War!

The words of "War," Edwin Starr's 1969 Motown classic, began ringing in my head this morning. It was brought on by a Harvard Business Review blog post by Steve W. Martin, "Why Sales and Marketing Are at Odds — or Even War." Within tech vendors, sales and marketing teams often fail to communicate or align go-to-market strategies. Forrester's sales enablement visionary Scott Santucci discussed the different languages of sales and marketing in his blog over two years ago. As for my own experience with sales and marketing:

A few years ago, I sat with the chief marketing officer and chief sales officer of a Fortune 100 tech vendor. The conversation didn't focus on customer problems, which should be the starting point for sales enablement professionals. The conversation didn't focus on sales efficiency issues such as sales cycle duration or win rates, which should be critical imperatives for all sales and marketing professionals. Each of these executives controlled massive budgets but neither one sincerely trusted the other. Their words were about aligning sales and marketing programs, but the real conversation, when read between the lines, was about control, boundaries, and politics. They were at war! 

Customers are solving problems differently. They demand business outcomes to justify technology spending. The challenge isn't a sales problem and it isn't a marketing problem; it's a supply chain problem. You must change the way that your company goes to market. Internal finger pointing will only result in your company dwindling into irrelevance!

Sales enablement is about the customer and her challenges. It requires a complete reversal to your methods and messages, including presentations, conversations, company messages, collateral, products and solutions, branding, advertising, market research, competitive intelligence, and any other activity in your company's go-to-market supply chain. Your entire portfolio of products and services should be managed within the context of customer challenges.

If you are a marketing or sales executive . . . if you want to make a difference in your company . . . if you want to succeed at something eluding so many executives . . . if you are frustrated at internal politics . . . if you want to influence change rather than succumb to the status quo, begin taking simple steps that have tremendous impact:

1. Make the customer's problem solving process the design point for everything you do.
2. Discuss strategies and tactics that are centered on customer challenges.
3. Learn to work together, to speak each other's languages, and work as a single supply chain.
4. Lather, rinse, repeat. The "muscle memory" of your company will take time to change.

Is your company at war? How are you solving the problem? Are you changing how you think about your portfolio? How does sales enablement factor into your company's strategy?  What do you think will happen if your company does not change? We'd love to hear your experiences! We are expanding our research to define the structure and methods of portfolios that are built around customer problems and would enjoy hearing your experiences.