The need for alignment of sales and marketing is highly dependent on the market

Summary : As companies get larger, it is natural that sales and marketing split. When this happens, they often run into problems as the two become misaligned. Marketing develops products that sales can’t sell, they don’t provide the tools sales needs, and soon duplication starts to occur on both sides. This is because management failed to see the need and degree for alignment. In some cases, these problems never occur. The reason is that it is highly dependent on the market. Markets with rapid rates ... See More

As companies get larger, it is natural that sales and marketing split.  When this happens, they often run into problems as the two become misaligned.  Marketing develops products that sales can’t sell, they don’t provide the tools sales needs, and soon duplication starts to occur on both sides.  This is because management failed to see the need and degree for alignment.  In some cases, these problems never occur.  The reason is that it is highly dependent on the market.  Markets with rapid rates of change and/or high solution orientation need high degrees of alignment.  Commodity markets need none. 

In fact, sales professionals are often commoditized in commodity environments.  Consider Wal-Mart, the sales people there are poles apart from the high value-added sales professionals seen in the Chip Making Equipment industry.  At organizations like Wal-Mart, there is no need to align sales and marketing.  Marketing can make product selection, positioning, and many other decisions without the input of sales.  In fact it would be counterproductive, as sales is at the front of the front lines of business.  They are one-on-one and successful sales professionals in any field are invariably people and relationship-centric.  In contrast, successful marketing people tend to be analytical and numbers-oriented.  A good sales person is bullet proof to rejection and failure.  A good marketing person hates both and becomes very introspective when either happens.  This is why the two groups need to be separate in the first place.

The market for Chip Making Equipment undergoes rapid change and it is very solution-oriented.  There are few customers, they need high levels of support, they have high NIH factors, and their purchasing arms openly discourage any form of relationship building at all levels except themselves.  Successful sales people are as well suited for this environment as penguins are for survival in the coldest environment on earth.  Penguins not only survive in this environment, they breed in it.  Without good relationships with the Chip Maker, the doors will never be open enough for marketing to figure out what products need to be developed.  If sales and marketing are not closely aligned in this environment, they drop the egg where it freezes on the ice.  SVG made this mistake in the eighties with its development efforts to enter the vertical furnace market.  They had to buy Thermco to recover.  Applied Materials was a master at this, which directly resulted in its success in the eighties and nineties.

By G Dan Hutcheson

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