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Oliver Wight EAME Blog

How do we get sales and marketing to take ownership of the demand plan?

29 April 2016

Let’s learn to walk before we try to run 

It’s not just a case of the sales and marketing teams taking ownership of the demand plan; it’s also a question of sales and marketing working together to start with. The best marketing people are those who understand the commercial side of the business and the best sales people are those who recognise what marketing people can bring to the party to help them to achieve their goals. Here are five tips for a harmonious and profitable relationship.

Art vs. science 

In both fields the best performers are inherently creative but if marketing is a science, selling is an art. And the roles tend to attract different types of people. Marketing people will typically have a vocational qualification, if not a degree. Sales is different; some old-school sales people will even tell you it can’t be taught - you’ve either got it or you haven’t. Not entirely true but it is about the psychology of dealing with people coupled with commercial nous; it helps if you are ‘a natural’ but sales training for marketers is a very good idea. As well as giving an insight into the challenges faced by the commercial side of the business, it adds a practical dimension to the theory of marketing.  At the same time a more technical approach to sales will always yield better results - prove rather than schmooze. 

Spend time with each other - and the customer 

It’s hugely beneficial for marketing people to go on sales visits with the commercial team - but not just as observers. Sales people can be protective over their client relationships but a good salesperson will use their marketers to add value in sales meetings. Marketers are often seen by the customer as more independent than the commercial team and can add some gravitas. Sales and marketing working together can strengthen the relationship with the client.   

Common goals 

As with all individuals and departments within the organisation, it’s essential sales and marketing understand what the objectives are for the business, and their specific roles and responsibilities. However, since both are client-facing they should share common goals, which means they can also share in the reward. If the marketing team are incentivised based on the performance of the sales team, they are more likely to want to work together. This presupposes the usual rules of transparency and trust within the organisation are applied and well-established.

Planning ahead 

It is typical for organisations to incentivise salespeople on individual rather than team performance and this inevitably drives their behaviour.  Marketers will be looking out over the long-term horizon to help the executive team steer the business but this will be undermined by ‘heroic’ last minute sales to hit this month’s target or worse still, late disclosure of sales to inflate commission claims. 

Planning ahead is to everybody’s advantage, sales people included. Short-termism can be eradicated if sales people are rewarded based on the long-term health of the business. Selling ahead makes salespeople more effective and should also bring them more reward: if they can see at the very start of the year that forward bookings already secured means they have a more than realistic opportunity of hitting their annual target, they don’t have to focus on short term deals to make the numbers month to month - possibly having to offer greater discounts in the process. Instead, they can then invest their time and energy targeting high quality (and long term) business that will both bust the budget and increase their earnings. This is the driver for sustainable business growth. Of course it only works if their reward for hitting target early is not an increased target; if the executive team is really planning the business well, there is absolutely no need for this to happen - if the individual is benefiting then the business should by 100-fold.

Recruit the right talent 

The best sales and marketing chemistry comes from sales people who are marketing-savvy and marketing people who have some sense of the commercial. Both will need to understand the bigger picture of how the business works. Recruit bright people; make sure they are properly informed about the business strategy and goals, then target and incentivise them accordingly.