Marketing, meet sales

 As a journalist, it's sometimes tough to get business folk to speak candidly, even off-the-record. But one way to cut through the B.S. is to bounce ideas off friends who happen to work in the biz. Before beginning to research the story, 'Don't fight your sales staff,' (page 11), I casually broached the topic over brunch with an old school chum.

 As a journalist, it’s sometimes tough to get business folk to speak candidly, even off-the-record. But one way to cut through the B.S. is to bounce ideas off friends who happen to work in the biz. Before beginning to research the story, ‘Don’t fight your sales staff,’ (page 11), I casually broached the topic over brunch with an old school chum.

Kathy (not her real name) works in sales at a large consumer packaged goods firm and her client is a mammoth retail chain. I told her I was planning a story on the benefits of aligning marketing and sales departments and asked if she had any views on the topic.

‘Oh, marketing, they don’t get it,’ she rolled her eyes. Now you have to understand that she had just, coincidentally, wrapped a rough week during which she squared off against her marketing colleagues. They had introduced brand new packaging that was pretty, but too tall to sit on store shelves. At the same time, they refused to punch a hole in the piece so that it could be hung from a peg, as per her department’s suggestion.

No doubt the marketers in question had a sound reason for the above, one that centred on protecting the brand. Kathy’s gripe was that they didn’t bother to take into account the relationship she had with her customer (the retailer) – and that is rather shocking when you consider the amount of power today’s customer data-armed retailers wield over suppliers.

Not to mention that, for many, trade is deemed a most potent medium, since it allows companies to confront consumers at the moment of purchase, and all that.

(Sure, that might have been the impetus for the nifty packaging in the first place, but if the retailer refuses to stock the product, what’s the point?)

Marketers featured in the biz piece, however, have made it a priority to leverage the knowledge of their sales staff, particularly as it relates to their B2B customers. Like Liana Guiry, senior manager of the customer development team at American Express, who no longer defines herself as a marketer, but as a ‘consultant’ to the sales channel. Her group was created three years ago to house sales, marketing and account management personnel under one banner, in an effort to better serve the firm’s merchant network.

The result has been a cross-pollination of skills, with sales people becoming well-versed in marketing fundamentals, and marketers transforming into competent sales people. Oh, and the group has exceeded its revenue and signing targets over the past three years.

In this ROI-obsessed life, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Lisa D’Innocenzo, Editor