Greg Kedenburg

Are you tired of success? Have you hit your growth goal so many times in a row that it isn’t even tough anymore? Are you running such a well-oiled commercial function that your hardest decision of the day is which restaurant from which to order lunch? If you’re looking for a change of pace and have been thinking about throwing a wrench in the works, then this is the article for you.

Finding Sales and marketing alignment

Most commercial leaders obsess day and night over ways to best align their Marketing and Sales functions, but not you. You’ve reached the pinnacle of commercial success and are now more interested in driving a wedge between them. To that end, below you’ll find three ways to best guarantee that your marketing and sales teams remain as dysfunctional as possible.

1. Maintain Strict Silos

Step one to derail a smoothly operating commercial locomotive is to limit communication. Various departments should talk to each other as little as possible, or ideally not at all (vows of silence, tower of Babel tongue alterations and locating the sales team in Helsinki and the marketing team in Santiago have all been known to help with this).

Zero communication will help minimize any knowledge transfer or feedback which might improve processes, or even worse, make the end-customer experience more positive (don’t let them fool you, customers actually like trying to untangle contradicting or uncoordinated sales and marketing messages… even more than untangling tightly knotted shoe laces).

Now, it’s all well and good to mandate silence as a policy, but what should be avoided like the plague is real-time feedback, specifically as it relates to use of commercial insight by the field sales organization. Recent research has shown that as the B2B selling landscape grows increasingly complex, the ability of commercial functions to quickly converse and make changes to messaging based on customer feedback is critically important. So, please ignore what you just read.

Be on the lookout for whispered water cooler discussions, encoded notes in folded up paper and signal flags rising above cubicles – these desperate attempts to bridge the sales/marketing communication divide must be stopped.

2. Bury Any Wins

(Pause sarcasm) Salespeople are inherently competitive. If they see a peer using a specific strategy to great success, they’ll be thinking about how to leverage that same strategy themselves (unpause sarcasm). So if we’re trying to keep a leash on commercial growth, it’s in our best interest to find examples of successfully leveraged marketing content, or particularly effective sales tactics, and make sure they never see the light of day (remember the self-destructing messages in Mission Impossible movies? – a best practice).

Surfacing and publicizing wins, especially those that highlight best practice sales & marketing integration, is something that good commercial leaders do, which is something we’re not interested in imitating.

Let’s be honest, rewards, recognition, publicity – it all goes to people’s heads. The surest way to avoid receiving credit for helping another department is to never help them in the first place.

3. Keep Marketing Content and The Sales Conversation like Oil and Water 

If salespeople do happen to stumble upon a powerful commercial insight while interacting with customers, they should stamp it confidential, put it in a safe and share it with no one. The resulting customer clarity and engagement would be disastrous if such an insight were similarly reflected in, say, whitepapers or infographics, or the Web site or trade show booths.

All of these marketing assets must continue to reflect nothing but product features and benefits, maps of the world where offices are located, the most impressive logos to whom solutions have been provided and italicized customer homages to our awesomeness (placed on top of decorative oversized quotation marks).

Remember, each minute a customer is distracted by trying to reduce risk, manage cost/efficiency or ignite growth in their business is a minute they are not quietly reflecting on how much they should love you as a vendor.

If you follow the three steps above, you’ll be so busy running around and putting out fires that you won’t have time to be bothered with more strategic endeavors such as maintaining alignment between key functions or actually engaging customers and selling stuff. Won’t that be great.

Greg Kedenburg

Greg is a Consultant with the Challenger Activation team. He’s worked across 30+ Challenger transformations and has led the development of over 100 commercial insights in partnership with our clients. Before Challenger he worked in both human capital and management consulting.