Traditional Sales and Marketing Roles are Blurring

Reposted in full version from www.salesjournal.com blog as guest columnist

I can hear the collective groan from the Sales Journal readership, but social media is blurring the traditional lines. Sales now needs to be concerned with participating in linked-in groups, answering linked questions, participating in community forums, reading blogs, sharing tweets on twitter, sharing photos, Facebook, etc. along with their traditional lead generation activities. Sales organizations now have to worry about broadcast messaging to communicate the product value proposition and greater educations across a wide audience.

Marketing now has to focus on the 1:1 relationship whether out on the social networks or in the corporate community/website. Marketing now gets measured on lead productivity, the value of discussion versus broadcasting, and the effectiveness of their ability to assist the sales pipeline. This is far more intimate and front-line than many marketers have been traditionally involved. Additionally, the marketing organization has to worry about the specific prospect’s motivation and the customer experience.

Social media changes the rules as the relationship dynamics are more fluid because the buyer behavior is changing. The 1:1 conversation can now happen in a public forum or be forwarded (re-tweeted) to a broad audience. Customers are also doing buying research on social networks and blogs.

In the last few years, this research has gone from search engines towards social search where they value the recommendations from participants over the traditional advertising messages from marketing. Also, they buyers are doing their research prior to engagement with vendors. If you are not in their research, you are not on their short list. This means that you have to do education prior to engagement; which is the definition of evangelism.

This is causing a considerable amount of disruption in the market and within companies. You can see the whole emotional spectrum played out; fear, skepticism, frustration, doubt, distain, and even elation. Marketing is being held more accountable for results and Sales is being held to a higher standard for managing communications.

I see this as the natural evolution. Customers don’t want to be “sold”, they want “to buy”. That means they want education earlier in the sales process; which means you need to adjust the way you support their buying process. Hence, the shift in roles between sales and marketing to align more along stages of evangelism versus functional silos. Sales and marketing should be held accountable to the same results if they are working on the same objectives. The roles will be more fluid, but the expertise is still there and can be very synergistic if leveraged correctly.

Three Areas for Thought

On the People front, you need to assess how your sales and marketing organizations are aligned. Are they designed to optimize the business or the customer experience?

On the Process front, you need to rethink your approach to branding and content development to empower Sales to have the 1:Many conversations. Can you create component messages that can be tracked and measured?

On the Technology front, do you have the right tools to support the 1:1 and 1:Many conversations across social media, manage the library of corporate IP & marketing content, and manage the lead conversion from the social environments?

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