Can Culture Shock Align Sales and Marketing?

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A couple of years ago, Dave Stein made this provocative statement on his sales leadership blog about sales and marketing alignment:

“What’s going on is that many CEOs, COOs, GMs, and other executives haven’t figured out that sales and marketing alignment is more about culture, philosophy and business orientation than it is about marketing providing sales with leads, marketing messages and sexy product brochures and sales selling enough so everyone, especially those in marketing, gets to keep their jobs.”

I thought of this statement as I reviewed strategies with a group of sales and marketing executives recently.  Dave was right on the mark with this statement.  For both sales and marketing it really does amount to culture change.  Here’s what is happening as I see it through the lenses of a corporation undergoing efforts to align sales and marketing.   They are undergoing culture shock versus culture change.  Two major events have happened in two years.  The financial crisis and the meteoric rise of social media marketing have suddenly changed the game for both sides.   Both events causing senior executives to put into question how to create the alignment let alone define it. 

Buyer personas, qualitative research derived archetypes of buyers and their goals are being used to create a unified platform for understanding how to communicate to customers and buyers.  Just a few years ago, sales and marketing were trying to get the web channel aligned.  Now there is the added challenge of figuring out how to reach customers through sophisticated email, paid search, iPhone, BlackBerry, Facebook, and the new question burning up Twitter today – should we buy promoted tweets!  This is culture shock, not culture change.

There is hope though.  Buyer persona development is meant to get these two teams on the same playing field.  As I watch creative people figure this out, I am realizing that this is going to be a process of “heavy lifting.”  But, it is going to be a fun process.  Culture shock will bring people together and buyer personas will serve their purpose. 

This new philosophy that Dave Stein refers to highlights the shift in thinking senior exectuives need to get across an entire organization.  A message to both sales and marketing that they need to be having the same conversations with customers and buyers with a new twist.  They have to figure out where their customers and buyers want to meet for conversations.  Now that will be fun for sales and marketing to figure out together! 

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