The marketing evangelist & visionary, Philip Kotler had once declared "The aim of selling is to satisfy a customer need and the aim of marketing is to figure out this need”. There are umpteen examples in the business world to validate this nugget of wisdom that when sales and marketing collaborate and are in sync, they jointly end up creating an unparalleled customer experience. Let us take a look and learn from one of the most encouraging sales and marketing alignment stories.

Case study - IBM Channel Enablement – Bringing Sales and Marketing through a unified functional platform

Back in 2005, sales and marketing functioned independently in IBM as stated by the senior executive Anil Menon and Dan Pelino. The business suffered owing to a great disconnect between the two functions leading to longer sales cycles and higher market-entry costs. This led the executive team to conduct a study to bring together best practices that would enable a fruitful alignment between the two seemingly disjoint business functions.

The resultant study led to an understanding of the problem areas such as:

• Different companies involve their marketing teams in the different stages of a product’s life cycle, and this can wreak havoc on the sales and marketing collaborative strategy.

• There are two distinct causes of friction between sales and marketing, and they border primarily around cultural and economic factors.

• The cultural aspect resulted from the fact that both the sales and marketing professionals directed their energies towards different causes. For sales, anything that mattered was closing sales. For marketing function, building relationships and creating a competitive advantage in the market was more important.

• The economic aspect was the basis of the budget allocated to each team within the organization. The marketing team directed their money towards the development of a product, it's pricing and promotion. In contrast to this, the sales preferred lowering the product price to be able to sell it to an increasing number of people. In terms of product promotions, the friction widened. While marketing prioritized generating product awareness, the sales team, in contrast, wanted to dedicate the budget to expand the sales team.

The solution and Learning

Based on the learnings, the executive team of IBM launched a separate function that was known as the Channel Enablement, thus integrating the sales and marketing function. This provided both the teams to have clear communication and common goals. The aim was to accomplish the following.

• Enable the sales team to understand the role played by the marketing team in the entire process of demand generation.

• Enable both sales and marketing teams to understand that every successful organization must be a marketing and sales-driven organization and not just a sales-driven organization.

• Popularize the approach that every marketing operation must be developed from the sales enablement perspective.

For any sales and marketing professional today, these insights are supercritical. Enhanced domain and cross-functional domain knowledge enables professionals to align their and the team's actions with organizational goals. While many of the functional learnings happen on-job, the concepts need to be there in place through academic endeavours. Executives can explore the much-acclaimed Executive Programme in Sales & Marketing offered by IIM Calcutta in partnership with Hughes education. This executive programme aims to equip professionals with a thorough understanding of sales and marketing frameworks and concepts along with fundamentals of channel design and development.