The Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) program recently surveyed marketing executives to identify their principal challenges for 2012. The survey found that marketers struggle to (1) cultivate a differentiated value proposition that resonates with clients, and (2) ensure Sales adopts the appropriate messaging and materials.
Survey respondents indicate that understaffing and a lack of strategic alignment across Sales and Marketing’s leadership are the primary causes of Marketing’s struggles. By joining forces with Sales, Marketing can address the strategic alignment issue and tap into additional staff. However, successful collaboration requires taking a closer look at the following three areas:
1. Goal Alignment—Since revitalizing the value proposition requires a substantial commitment in time and resources, it is essential that Marketing and Sales agree on the reason for the revitalization at the outset. To achieve this goal, marketing and sales executives need to build consensus on answers to the following questions:
- Are our assumptions about how we are perceived by our customers accurate?
- Can we quantitatively prove any of our assumptions?
- How does our value proposition differentiate us from the competition?
- Does our current messaging tell the story we want?
- How consistently is our messaging being used?
2. Sales Involvement—No matter how necessary, or how compelling, the redesigned value proposition may be, the sales force may still resist it. Successful marketers understand that sales reps want some measure of control over the way they communicate with their customers and are prone to resenting outside influence. Marketers therefore involve the sales force throughout each stage of the new value proposition’s development (including messaging creation). This inclusion builds cross-functional ownership of the new messaging and limits the likelihood that Sales will reject it later on. Furthermore, it speeds new messaging roll-out, since the sales force will already be familiar with the value proposition and how to tailor its message for various segments.
3. Continuous Engagement—Trust and transparency are crucial to any long-term successful collaboration between Sales and Marketing. One way to maintain this openness is through regularly scheduled meetings between senior management in Sales and Marketing. Growth Team Membership researchers have found that a monthly cadence works best for keeping the conversation flowing, collecting feedback, and addressing collaboration challenges. Monthly meetings also allow marketers to track value proposition adoption and identify opportunities for improvement.
While sales and marketing collaboration is a perennial challenge, some companies have found ways to unite these often-at-odds functions. Take the experience of Kronos, a workforce management software solutions company. For many years, Kronos considered itself a market leader, in spite of its flat product revenue growth. This disconnect stimulated Marketing and Sales to collaboratively revise and differentiate Kronos’ value proposition and messaging. Kronos’ sales and marketing teams followed the practices outlined above—alignment, inclusion, and engagement—to overcome key barriers to collaboration. Successful collaboration has resulted in 92% of the sales force consistently using the messaging. Kronos’ new value proposition has also led to a 36% increase in its earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA).
In conclusion, Growth Team Membership survey data suggest that marketers are committed to differentiating their companies through redesigned value propositions. However, Marketing’s efforts are constricted by a lack of coordination and buy-in from Sales. By including Sales in the development process, Marketing can ensure its efforts are adopted and strengthen its relationship with Sales for long-term success.
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Written by Holly Lyke Ho Gland
Holly is the research lead for the Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) program. Holly identifies and profiles best practices that address the main challenges faced by the leadership in key functions that support the CEO in driving growth strategies. Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2008, Holly has developed Best Practice Guidebooks for executives in Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development, R&D, Market Research and Competitive Intelligence. In addition to her best practices work, Holly manages GTM’s annual priorities surveys of senior executives within Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Sales Leadership, Corporate Development, and Innovation/R&D. Prior to joining Frost & Sullivan, Holly worked for three years at Sam Houston State University. There she was an instructor and a research assistant on research projects analyzing public perceptions of natural resource management in natural gas, power and water.