Struggling companies all share something in common. Their sales, marketing, and engineering efforts are at odds. Sometimes, they are even at war. This ongoing conflict is a “pink elephant” at many high technology companies that no one will talk about the problem until it becomes so disruptive that it must be dealt with.
Engineering builds products without forethought to what customers really want or need. The marketing team lectures the sales department, saying that if only sales would take their advice, its problems would be solved. Meanwhile, the sales department always says it needs something else from marketing. It is clamoring for a silver bullet that will convince the most ardent skeptic to buy.
The root cause of this situation is that engineering, marketing, and sales have different views of the world. The engineering department believes that “their” technology will sell itself. They tend to focus on technology for technology’s sake that doesn’t match the real-world needs of customers. To the marketing department, selling is a series of steps that you guide a prospect through. These steps are based on the logic of purchasing the product, and the marketing team’s job is to provide the tools to move the prospect to the next step. Meanwhile, salespeople must work with the unpredictable part of the process: people. Their job is to formulate an account strategy based upon the people whom they are trying to sell to. They need intuition--what to do and say in a particular competitive situation. The figure below illustrates this dilemma between sales and marketing.
The Different Viewpoints Sales and
Marketing Have About Sales
As a result, friction between the areas develops. Salespeople feel they must translate theoretical arguments into a practical message while the marketing team believes the salespeople themselves are the problem. The solution to this problem is to define the intuition that sales needs. The first step is to understand the people involved in the sale: the different types of customer personalities, selfish interests that motivate the purchase, and languages the customers speak. Next, identify the circumstances of the sale: the competition, the players (e.g. the key decision maker’s authority and title) and the deal position (competitive, collaborative, or blind). Finally, a feedback loop for collecting win-loss information should be put into place.
True win-loss analysis is very important and unfortunately, it’s a lost art. Most companies never take the time to understand why they won a deal. They only examine losses. And they usually conduct the examination in one of two ways. In the “blame game,” the account team and various key departmental executives get together to hammer home their own personal agenda using the loss as a lightning rod. The sales team argues it needs a product enhancement or new marketing program while someone else may argue that sales is inept.
In the “cumulative dogpile,” the salesperson is put under a microscope and every account move is analyzed and criticized by management. It’s painful to witness and even worse to be the subject of one of these inquisitions. After the fog of war has lifted, it’s easy for the generals back at the corporate office to second-guess the battlefield actions and take potshots at their soldiers. Unfortunately, the cumulative dogpile and blame game impede the flow of critical information and dissuade the truth from being communicated.
Meaningful, impartial win-loss analysis is the first step in synchronizing the engineering, marketing, and sales arenas within a high technology company. The information must be objectively collected, common themes collated, and results shared between engineering, marketing, and sales in a non-confrontational manor. Only then, will these diverse organizations be aligned for common good.