Wednesday, February 22, 2006

counterpoint: marketing's role in sales support

In her article Don't Confuse Sales Support with Marketing, Adele Revella writes, correctly IMO:

. . .marketing superiority delivers a sustainable, defensible competitive advantage to those who master it.

No arguments there. But then she goes on to write:

It should be easy to see that the time you devote to a single prospect opportunity (clearly a sales role) steals time that could have been used to influence an entire market about the value of your solutions (a reasonable description of the Marketing job).

To which I say, hold on a moment.

For GreatBigCorp, where the role of product marketing is both institutionalized and accepted, this is fine. But even at GreatBigCorp, there is the strong potential for those who would deign to "influence entire markets" to want to retreat into their offices and write sweeping (and too often generic) "buyer personas".

There's nothing wrong with user personas. But they too often become unquestionable law among people who really should be reinventing their world-view of the "customer" on a more or less constant basis.

In my opinion you need to write personas because you need to have a clear idea of who your software is good for today - since there are many customers with lots of money who will atttempt to turn you into a custom programming shop if only you will do that great big deal with them.

More small companies than I can count (and a few larger ones too) have gone into the toilet by turning their product in the direction of one or two major customers - which has the impact of turning them away from their original (and often more worthy) direction.

But let's return to my thesis. There is no debating that sales is demanding - they are merely responding to their customers, and they want to get paid. They are, after all, coin operated. You, on the other hand, are not - you need to pick your battles, support sales when and where it makes sense for you.

And that's the magic. Supporting sales wins you allies, and insights into the customer. It gives you an opportunity to test your thinking in the crucible of real deals. Having gone through a sales support exercise, it's up to you to abstract what you've learned to help the rest of sales.

The real sin is supporting sales and not reaping the benefits of it. Tactical, one-off work doesn't serve the larger mission of marketing. But well-chosen, well-executed and successful sales support absolutely serves the larger mission of marketing. Which is to be in tune with the market.

Sales support buys you co-ownership of the customer, and you want a piece of that action. Just be smart about it, and when you have to say "no", be nice about it.

For another take on this touchy subject, read Constantine von Hoffman's article Culture Crash on the alignment (or lack thereof) between sales and marketing (CMO Magazine, June 2005).


Anonymous said...

well put. much better than my post the other day.

bob said...

Did you write on this topic? Am I having some sort of aneurism by forgetting it? Calgon, take me awaaaay.

Anonymous said...

Something similar:

But, seeing I've been in the game for only about a year, I'm sure I've missed some key points...

bob said...

All I can say is GMTA - I think we'd both agree that there is a risk associated with the disassociation of marketing and sales. To be honest, balkanization and "roles and responsibility" wars are all bad; this is only the most obvious of them.

When sales sees marketing as a tools engine, and marketing sees sales as "just another channel", both sides lose.

BTW: Are you the same Adam Bullied of Photon Soup Entertainment? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Nope -- not the same. But, pretty cool that you know two people with the exact same name, especially one as uncommon as Bullied.