This week I have asked an old friend, Orlando Kimber, to write a guest Blog for us.  Orlando is a marketing specialist, and last week he and I were discussing some common dysfunctionalities we come across working with our clients.  It prompted him to put pen to paper so he could organise his thoughts (one of the many reasons for being a blogger!).

When you work as a consultant with many different kinds of companies, you come across all sorts of ideas and structures. Tech companies can be so fast-moving that their wheels drop off at regular intervals, whereas state-owned organizations can make glaciers look hyperactive.

Regardless of their size, style or industry, one feature is almost universally shared amongst sales and marketing teams: confusion about exactly how they’re meant to get from A to B.

Goals – particularly next quarter’s sales target – are often clearly described, but without much of a clue as to how to attain them. It’s the “I’ll shut the bear in the cabin and you can skin him” approach, also known as “I don’t do detail”. Couple this disconnection with ‘stretch goals’ and human nature and the result is a less-than-ideal working environment.

One survey tactfully puts it this way:

87 per cent of sales and marketing teams use negative language to describe one another.

The very few companies with genuinely exciting products or services, ambitious plans, strong management and the confidence of their financiers, have been noble exceptions to this. A good example was Sky Television during the development of both analogue and digital multichannel TV.

Although the management had a conventional structure they described themselves as “a board of one” in deference to the architect of their fortunes, Rupert Murdoch.

Out of my roster of perhaps a 100 clients over 25 years, only five could be said to have been highly focussed and fully functional before I started working with them; but it doesn’t have to be this way…

When invited to collaborate with a global telecoms outfit, I was introduced to the executive team. Jim, the super-confident, well groomed and extrovert sales director said to me “Of course, the biggest obstacle to us getting the sales is the marketing team.” He meant it.

gorillaThe sales team were all regarded – even the women – as the silverback gorillas striding through the forest of open plan desks, whereas the marketing team were the monkeys scurrying about pointlessly, with a scant budget and no autonomy. “It’s because they’ll waste money” said Sunil, the highly educated fast-track MD.

The consequences of this all-too-familiar scenario are a breakdown of trust within teams, so that communication (both inside and outside the organization) becomes almost impossible. People feel isolated and at best they make up their own solutions to problems without reference to anyone else. At the same time, they may have pressure from around the company to contribute to meetings with worryingly important names like ‘product roadmap’ and ‘three-year forecasting’, without a clue as to what they’re talking about, or the real needs of the team. Result? A feeling of inadequacy, desperation and futility! This inevitably leads to people looking for better opportunities elsewhere.

Then something changed at the telecoms company. The board recognized that although they had ridiculously talented and well-equipped players, a killer product and a well known name in the industry, they weren’t getting results. Once we had buy-in at the highest level of the company, we were able to bring both the gorillas and the monkeys together to share ideas on some specific areas of business:

  • The value of the company to prospects
  • How the prospects perceived the company’s products and services
  • How we could use resources in the most effective way
  • How to make clients feel connected to the company
  • How to coordinate and synchronize sales opportunities with brilliant marketing. 

We all recognized that the solutions to these issues spanned way beyond the next quarter, but that they were also vital to doing our job well from day to day. An awareness dawned that we were united in our desire to get it right, believed we could succeed and that the results would be highly beneficial to both the company and ourselves. The result was not only a clear agreement of how to reach the sales targets but also increased confidence, truckloads of trust, good humour and a sense of teamwork.

The perspective had shifted from ‘Me and Them’ to ‘Us’, and that made all the difference.

All the KPI’s and goals in the world won’t unlock great performance. The key is to find a meaning in one’s work that goes beyond the pay packet and includes both clients and colleagues. It’s counter intuitive to have long term strategy workshops when the business wants “Cash Now”, but in my experience that’s what works. Every time.

Orlando Kimber mugshotOrlando Kimber has over 35 years experience as a managing director, consultant and interim, with a particular interest in helping companies make more money, avoid wasting cash and enabling people to have more joy in their work. He’s achieved this with over 100 companies and public services worldwide.  He now offers writing services for business.