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Strategy Fail 1: “Wagging the Dog”

Why do so many companies let their sales organizations define their business strategy? At many companies, it seems as if the attitude is “If it (the new program/campaign) is big and new/scary or different” – despite all evidence to the contrary, “Kill it!”

It’s kind of scary how many times I have seen a poorly run sales team determine a companies go-to-market strategy. Inevitably, it starts with sales crying that they are not being provided the tools to successfully do their jobs, yet when you ask them whether they are using what is being developed by marketing, you discover they are not. And when the “new guy” in sales does use them and find success, the others chalk it up to dumb luck and inexperience.

When the dynamic between sales and marketing is one where the sales team is rejecting marketing support programs outright, without even giving them a chance, there is a significant problem in the organization. It is an even bigger problem when senior management sides with the sales team and sets business strategy based on the wrong headed belief that marketing is not providing useful sales support materials and campaigns. If this happens, the company is leaving itself with a significant competitive disadvantage because marketing should be the organization providing both strategic market insights and perspective that is lacking on the front lines.

Now, I know that there is a long-running enmity between sales and marketing – always has been, and always will be – but in most companies I’ve worked for, the sales team has very little depth of knowledge about the broader marketplace, and often frighteningly little knowledge about their customers’ situations or the business environment they are operating in. They do however, know their “customer” needs very well and manage the relationship.

The good companies recognize this and leverage the strengths of each group – sales and marketing – to maximize their effectiveness.