Marketers, how many times have you heard from your CEO or chief revenue officer that the sales team is your customer? “You need to make sales happy; otherwise, you aren’t doing your job.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that sales is NOT your customer. Your CUSTOMER is your customer. Sales is your partner – your teammate – and until all of sales and marketing understands that, your organization is doomed to fail (or at least not be as successful as it can be).
We’re in the throes of basketball season – one of my favorite times of year – and nothing beats watching a team that performs as one – with each player knowing and executing on his or her specific role to win as a team. Coach K, the winningest coach in college basketball history, once said, “To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.”
Every player has a role, and every role is of equal importance. You wouldn’t want your point guard setting up in low post, nor would you want your center bringing the ball up the court. However, if each player understands his or her role and how it integrates with the others, the team has a pretty good chance of winning. Add talent to that scenario, and that team is well on its way to a championship!
A start-up or an emerging company (under $50 million in annual revenue) has these same characteristics – each role (e.g. sales, marketing, product, support, finance, legal) is just as important as the others. You need a well-trained and engaged sales team; a creative and results-oriented marketing team; a quality-focused product team; a customer-focused support team; and finance, legal and executive teams that agree on the plays to be executed. Once the team is in place and you develop a well-aligned offering focused on customer needs, you can play for ultimate achievement of your revenue goals, with each customer win getting you closer to dominating that final quarter.
When you find yourself working to please another department or leader or thinking of an internal group as your customer, you have lost focus on the real customer … your customer! Every part of the organization must come together and contribute to the end goal, without one group being superior to the other.
Let’s be honest: Sales teams can be a bit myopic; after all, they have a number to hit! They are a great source of information, but many times I have seen them lean toward comfort zones and not acknowledge a shift in the market. I’ve also seen marketing teams get excited about engagement numbers that may not indicate real buying interest. And how many times has a product team created an offering and tossed it over to marketing to go to market without any customer input or competitive analysis? The bottom line is that all functions must work together as a cohesive team and respect each other’s roles if they want to win.
The best way to accomplish this alignment is to focus on the one critical organizing principle for all company effort – the CUSTOMER! To do so successfully, follow a framework that everyone agrees on from the beginning and update it quarterly or annually, depending on your market. Start with an audience framework exercise. Invite representatives from sales, marketing, product, support, finance and legal, as well as executive stakeholders, to participate in mapping the organization’s offerings and programs to specific audience needs. Once the framework is complete, each group should align to the ultimate goal of winning market share and walk out of the session understanding his or her role on the team. For guidance on conducting an audience framework exercise, see the brief “Go-to-Market Architecture: From Product-Centric to Audience-Centric.”
Remember to update your framework as market needs or organizational goals change. I also suggest publishing your final framework internally and revisiting it in team meetings to ensure new hires are properly aligned and existing employees are reminded of the focus needed to win as an emerging-growth company.
Above all, consider this sound advice from legendary leader Coach K: “People want to be on a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”