Reduce Friction to Improve Outcomes


This is the first in a five-part series on strategies to improve sales and marketing program performance.

Is there a living, breathing chief executive out there who doesn’t want revenue growth?  If there is, I haven’t met him or her. Almost all executives are searching for ways to drive top-line revenue, yet research tells us that two thirds of CEOs are dissatisfied with the progress their organizations are making against revenue goals.

So what’s blocking their strategic plans for increasing business? Here’s a hint: It’s not the economy.

The answer, plain and simple, is friction. It’s the single most powerful force that can bring progress to a screeching halt. And from my personal experiences working in and with many organizations, I can assure you that nowhere is friction more prevalent than between sales and marketing.

In this five-part series of posts, I’ll focus on a proven, repeatable process to improve business performance and revenue generation by reducing the friction between sales and marketing in your organization — friction that becomes especially obvious with new marketing campaigns.



Friction Impedes Sales Performance

We all know the story. It’s the end of the quarter and the sales numbers are below target.  The sales team is pointing fingers at marketing because they aren’t bringing in enough qualified leads. Marketing responds by saying sales is at fault because they don’t know how to follow up on a lead.  Does this sound familiar?

At Assured Outcomes, we call this “friction.” Friction can be defined as the resistance of motion of two moving objects or surfaces that touch. Friction is generated by tiny (and some not so tiny) surface imperfections rubbing against each other.

With children, we hear friction in comments like “Mom, he’s on my side,” or, “Dad, she’s looking at me.”  In marriages, it sounds like this: “Honey, did you remember to take the trash out?” or, “Turn down the volume on the ball game, please.”

In the sales and marketing environment, these friction points become obvious when:

  • Marketing designs and launches a new campaign with little or no sales input
  • A campaign targeted to existing customers is launched without notification or proper training/tools for sales
  • Sales fails to take defined actions, or doesn’t provide timely feedback in the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

As it turns out, the rougher the two surfaces are, the more friction (and heat) there is between them when they come together. The curious thing about friction is that you can’t get anywhere without it, yet it still acts to slow you down as you’re getting there. But by making the opposing surfaces really smooth, you can reduce friction and, in the long run, save energy and improve forward motion.  In sales parlance, that’s called traction.

Collaboration Drives Program Success

Unfortunately, sales and marketing have always encountered resistance with each other, or at least as early as 1960, when Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt wrote his seminal work, Marketing Myopia. His thesis is still true today: For collaboration between sales and marketing to work, an underlying cultural shift needs to take place. Groups need to trust one another in order to find common ground, and use their combined efforts to increase revenue and improve customer relationships. They need to acknowledge their different charters, timeframes, vocabularies and work styles.

And, with change and innovation becoming the new norm, marketers can no longer rely on the “business as usual” mantra.

A recent survey of a cross-section of businesses revealed that demand generation, followed closely by content marketing and sales funnel management, are the most important skills marketers have in their arsenal in terms of contributing to revenue. The creation and execution of a sound demand-generation strategy is the top area of focus for almost all companies.

Instead of focusing only on the top of the funnel and building programs that market to “inquiries” only, today’s business-to-business (B2B) marketers need to know how to engage prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey. They must shift into a “programs approach” to marketing, reduce friction by shaping the buying experience based on changing buying preferences, and ensure sales has the right tools.

Good news! There’s a proven four-step process that organizations can use to reduce friction between sales and marketing and improve cross-functional interaction and coordination across and within departments. I’ll reveal Step One in the second post in this series: “Align Sales and Marketing Leadership to Reduce Friction.”

Posted by Louise Goodman on 19-09-2012 in Frictionless sales and marketing, Leadership, Marketing, Sales