By Laura Thorne, MACNY Consulting Partner
I recently introduced the Strategy Design Lab workshop to the sales and marketing teams of a mid-size organization. Going into the meeting they had no idea what to expect. They may have thought that the system wasn’t going to apply to them. Their line of thinking for this may have stemmed from the thought that it’s usually senior leaders and Execs that sit through any type of strategic planning process and it was the Execs who orchestrated this meeting. However, sales and marketing need to be involved in your strategic operations. It can be incredibly detrimental if those teams are not fully integrated into the business’ goals. After all, as great as the product or service may be, you won’t be making a profit if your marketing and sales are ineffective.
As described in the last Bench Marks Blog article, How To Make Better Business Decisions to Amplify Results, continuously generating strategic business operations happens by implementing holistic and ongoing systems. These systems not only have processes on how to make difficult decisions but also help identify missed opportunities and address problems before they arise.
Sales and marketing teams are the sector of business that arguably has the most potential for missed opportunities. There is always a lead you may not be following up on or a marketing channel that you’re not utilizing. Plus, all too often these two departments operate as entirely separate entities. If you need a quick crash course on the difference between marketing and sales, marketing typically builds brand awareness and introduces potential customers to your business. Once marketing creates those leads, the sales team works to convert those individuals or businesses into paying customers. Although the actual job functions of employees on the sales and marketing teams are different, they should be working in collaboration to target the same demographics that could turn into customers, investors, etc.
Ensuring that your sales and marketing teams are collaborating within your strategic operations system can reduce the number of missed opportunities, reduce tunnel vision, increase efficiency, and foster idea generation. In the Strategy Design Lab, we teach a process that helps companies achieve these goals. Let’s break down some steps you can take right now to work toward those goals:
- Ensure sales and marketing teams are plugged-in to the overall goals of your organization. Take a step back and consider your organization’s larger goals and mission statement. For instance, maybe your organization manufacturers clothing for physical stores, but would like to start targeting online retailers as well. This is something that marketing and sales have to be looped into, otherwise those teams will continue targeting physical retailers.
- Have sales and marketing teams compare plans. If these teams aren’t communicating, marketing might be building brand awareness directly to consumers while sales is targeting business owners. If marketing and sales aren’t aligned, both departments suffer, meaning the organization’s bottom line suffers. Make sure both teams compare strategies so that they work in tandem. This can also eliminate redundancies in the places where marketing and sales overlap. By comparing plans, both teams will be clear on who is responsible for what.
- Teach sales and marketing teams how to make strategic decisions. Sales and marketing teams are faced with decisions every day. Is this lead worth pursuing? When do we announce we are releasing a new product? Why are people buying X when we want them to buy Y? For these standard decisions, there should be a process set in place so employees aren’t guessing what the right move is. When implementing the Strategy Design Lab systems, you’ll look at foundational elements, external challenges, internal successes, and failures. Over time, patterns will emerge and your decision-making ability will get even better, moving your marketing and sales into proactive powerhouses.
- Focus on continuous improvement. In addition to the standard decisions these teams might make, they are also responsible for some big-picture decisions. Rather than adopting a plug-and-play mentality, these teams should continually be evaluating their marketing/sales strategy and adjusting it based on the organization’s goals and the effectiveness of current or past campaigns.
- Ensure sales and marketing teams are familiar with the product/service. When you’re selling a complicated product or service, it can be difficult for the marketing and sales teams to effectively articulate how it benefits customers if they don’t really understand what it is. Manufacturing is a complex field with many moving parts. If employees on those teams do not come from a manufacturing background, it can be nearly impossible for them to understand your company’s product or service without training. It also helps for marketing and sales teams to be familiar with the competition so they can effectively discuss how your product or service is better.
By implementing just these steps, you will see how the internal collaboration between marketing and sales, as well as the overall integration of marketing and sales into your operations, can help your organization grow. The next step is combining these steps into a process such that every sales and marketing decision is being made in the best way possible.
If you want to take that step, register for my next Strategy Design Lab Workshop starting on September 14th from 9AM – 12PM to get specific advice on how this process can work in your organization.