“Help Me Help You”: Jerry Maguire Holds Lessons for Sales and Marketing


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I’m neither Ebert nor Roeper. But I’ve always felt that the movies offer a fitting framework for discussing business issues. So fire up the popcorn and let’s imagine how marketing/sales collaboration might play out on the big screen. And no, we won’t be reviewing

Apocalypse Now


War of the Worlds

or even

Better Off Dead

!! I like happy endings and in my 15 years of working with organizations large and small, I have seen that even marketers and salespeople can create them together.


Jerry Maguire

. You know the flick. Tom Cruise plays Jerry, a charismatic sports agent who wants nothing but success for his clients. But he’s a visionary who refuses to sacrifice his integrity to get there. Cuba Gooding, Jr., won an Oscar for his performance as Jerry’s client Rod Tidwell, the smooth talkin’, eye-on-the-prize football player who wants a contract—a big contract.

The movie’s famous quotes expose the common mindsets of sales and marketing.

“Show me the MONEY!” the persistent athlete demands of his agent.

Like Tidwell, salespeople have some pretty high expectations. In a sales environment, it’s all about performance. To excel, it’s imperative to have a superior level of support from the people behind the scenes. Even if results are required at a moment’s notice. Even if the conversation gets a bit…heated.

But you remember Jerry’s fervent response, right?

“Help ME help YOU!”

Jerry wants to land that big contract for his client—his own professional success relies on it. The same can be said for marketers. Marketers


that the revenue stream ultimately lives or dies with the effectiveness of the sales team. They know their role is to grease the skids—to be an agent for success. But sales has to be willing to help marketing help sales.

Here are five best practices sales can employ today to help marketing become more effective at facilitating sales:

    Provide feedback on the market.

    While sales is out in the field, marketers typically are holding down the fort at the corporate office. But they need to be in touch with the marketplace for their programs to be most effective. So be their eyes and ears into your customers. Proactively share your insights into the buying process. Report back on what messaging seems to resonate with your audience. And when something goes particularly well? Compliment your complement!

    One pharmaceutical distributor I’ve worked with provides a great illustration of how sales’ insight into customer needs can effectively guide marketing efforts. Marketing had developed a quarterly “business review” presentation to help add structure to the firm’s strategic account management efforts. After the first quarter of use, sales returned detailed feedback about what was perceived as valuable. For example, some customers asked to see purchase data segmented and graphed differently. Such input directly drove the way marketing prioritized enhancements for the following quarter.

    Invite marketing to join you in selling.

    Nothing opened my eyes more, as a young brand manager at Miller Brewing Company, than the first time I went on a sales call—feeling the responsibility of the goal, the rush of the “ask.” I’m a firm believer that sales and marketing need to experience what it’s like on the other side. So bring marketing into the trenches by including them in meaningful meetings throughout the sales process—particularly the early stages. Allowing marketers to witness the way you qualify a lead will work wonders in clarifying the difference between a legitimate opportunity and a waste of time.

    Learn the importance of brand/message consistency.

    You have a passion for what you do. And so do marketers. Have you ever taken the time to really understand why they care so much about the “B word” (brand)? Marketers will be happy to share why they are so methodical about enforcing and quantifying brand value, and you will be surprised to learn that the reasoning is well aligned with sales goals. Appreciate that a clear and consistently delivered message differentiates your products/services and makes a prospect more willing to pay a premium for it. Having this insight makes drinking the marketing Kool-Aid a whole lot more palatable.

    Identify new tools that can make a difference.

    Think of the best-selling materials you have. Chances are that many originated out of a need felt by someone in sales. Just as sales seeks to only pursue opportunities likely to result in a deal, marketers want to expend their efforts on creating the most effective tools—ones that you’ll use! Who knows better than you what is likely to work? Come to marketing, perhaps quarterly, with a reasonable collection of ideas and get marketing to commit to responding. Collaboratively you can build an arsenal of tools that is most likely to help achieve your “field goals.”

    At one commercial bank, for example, relationship bankers recently suggested that a lengthy videotaped shareholder briefing be broken up into digestible snippets and saved in a format that could be emailed to clients. Marketing acted on the suggestion, and clients found value in hearing the banking authority’s insight into specific services without committing hours of time.

    Help identify and use technology solutions that enable collaboration.

    If I could give my own Oscar, it would be to Technology for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Today, there are technologies specifically designed to help marketing facilitate sales effectiveness and vice-versa. Such technology can institutionalize the feedback loop between sales and marketing. It can provide a central repository for searching, generating and tailoring the most relevant and effective marketing materials. It can enforce consistent branding in client-facing communication and can map the use of specific items to the appropriate stages of a sales methodology. In other words, technology can be the key to enabling each of the best practices I’ve discussed. If your company has such a tool,


    it! If not, support marketing by becoming a champion for bringing such a solution to your workplace.

You remember how

Jerry Maguire

ends, right? Tidwell does indeed help Maguire help him. The two become great pals through mutual support. Rod starts making big plays on the field. Prospective clients start flocking to Jerry. In short, as the collaborative relationship between the two strengthens, so does their joint success. Follow their lead (and the proposed best practices) and your victories in the field will follow. You may never hear a prospect declare, “You had me at hello.” But armed with improved support from the sidelines, you’ll win just the same.

A happy ending. Two thumbs up.

John Aiello
The SAVO Group
John Aiello is cofounder and managing director of The SAVO Group, a firm that helps marketing and sales teams work as one to drive business growth via technology. Aiello has brought a passion for market-driven, results-oriented solutions to marketing and sales challenges to a wide range of organizations.


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