Why can’t we collect email addresses?


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Last week, I found myself in situations with two clients where they were both facing the same issue. The issue seemed so easy to solve, and yet it was very clear that their organization, particularly Sales, had no interest in solving the problem at all. It seems like Marketing and Sales were speaking different languages–the same words seemed to have different meanings. My clients were frustrated, and wondered how they were going to solve this impasse. The issues that confounded them was a simple one:

Why can’t I get my salesforce to collect e-mail addresses?

This sounds silly, doesn’t it? After all, e-mail addresses are as commonplace today as physical addresses, if not more so. You would think that salespeople would want to reach their customers any time they wanted. And in a retail environment, e-mail addresses ought to mean more coupons, which equals more sales for the store. What is so difficult about this calculation?

Yet here are the answers that came back from the salesforce:

  • We are too busy. Corporate gives us all these silly tasks do, and we don’t have enough time with our customers as it is.
  • We can’t get our salespeople to execute the basics, let alone add anything more.
  • Our customers don’t use e-mail for their day-to-day business activities. And so on.

As marketers, we know that if we can convince sales to collect e-mail addresses, the entire organization will benefit:

  • Reduced cost of communications
  • Increased personalization of messages and offers
  • A stronger sense of relationship between the company and customers
  • Faster turnaround on communications
  • The ability to determine whether or not the customer actually opened or read the e-mail
  • Higher response rates, etc.

As marketers, I don’t need to spend much of this post convincing you that e-mail makes a lot of sense to improve the type and value of communications to customers. To us, it’s obvious. Yet when you ask a simple question to the sales force, they react as if you are asking them to reinvent the world. What’s missing?

Usually, when I find that an organization is not willing to do something that I consider obvious, I look for the meaning underneath. In this case, what Marketing is asking is not what Sales is hearing.

  • When Marketing says, “we want to collect e-mail addresses,” Sales hears, “we want to communicate with your customers without you knowing about it.”
  • When Marketing says, “we want to increase the relationship between the company and our customers,” Sales hears, “the company wants to steal my customers, so I won’t be as important.”
  • When Marketing says, “we will drive more sales to your store,” what Sales hears is, “the company wants to slow down my checkout process.”

As you can see from these examples, while Marketing believes we are making a clear case for the collection of email, we are completely missing the boat, from what Sales is hearing. The net result is that Marketing appears more out of touch, Sales appears more intransigent, and everybody goes back to their respective corners, more dissatisfied than ever.

What can you do about this quandary? Here are some approaches that have worked:

  • Develop clear contact rules about when a customer will be contacted, and about what subjects. Show Sales how they will be copied on all communications to and from the customer, to help them be more “in the loop,” and further deepen their relationships. Give them the ability to opt out certain customers from certain communications for a certain time due to business issues (you may want some oversight on this).
  • Create a pilot program where all emails are collected for a small number of accounts, or stores. After marketing to the pilot for 2-3 months, show the results from the effort, and let the sales people involved present the results and share their successes. Publicize the results across the organization, not just to Sales and Marketing.

I am sure that there are many other approaches to address the email issue. The greater learning, though, is about the different ways that Marketing and Sales see the world. For Marketing to help move the company to being more customer-centric, Sales must not only come along for the ride, but also share the driver’s seat.

What approaches have you used to get closer to Sales?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Price
Mark Price is the managing partner and founder of LiftPoint Consulting (www.liftpointconsulting.com), a consulting firm that specializes in customer analysis and relationship marketing. He is responsible for leading client engagements, e-commerce and database marketing, and talent acquisition. Mark is also a RetailWire Brain Trust Panelist, a blogger at www.liftpointconsulting.com/blog and a monthly contributor to the blog of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association.


  1. Mark – congrats on your first post on CustomerThink! And a great, topic, too. I’m amazed how many times I hear about large, seemingly sophisticated companies that don’t have good customer contact lists. Often it’s for the reasons you highlighted. CRM investments go down the drain when salespeople can’t or won’t trust their marketing colleagues. Nice work!

  2. Would it be true to say that Marketing may also not have proven that their effort adds value to the Sales cycle and/or is coordinated?

    From Sales perspective, it will be critical to retain control and position/translate the company’s myriad offerings to the specific problem that each prospect is looking to solve. They may feel that Marketing’s generic messaging may hurt more than help.

    In theory, if Marketing is targeted and interactive, this problem should be reduced. If product management is doing their job right then Sales will be targeting a limited set of pains in the market place. So it should be possible to segment which of these pain exists at each prospect. With that flag in hand, Marketing should be able to sing the same song that Sales is singing for each customer.

    But it takes more than one size fits all email marketing.



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