Corporate America has significantly changed over the last 30 years. Excellence and exceptional performance, once the cornerstone of Corporate America, have degenerated in some cases to a complacent mediocrity that just doesn’t seem to care. Maintaining “status quo” has become more important than creating products and programs that address true market needs. One of the symptoms of this affliction is a definitive “disconnect” between marketing and sales.
I recently had a conversation with an HR manager for a large corporation about their prerequisites for personnel in their marketing department. She told me that they take people with graduate degrees in Marketing, Brand Management, etc., to fill these spots. Coming from the “old school”, I immediately challenged this policy. I asked why they didn’t fill the positions with people from their sales group. After all, these are the people that deal with the accounts everyday and know what the customers want and need. Her answer was that sales people “try to do too much” and therefore are never brought into marketing.
How can “trying to do too much” be a bad thing? Where I’m from, those are the people you want to hire. They have initiative, drive, etc. In addition, creativity is not the result of a graduate degree. It is a talent that you either have or not. Period. It cannot be taught. No amount of schooling can instill this quality.
So what is the relevance of a graduate degree in marketing, brand management, etc? What does it mean in practical terms? It certainly may give someone tools to do research and provide insights into the methodologies of various marketing disciplines. However, it cannot teach creativity and this is the driving force in marketing. Without pure creativity, what do you really have?
THE PROPER ROLES OF SALES & MARKETING
The function of sales is to sell. It is to create solid relationships between the company and the customer, therefore driving a wedge between that customer and the competition. This is accomplished by helping the customer to identify their needs and provide long term solutions that address those needs now and in the future. Only by proving that you are there to create success for the customer do you earn the trust to be considered as a business partner. By doing this you break into their “trust zone”. More than likely, the customer now buys from you rather than you having to sell them.
The salesman that achieves this result is also a good psychologist. They know when to listen, when to talk……when to be aggressive, when to be more passive. It is their job to become the value proposition to the account, the reason the customer buys from that company. The result is a partnership based on trust where all doors of potential are now open – competitive marketing information, free focus group studies, etc. This salesman is now viewed as a trusted business partner by the customer. More than likely, this will be a very profitable and long term relationship due to a job well done
The Importance of Pure Creativity
Marketing can be the crown jewel of an organization or its greatest detriment. Great marketing is driven by exceptional creativity. This results in superior planning and proper utilization of all the tools that contribute to an effective new product campaign. It is absolutely essential to the success of any company. However, the best sales force in the world cannot sell poorly conceived products or programs. Nor should they even try. It is the company’s responsibility to ensure that their marketing department has a truly creative leader and avails itself of every resource available to come up with the best in product and promotional ideas.
Marketing should have a Creative Director or someone heading up an Innovation unit to discover new trends and address them on a continuous basis. My experience has shown me that most of these departments are very complacent, satisfied with the status quo. Not a whole lot of creativity, which should be what drives the entire department. Creativity is the engine that leads and makes necessary the rest of the “marketing train”, i.e., sourcing, packaging, branding, etc. Without this creative funnel being fed, neither marketing nor sales have anything to do. Eventually, this leads to the death of the company.
If this is the case, marketing should be communicating with sales for this “read” on the market, taking the information that sales has discovered and creating products and programs to address these needs. Period. They are trained in the methodologies of advertising and how to properly bring a product to market. However, they can’t do this without creative and new information on the market. If they can’t find it on their own, they should rely on sales to provide this information to them.
Sales and marketing should work together in a synergistic fashion where one function enhances and strengthens the other. They are simply different sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, some marketing departments do not fully utilize the information available to them from sales. This can result in a product or program that wastes company resources as well as not addressing true market needs. Or they may bring in consulting groups to answer questions that could easily be provided by sales.
Think about that. Bringing in a consulting group that has no intimate relationship with your customer base nor any practical experience with your company and how it approaches the industry. In my estimation, this is lunacy. There is a perfect consulting group that knows the customer and how the company is positioned in the industry…….it’s called the sales department. It doesn’t cost anything to use and has much more relevant information to offer marketing.
Attack the market with enthusiasm. Throw heart and soul into using every resource available to become the innovator, the leader……the best. Get excited again. Call on marketing and sales to work together as a team to find the best solutions to every challenge. No exceptions.
New guidelines should be established to create a close knit relationship between these departments. Sales and marketing should have a constant feedback loop going on. In fact, marketing should make it policy to accompany sales on a regular basis with important key accounts calls.
Sales can school marketing on interpretation of customer reactions based on their relationships with them and marketing can train sales to conduct “Focus Group Studies”. This turns the sales person into a virtual marketing department in the field on every call and a consistent source of relevant marketing information. It also strengthens the bond between the two departments and creates a great relationship between the customer and company. Customers become creative partners and appreciate being asked what they need, what they think, etc.
This interaction between the departments also facilitates a mutual understanding of the functions of each to the other. Ideas and consumer insights that sales brings to marketing can then be further refined between the two departments until a consensus is reached that defines the ultimate solution.
This is a simple and elegant process that can be repeated again and again to keep the creative pipeline full of ideas just waiting for implementation. The more it is practiced, the more streamlined the process becomes. It creates a synergistic environment for the “Perfect Storm” of creative execution. Everyone works together, enhancing customer relationships and maintaining a proactive stance that may very well propel the company to the top of their industry.
Creativity Cannot Be Taught
Like any artistic talent, creativity cannot be taught. One either has it or not. It is engine that drives all new ideas, the innovative force behind every blockbuster product or program. It is the agent of change that makes all the difference between the “want to bes” and the real players. Creativity is the key to all potential. It is a precious gift and yields extraordinary results when utililzed properly.
Therefore, in order to best enhance position in their respective industry, I would encourage any company to look within for answers and remember that graduate degrees in any discipline can only teach book knowledge. They cannot teach pure creativity. Seek out those people with the creative spark, the ones that think “out of the box”. These people are the sources for real growth. They will change your company from a slow moving hulk to a nimble and formidable sales/marketing machine.
Get the sales and marketing departments working together and you will find they are natural companions. Creativity will be greatly enhanced and focused. Once unified, they have the potential to accomplish much more and refine each other in the process. Go back to the “old school” ways and be innovative in all you do.