Bridging Marketing & Sales

One of the biggest challenges many of our clients seem to face is trying to bridge the gap between intelligent, data-supported marketing initiatives and customer-focused sales solutions. Or, in other words – getting Sales and Marketing teams to work as one.

I recall well as a young Account Manager at Dairy Crest the sense of superiority fuelled by a perceived greater customer knowledge that exuded from our sales team whilst on a totally separate floor (physically and metaphorically) of our Head Office in Surbiton our Marketing team plotted strategies and tactics for our brands like Cathedral City and Clover in enforced isolation. Very rarely would a marketer risk running the gauntlet of the sales office and even more rarely would the sales team adopt any of the marketing recommendations as intended.

This didn’t seem to make sense to me then and amazes me now that nearly 20 years on whilst the courtesies may have improved, the root problem not only persists but seems to be getting worse. As we all proceed in this new world of longer trading contracts, JBPs, remote account management and legal constraints around pricing debates the traditional roles of Sales and Marketing need to adapt to meet the real challenge of servicing the needs of 15m Millennials who are frankly disengaged by supermarkets and are responding more to out of home food experiences and brands with purpose.

It’s never been a better time to launch a small craft band in the UK, even despite the obvious competition, proliferation of choice in many categories, reduced margins and shelf space. The success a lot of smaller brands are achieving is not simply down to their novel concepts or fresh approach, it also has a lot to do with their entrepreneurship and simplified approach to business.These brands see Marketing and Sales as ONE and start with the consumer and work backwards.

Decisions can be made quickly and efficiently – the consumer purpose is not absented from sales negotiations and marketing strategy is always rooted in commercial reality.

Why is it that businesses in FMCG only combine Sales and Marketing in a structural job description sense when it reaches Director level?

Most successful senior executives have an innate flair in both disciplines and see them as interchangeable in the presenting of a compelling commercial story to a customer. The more that larger manufacturers focus on commercial negotiation skills as the main skill set within customer facing roles the harder it will be to add value to the mix. Dealing up ad hoc support from separate Marketing departments to add that value simply underscores the gap.

It is possible to bind and blend these skills together in a modern entrepreneurial national account manager role that has the autonomy to create long term consumer and category visions for the customer along with fighting the daily fires and taking responsibility for settling the best terms of trade for their company. The more companies that adopt this approach, the easier it will become to attract the much needed young talent into our Industry.

Rob Iles
Managing Director, Visionise

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