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How To Integrate Sales With Marketing

Most companies suffer from constant conflict between sales and marketing, and (to a lesser extent) sales and engineering. According to research from Mercer Human Resource Consulting, the primary reason sales executives do not seek support from other corporate functions is that they do not believe other functions understand their business well enough to provide any value.

And that's often quite true. Certainly, this blog has often been treated to some incredibly stupid statements about selling from people claiming to be marketing professionals. And, as for the engineering crowd, as a former engineer, I know all too well that most engineers are pretty clueless about selling and (worse) are arrogant in their cluelessness.

In one sense, it's not fair to blame the marketers and the engineers for their foolishness. Let's face it: the sales force is unlike any other function in an organization, and people who have spent their careers in IT, HR, or Marketing cannot be expected to walk into a sales force with a lucid understanding of its inner workings.

The opposite is true as well, of course. In many cases, a salespeople only have the vaguest idea of what goes on in a marketing group or engineering group. As a result, the company tends to look like this:

How, then, can we possible get these groups working together?

According to research from the Chally Group, world class sales forces overcome this hurdle by requesting dedicated resources from other functional areas to support them.
Often called "business partners", these are professionals from IT, HR, Marketing, or other departments who view Sales as their customers. Accordingly, they commit themselves to understanding the business of Sales. They attend sales meetings, they ride along with salespeople, they collocate in sales offices, they collaborate to set mutual objectives.

In other words, these "business partners" integrate with the sales force and, in doing so, gain tactical insight into the sales function and can better partner with Sales to create mutual value. The resulting structure looks like this:

Does it work?

Chally cites the example of Applied Industrial Technologies, one of North America's largest industrial distributors of bearings, power transmission components, hydraulic components and systems. According to Jim Hopper, the firm's former VP & CIO of IT, "the IT Department has the same kind of sales focus as the field" a partnership that's resulted in, among other sales tools, a set of colorful, customer-friendly product catalogs created through the combined efforts of Sales, Marketing, and IT.

I don't know about you, but this is the most practical idea for getting the rest of the organization sales-savvy that I've ever heard. What do you think?

READERS: Have any of you been in an organization that tried this? If so, I'd love to hear about it.

NOTE: The above is based on materials provided to me by the Howard Stevens, CEO of Chally Group, with whom I am co-authoring a book.