At most companies, natural tension exists between sales and marketing. That can be a positive as it drives additional value and critical thinking, but the two groups still have to work very collaboratively in general—and particularly to execute a successful product launch. One of the biggest challenges I have seen in launching a med device product (as referenced in my colleague Brian's last post) is when these two groups work in silos or different directions prior to a product launch. The expectation always exists that the two groups will come together to put out the right messages and promotions to the intended audience, but when little collaboration exists, it can lead to poor results and ultimately to counterproductive finger pointing when things don’t go to plan
The biggest culprit in a launch situation tends to stem from a difference in strategy. Marketing wants to go one way, sales the other. Often, this culminates in two areas:
- Product positioning
- Account targeting
Both issues are a matter of perspective.
The sales teams that may have a portfolio of products in their bag are probably working with multiple different marketing groups. Each marketing team has a perspective on its specific product and how to sell it. The marketing team often has unrealistic expectations that the sales team will give full attention to its product, while the sales team knows it has to work across products. This is never truer than right after a product launch, when marketing and leadership are often looking for fast results, but the sales team still has its “day job” to achieve in selling across the portfolio when speaking to a customer. This disagreement in expectations causes tensions and often problems in execution and internally. In these situations, each team can succeed by doing what my mom told me to do when I was a kid and someone made me mad: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Marketing: Determine how your positioning impacts the sales team’s ability to sell a portfolio of products; how does your product complement or contradict other products? Provide that level of value to the sales rep, not just the specs of your product alone.
- Sales: Help the marketing team understand how the portfolio impacts your ability to message and discuss products. Either walk the marketing team through what a customer conversation looks like or, better yet, bring them along to a couple customer meetings!
The second issue, targeting, stems from the clash of new versus existing products. With new products, you nearly always want to go after the competition (instead of cannibalizing your own products). But going after the competition often means entering unfriendly accounts (if they were friendly, you would have already beat the competition, hopefully!). Marketing defaults to going after the biggest opportunity, whereas sales wants to make sure its best customers are happy and get the cool new product. Both groups are right, so the question is, how do you compromise in getting the right targets?
The companies I’ve seen conquer this challenge best almost do a fantasy-football-style draft to get the right customers. Start picking the right customers for the right reasons. In each territory, choose your top accounts that are competitive and friendly. Pick targets from each bucket based on their value one by one until you hit capacity of your sales rep.
It’s in the compromises and connectivity between sales and marketing that the best launches succeed. This isn’t something that can be created on the spot, but needs to be nurtured by leadership from the start. These concepts can be leveraged throughout the lifecycle of a product, but are often very pronounced at the time of launch. For your next product launch change your launch formula
From “Sales vs. Marketing = Launch Trouble”
To “Sales + Marketing = Launch Success”!