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Sales and Marketing: Shake Hands!

Jul 25, 2017  by  Phil Krone  in   Marketing

At a meeting of the American Marketing Association's Chicago chapter earlier this month, I began my talk with a critical question: "Has there ever been a time for sales and marketing to be more closely aligned than now?"

I was speaking at a program on "Managing at the Speed of Change," which we co-sponsored with Morningstar, the research and investment company. The program was designed for senior-level marketing executives to explore the challenges of a world that sometimes just seems to be moving too fast. Identifying and getting a head start on often disruptive change has become especially difficult-influencing it even more so.

My talk targeted a stark reality in business today: Change can be so disruptive to the topline that sales and marketing must change, too, and strive to support the topline as partners, not adversaries.

Day-to-day my work is to help companies grow their topline, all sorts of companies across all sorts of industries. Here's how I explained my view of the problem to the marketers-and offered a proven solution.

"Has there ever been a time for sales and marketing to be more closely aligned than now? I don't think so.

Disruption in markets requires sales to become the front line of discovery so that marketing has the field inputs required to make effective decisions. Once those brand, product, and service decisions are made sales processes must be adjusted.

A little-known secret of change related to new products is this: When new features, new technology, new products, or new services take the stage, the sale force's behavior often changes in a surprising way. It moves backwards, from some level of consultative selling to transactional selling. Planned presentations reflecting accurate discovery are replaced with "the pitch" that simply focuses on whatever is new but doesn't fully consider what a particular prospect might need.

Better known is a truth that if the sales force fails to reach its targets, the marketing and lead generation programs will be blamed by the sales force.

But that doesn't need to happen.

Our firm can work alongside senior marketing managersto prevent the situation from developing in the first place or correct it. We do that by:


Training salespeople in the discovery skills required to be the best antennae possible for gathering market intelligence.


Adapting sales processes when changes take place in buying motives, differentiation from competition, and product and service offerings.


Aligning sales forces with the brand because, in the field, your sales force is the brand.

Now, I'd like to share a brief case that demonstrates what happens when all this is done correctly.

In 2009 we were called in by a publicly traded company in the Chicago area with $1 billion revenue. The CEO said, 'I'm not happy with my sales force's performance, and I don't believe their standard presentations really reflect our brand values.' So he and nine of his colleagues went through our consultative selling skills program, FOCIS™.

On the last day of class, he turned to his colleagues and said, 'I'm going to take a lead out of the funnel. 'I'm going to use the sales process we just spent three months developing together. I'm going to have them [Productive Strategies] coach me. And I'm going to report back to all of you how I do.'

So he took a lead out of the funnel. And, to make a long story short, in about four months he closed a deal for a billion dollars annually with a five-year commitment. So this is a $1 billion company that's now a $2 billion company. The next year they became Fortune magazine's fastest growing publicly traded company.

And they began to make acquisitions. Every time they made an acquisition they put the salespeople through FOCIS™ so that in the field they had a consistent sales process, and the professionalism of the sales process was replicated from coast to coast. This doesn't happen in a lot of places, and it almost never happens this well.

But the result was that, about eighteen months ago, they had grown from $1 billion to $20 billion, and they were bought by a Fortune 500 corporation.

Let me leave you with three questions to think about.

First: Is your sales process in alignment with the brand?

Second: Do you fall short of revenue targets every time something new is introduced-a new product, a new channel, a new service?

Third: Does your sales team have the skills to be able to pick up on change that's going to disrupt and disintermediate, and build those skills into their process so that change can be anticipated and adapted to?

Thank You."

Phil Krone is the founder and president of Productive Strategies, a management and marketing consulting firm based in Northfield, Illinois. He can be contacted at 847-446-0008 Ext. 1 or pkrone@productivestrategies.com

Be sure to check out other Chicago AMA programs and events.