At the BMA: Time for truce in sales-marketing 'war'

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Chicago—Distrust often marks the relationship between sales and marketing, but numerous points of cooperation do exist, specialists in each field said Thursday on the second day of the 2013 Global Business Marketing Association Conference. The conference session titled “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing: New Battlefields or a Lasting Truce?” featured Phil Kotler, international marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Neil Rackham, executive professor of professional selling at the University of Cincinnati. Kotler said that while marketing originally existed to provide sales with collateral material and awareness-raising ads, an imbalance arose as CMOs increasingly took their seats at the C-suite table. “Before, marketing was seen as a service function, and no one thought it should be participating in company strategy,” Kotler said. As a result of that change, he said, CMOs are now taking more direct control of the “four Ps”—product, place, price and promotion—while blending in new media with their traditional awareness campaigns. Many sales executives, on the other hand, remain focused on selling to the exclusion of strategizing, co-presenter Rackham said. He and Kotler agreed that sales-marketing alignment is more attainable if both functions are able to plan company strategy together. “Very few people in sales could recite the four Ps, and yet sales is much more embedded in determining that process,” Rackham said. Greater opportunities in sales-marketing alignment also exist in resolving the tension between transactional and consultative sales, Rackham said. “Transactional sales are made to customers who know what they want, don't want to talk to sales and buy on price,” he said. “Consultative customers want to know about benefits and how a company can help them. The problem is when sales has a choice between the two, they always go for the transactional, quick hit.” Rackham added: “A question is, who should own transactional sales: sales or marketing?” Because transactional sales are increasingly migrating to the Internet, marketing, with its strength in awareness-building, can relieve sales of this responsibility, he said. “Today, sales is accountable for transactional business, but marketing has all the tools,” he said. “The brand function is more important in transactional sales. You need something that brings the customer to you, and branding is the key.” The happy result of this shift in responsibility, Rackham said, would be a sales force focused on the longer-term, more profitable consultative sale. Both presenters noted that marketing's development and control of content can aid the sales force in this process. “Content developed by people within the company who are able to talk about the future of the industry and other thought-leadership issues has the potential of getting prospects excited earlier than they normally would, and thus become willing to talk to sales earlier,” Kotler said. With sales injected earlier in the conversation, reps could regain some of the consultative influence they have lost over the years, he said. Sales can help itself along this path through its increasing involvement in social media and by pushing out the content that marketing prepares for it, Kotler said. The ultimate argument in favor of “ending the war” between sales and marketing is the potential to achieve positive results, Rackham said. “The fact is, it's only sales and marketing that have the same mission in any company, which is to generate profitable revenue,” he said. “I've seen a 10%-to-20% increase in profitable opportunities with better sales-marketing integration. Why are we arguing about this?”
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