What to Do When Sales Rises Up Against Marketing: Answers


Recap: When Astor Manufacturing Company CEO Caise Chester promoted SVP of Marketing Abigail Bruner to chief marketing and sales officer, his goal was to unify the two functions and, in doing so, improve the effectiveness of both. About a week later Bruner decided to map out some of her short- and long-term plans over lunch.
Tucked in a booth at a nearby restaurant she overheard an Astor salesperson in the next booth say, “There’s no way I’m staying and working for Bruner. What does a marketing hack even know about sales?” And the other reply, “We could go to Milburn together.” Bruner froze and listened as two of Astor’s top salespeople hatched a plan to pitch themselves to the competition. She knew she needed to quickly devise a plan to deal with the disgruntled salespeople—not only the two she now knows about, but also any others who also might be planning to leave.

June responses
Michael Smith, Marketing Designer, Tri-Win Direct
There is a bigger problem here other than the sales team’s concerns about how Bruner will run the sales team. It sounds like salespeople don’t respect her, and it will take more than a sit down in Bruner’s office to change their minds.

Bruner should insist that the two turncoats meet her for lunch on Friday at the same nearby restaurant where she overheard them talking.  She should talk to these two about her goals for the sales team, let them know she recognizes that they are two of the best salespeople Astor has, and convey that she would hate to hear about them making any plans to leave and go to Milburn together.

By combining a bit of ego stroking, a veiled threat of termination, and letting the salespeople know her plans, it just might be enough to get the sales team to think differently about their new boss.

Tim McTighe, President, Fifthroom.com
My reaction would be to call a meeting with the sales department. Bruner should share her thoughts on the direction the company is going in, but also tell the salespeople that she will be available to meet with each of them during the following week and that she would like to get their thoughts on what they feel would work for the coming months, quarters, etc.

She should explain to the sales staff at that time that each salesperson should come up with at least six ideas that they should email directly to her by a certain time; for example, within a week of the meeting.

Bruner should also explain that, after the initial meeting, she plans to get together again to share each of their thoughts. Further, she should say that she’ll also try to incorporate some of their ideas into her plan and will point out which person these thoughts came from.

This approach will gain their trust and build a tighter bond within both groups.

Anthony Schettino, Founder and President, Impressions
Bruner needs to quickly demonstrate to the sales team that, by using marketing’s skills and working hand-in-hand with sales, she plans to incorporate a proven strategy focused solely on scheduling meetings with the company’s highest-value, most difficult-to-reach prospects: those prospects who have been elusive in the past with regards to scheduling meetings.

I have always been a believer of the Pareto principle, whereby 80% of most companies’ profits come from 20% of their clients. Having spent a fair amount of time [in business] over a 43-year marketing and sales career…I know it is very much alive today.

One of the things I learned over those years from speaking directly with high-end sales producers and average sales executives alike, is that they can easily name the small number of prospect companies that represent their greatest new business opportunity within the vertical or geographic markets they serve. With these company names in hand, Bruner can launch a highly targeted end-to-end campaign to get the salespeople meeting with the right executives within these select prospect companies.

Peter Mendelson, CMO, Raiseworks
The competition between sales and marketing is nothing new, and it presents an immediate challenge and opportunity for new Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Abagail Bruner.  Both marketing and sales need to coexist in a collegial environment with no silos. Therefore, Bruner needs to make retention of key sales associates her number one initiative. She needs to communicate that she has their backs and that she understands how they’re feeling regarding their former boss leaving the company. This outreach needs to be done quickly, as even the first defection can throw Astor into a tailspin. Marketing is essential and is the captain of the ship; however, without a well-articulated sales effort the company is simply rudderless.

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