Ten Ways the C-Level can Positively Impact Marketing and Sales (Part Two of Two)

This is part two of our 2-part series on how the C-Suite can help affect marketing and sales for the better. (click here for part one)

A recent report published by MarketingSherpa asked B2B marketers what was the top barrier for overcoming their marketing challenges.  17% cited difficulty in getting buy-in or support from the C-Suite.  Quite frankly I am surprised that the percentage is not higher.

Part of the reason that executives are so hesitant to buy into marketing is that they’ve not been provided a solid business case for making the necessary investments into marketing that will improve their business.  Yet marketing and sales need budget so they can adapt to the changing buyer, move them faster through the buying cycle, and ultimately drive revenue.  It’s imperative that marketing gains executive support.

We’ve blogged before on what marketers can do to remove the barriers and win over “mahogany row”.  In this post, we provide the final five things the C-Suite can do to enable their marketing and sales teams so they can improve their return on marketing and sales investments.

6.  Don’t Stay Married if It’s Not Working

Hear me out here. I am not advocating divorce.  However, what I am talking about is the dynamic where executives get so married to their plans, that they fail to change course if the plans are not working.

To change direction doesn’t always signal failure or indicate a poor strategy.  To the contrary, it can often signal maturity and understanding of the ultimate objectives.  If something’s not working, or if your marketing strategy is not going to plan, then make the necessary adjustments. Gather your team, collect their input (they usually have a more realistic and better view than you do) and adjust the course.

7.  Stop Talking About Alignment

If you conduct a Google search on the term “Sales & Marketing Alignment”, you generate 11,700,000 links to view.  This seems to be only a fraction of all that has been written on this topic.  Just today I saw three more articles that detailed the keys to marketing and sales alignment.

Executives would do well to stop trying to solve this “problem”.  Actually, it’s not a problem; it’s a symptom of a deeper problem.  Here’s what needs to happen to achieve alignment:

  • Bring marketing and sales together to develop a lead management process that addresses how leads will be managed.
  • Use common objectives and measurements between marketing and sales. (Revenue contribution goals are a good place to start.)
  • Design sales quotas to match average buying cycles.  As an example, it’s unfair for a sales person to have to meet a 90-day quota when the sales cycle is 180 days.

Begin working on these three areas and you will see the alignment issue disappear.

8.  Ensure You Have the Right People

One of the greatest ironies about NBC’s The Office was that Michael Scott, played by Steve Carrel, was an awful sales manager but a very good sales rep.   Carrel’s role served to highlight what many organizations do: they take someone who has had success in one role and promote them to another role for which they are not suited.  This is a poor HR practice.  Have the courage to determine if you have the wrong people with the wrong skill set in your marketing and sales roles. If you do, it’s time for some fresh talent.  Capable job seekers abound in today’s economy. If you are going to stock up on new talent, now is the time to do it.

9.  Know Thy Customer

On a recent episode of CBS’s Undercover Boss, a cruise line CEO posed as an entertainment crew staff member on one of his ships.  He was assigned to oversee the ice skating rink that had been installed on board the ship.  After hours of back breaking work just to get the rink set up, no one came.   He asked, “Why do we have this if no one wants to skate?”  Perhaps if they had done a better job of getting to know their customer, they would have known the answer.

This episode illustrates the fact that most executives don’t truly understand their customers.  Why?  Because their customer interaction is often limited to the top 5% of their customer base.  Such a small percentage does not provide an accurate representation of the buyer.  Yet, if you take the time to get to know your customer inside and out, you’ll be able to create better product, deliver better service and improve customer retention.  It will help you avoid mistakes like installing an ice skating rink on a cruise ship.

10.  Lighten Up

Life is short. Work can be stressful and difficult.  Good leaders make work fun for their employees. They keep things light.  Yes, most of us are passionate about our companies, and the services we provide.  But for most of us, we’re not selling things that are life changing. We need to remember that.

In one company I worked for, we were pressing to meet a product launch date.  Tensions were high among marketing, sales and product management (all of whom sat in close proximity to each other).  Sensing the stress cloud, the president of our division walked down a row of cubicles and announced, “$50 to the one who can do a wall sit longer than I can.”  The stress bubble was burst as a line of people doing wall sits emerged.   We took 10 minutes to unwind, watched a product manager win $50, and had a few laughs.  Our president was smart. He knew that tension did not create productivity.  Stress relief did.

We may have covered some non-marketing areas in these two posts.  But if marketing and sales are going to improve and adjust in this new buyer driven B2B world, it is vital that the C-Suite lead and enable change.  Without it, you’ll end up with an environment that limits what can be done, and fails to reach objectives.