • Make sure sales get involved with the value proposition – it is not enough for them to receive a crafted document or statement if they don’t recognise where it comes from and what drives it. Make sure there are mechanisms for including new insight gained from either side in re-drafting the proposition.
  • Put the teams together – literally together. Sit the marketers in with the sales guys. Let them talk to each other and overhear each other and feed off each other. Let the marketers hear the sales guys on the phone and hear what works and what doesn’t. Let the sales guys bounce ideas off the marketing guys and understand at a more profound level the thinking that has gone into crafting messages. Let them both hear when the other is out of synch, and let them sort that out in real time.
  • Make sure that the whole organisation understands that sales and marketing are part of the same process. Objectives and metrics need to be aligned – or at least brought together to occupy the same space. Make sure the teams use the same tools and rationale in creating usable insight and learning.

There are plenty of damaging outcomes for businesses that continue to allow sales and marketing to operate as if they are completely different countries on different continents. But the greatest of these is that customer experience is damaged each day that a schism continues. Their satisfaction and belief in the credibility of the brand is eroded. Eventually they will go elsewhere.

This post was first published here.

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