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Living Case – Sales and Marketing

Category: Core/Special Report

We all know about the drive these days towards return on investment... a concept we have embraced for many years.

One of our core concepts is that if we are to be truly serious and let our performance, security and compensation be measured against this ultimate benchmark, then all of us in the marketing profession have to accept that our spheres of responsibility go well beyond the boundaries that we are used to... in other words, as we addressed in the podcast that featured a customer service breakdown at Dell, we have to see and be prepared to figure out ways to influence the whole value creation and delivery picture which could extend to service, operations, supply or value chain... anyplace where a breakdown if it occurs can negatively impact the results.

Haven’t we all responded to some sort of product offer only to get to a retailer and find that the floor staff is ill prepared to answer questions and the display is down... or we get that one credit card offer that comes at the right time and we are ready to take the bait and call that 1-800 number and are put on hold for 10 minutes with the infamous “your call is so important to us...” message looping endlessly until we simply hang up. In the marketing to win point of view, these “ooops” now overlap into marketing’s domain, whether we like it or not.

Today’s living case takes to one of these hot spots, to a place where few marketers dare or want to tread and where we must go... and that is Sales with a capital S.

Especially in the context of business to business, sales is where the rubber meets the road... and unfortunately all too often marketing and sales, who in a best case should be partners, are separate unconnected silos which face each other with antagonism or worse, outright hostility... which to us is recipe for what we call results minimization. In other words sales and marketing, although sometimes lumped together by senior executives as a curative to make sure these two groups are quote aligned unquote in most cases are a gulf apart and never to meet... a classic lose lose situation if there ever was one... and one that we believe must be remedied in the best interests of the organization and its investors... and that must be remedied if marketing is to work along with sales and fully accept the return on investment measurement as the benchmark of a program’s success.

Is it any wonder that most marketing groups don’t want to accept this head on? Not only is it more comfortable and believe it or not easy to measure what we know... things like leads and response rates... and even awareness, which can really be difficult to track... versus the bottom line that business executives look at.

The case that follows comes from my work as a marketing consultant at Computer Sciences Corporation in the late 90’s.

I was a member of very small, smart and agile high performance team under the leadership of a visionary director that was tasked to secure the #3 slot for CSC’s new e-Business practice that we often categorized as a $9 billion start up. IBM and Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) were #’s 1 & 2 respectively and the #3 position was up for grabs. Through an acquisition, CSC had some Hollywood accounts in this emerging sector, and our goal was to build a corporate sponsored marketing infrastructure to generate leads and support sales.

No problem right? Wrong.

The Sales organization which was organized by industry and practice targeting technology decision makers at Global 2000 companies was up in arms immediately and proclaimed in no uncertain terms... don’t mess with us. Your leads are useless, we don’t want or need your help... just give us some collateral and leave us alone! And if you don’t... you won’t last long. In fact, the only outside components allowed in to the mix was a very capable, high level tele-sales organization that was inserted into the sales cycle to help move it along and paid a percentage if the deal closed.

Sound familiar? Needless to say, we knew that the company which was a 40-year old systems integrator with a specialty in government contracts, was not necessarily up to Internet speed or knowledgeable enough about e-Business to secure engagements against our more entrenched and agile, competitors.

This meant that results, at least at the outset were relegated to leads, but we knew that leads wouldn’t translate into sales in this antagonistic environment and certainly did not mean winning being considered a leading player in e-Business. And by the way, I don’t blame sales for not jumping up and down at the thought of more leads... leads on their own meant more work to pre-screen and qualify and move up the relevance ladder and we found that in the past, so many turned out to be dead ends that cost valuable time and negatively impacted sales results, especially when measured against short term goals. That was it...

Well as it turned out... there was a significant trend that CSC’s management consultants was tracking. It was 1999 and the famous Y2K phase was well underway.... companies were spending $ billions to ensure their technology would survive the new year and the hang over was well underway... with senior business executives questioning, many for the first time, the wisdom of leaving the spending authority with the technology side of the house without business oversight... otherwise know as ROI. Sound familiar? What this meant was that many costly technology engagements were now shifting to the business side of the house and approvals which before were so easy to secure, were stalled.

Now all of a sudden an opportunity... sales were stalled, how could our 3-person corporate sponsored marketing group and visionary director help?

Here is what we came up with... first off, we realized that we needed to build an infrastructure and decided to take role-based versus industry approach. So our target audience became senior business executives of Global 2000 companies... meaning CEO’s and direct reports including business unit presidents, exec VP, and so on. We literally identified 65,000 individuals that met these criteria. Then, utilizing our Hollywood accounts were able to position CSC as the leader in certain e-Business subgroups, which gave us a compelling go to market message that had resonance with a business audience and will be the subject for another living case. And lastly we retooled the tele-sales component, instead of inserting them into the sales cycle as had been done, they agreed to pre-screen our senior executive leads and be compensated based securing appointments with these individuals, so what the sales rep would get was an actual appointment with an e-business-relevant senior business executive at a Global 2000 company or business unit... in many cases with a company they were pitching other business that was it turns out, through the technology side they were accustomed to working in. The impact was dramatic... working with a small, under $ 5 million budget we developed almost 7000 A&B real leads, and almost 1000 high yield, high priority appointments with business decision makers. This translated into almost $1 billion in new e-business revenue and another $1 billion in systems integration engagements which did not count on our ledger sheet. Plus, without upsetting the sales apple cart, reps started to welcome marketing’s support, which was impacting them where it counted, in their pockets.

So indeed, sales and marketing can work together for the common good. And this was built from the bottom up, without the mandate of executive leadership behind the initiative. Imagine what could happen if top down pressure was exerted that was actionable and effective.