In space flight, we must anticipate the unforeseen: We project our goals into the future and consider the many things that could go wrong. As history has shown, this is not always easy. Although you simply don’t know what you don’t know and it’s impossible to foresee everything, it’s clear that if departments do not communicate, organizations undoubtedly are on the path toward failure.
Over the course of my career, I have been amazed by the campaign, solution or product launches that marketing had diligently prepared for that failed to produce the intended result. This could simply be because sales reps were unaware or improperly educated on the launch, its goals and its reason for being.
I find that that there still is a big communication gap between sales and product marketing. We have created an environment where product marketers are more at ease with product people than salespeople. We do our analysis of the product and services, we do our go-to market strategizing, we build our campaigns and product launches, and then throw them out in the world and are frustrated when reps don’t use the materials and resources we have provided. Why can’t they “just go sell” the stuff we worked so hard for?
Before I became a portfolio marketer, I was one of those salespeople. As a rep who was focused on customer-centricity, I felt that the messaging and collateral were not helping me to effectively close business. As a result, I started to build my own materials or black market content, which is a far too common practice in sales. Besides the lack of audience-centricity in the materials, there was a consistent lack of communication around the campaigns and product launches. As sales reps, we were often surprised by launches and usually not consulted in launch planning. This resulted in a lot of marketing collateral that never stood a chance. The messaging was often not appropriate for the market or region, or sales reps were unprepared to reinforce the message with their customers.
As portfolio marketers, we are responsible for the effectiveness with which our messaging and campaigns are being used and the results they generate – not just for the creation of it. In SiriusDecisions, sales knowledge transfer is one of the core priorities for portfolio marketing. Sales knowledge transfer is the process of enabling sales reps with the knowledge they need to apply during the buying process to accelerate deals in the pipeline and increase overall sales. However, knowledge transfer is not the only tool for enabling sales. There must also be an open communication channel between marketing and the regional sales teams so information can flow in both directions. Sales reps have a truly unique insight into buyer personas, regional market characteristics and cultural aspects. I have found that once we shared our launch goals with sales teams and included their insights into our launch preparation and communication, we had higher sales participation and increased success.
Don’t be afraid to ask sales reps for their thoughts on your works in progress. You’ll find that there are salespeople who are eager to be engaged and their tribal knowledge is extremely useful. Whether it is on go-to market strategy, persona building, messaging or bringing products to market, both teams will be better informed with the increased alignment.
Just like in the history of space flight, problems can be fixed or better yet, prevented, when teams collaborate and there is an open channel for constructive communication.