Join the dots between sales and marketing to delight customers

To create a connected and compelling customer experience, the sales and marketing functions must unite and work together with clarity of focus, writes Mhairi McEwan.

Sales and marketing aren’t the most comfortable bed-fellows. Both consider themselves customer-centred, but their views on what that means are rarely the same. In this digital and omnichannel age, they need to unite behind a much more connected customer agenda: teams with different skills and perspectives defining a common vision to create a compelling customer experience and working together… to deliver it in practice.

This is not the same as cosy consensus. It is about harnessing natural tensions to create a shared vision, rooted in the ‘end-customer’ needs and deliverable by understanding the value-levers across the whole value chain – creating shared goals and building an integrated plan.

Marketers and their colleagues in sales have to co-operate to create a connected strategy and plan – to build a connected customer experience.

Here’s some food for thought:

1. Craft a joined-up strategy

Organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams have 36% higher customer-retention rates and 38% higher sales-win rates (MarketingProfs, 2013).

However, developing customer-facing plans is not easy and can go wrong at the first hurdle. So, agree a common set of goals and metrics with aligned views of customers and segments. Then come the debates about forecasting, budget allocation, priorities and decision-making.

Sales and marketing need to find better ways to join their plans together. In FMCG companies, for example, this means developing a clear view of the desired consumer experience across portfolio, category, brand, channel and customer plans. In pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, therapy areas or franchise structures enable teams to take a similar approach.

2. Build the organisation and people

It’s not just about creating cross-functional teams – that’s old hat. Companies need to build a new operating model and agree fundamental organising principles for who does what, geared around optimising the customer experience. Then they need to attract and develop the right people to deliver the model. Pernod Ricard, for example, has woven a focus on building brands and winning at the point of purchase into the accountabilities across its marketing and commercial teams. To support this, it has revamped role profiles to ensure people can deliver.

3. Develop aligned processes and skills

Organisations have many different priorities for process- and skills-development, depending on their current status and needs. For some, the priority is integrating digital capabilities into the way people and teams operate; for others, it’s about clarity and common understanding of connection points.

In B2B, for example, the point when marketing hands over to sales teams can cause friction. Joined-up process- and skills-development can address differing definitions of sales-ready leads and expectations of what will happen across the customer journey, and so support a more effective, collaborative approach.

An integrated audit of sales and marketing capabilities is a great springboard to identify these priorities, creating a clear capability strategy focusing on what will make the biggest difference to drive growth.

4. A joined-up culture, led from the top

The best leaders create a cultural expectation for the whole company to join up in delivering value for customers. Amazon is a celebrated example: Jeff Bezos has made customer obsession a guiding principle, fundamental value and characteristic of any ‘Amazonian’. The mindset is ‘start from the customer and work backward’, and applies whoever the customer is and wherever they sit in the value chain.

Originally published in Marketing Magazine's Masterclass column.

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For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s customer-centred leadership capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @MhairiMcEwan. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Marketing Capability.

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