Sales and marketing teams are only effective when they work in harmony
By Jim Lanzalotto
For as long as there have been marketing and sales teams, there have been debates about the roles performed by people who work in them.
There’s the academic perspective. Philip Kotler, the esteemed Northwestern professor, says marketing is the process by which an organization relates creatively, productively and proﬁtably to the marketplace. That’s an interesting perspective, if a little wonky.
A CFO with whom I once worked referred to sales as the people who missed their numbers and marketing as the people who made excuses for them. Cynical, but probably driven by a bad experience.
Fundamentally, marketers work to create buyer demand. Salespeople fulﬁll that demand. Depending on the industry, the role that marketing plays is variable while sales functions stay fairly constant. In the freight transportation world, for example, much of marketing focuses on cost analysis and lane pricing. Consumer products ﬁrms concentrate on distribution and promotion. For coﬀee shops, marketing is all about brand recognition.
In staﬃng, though, it’s a little murkier.
Different Nuances in Staffing
Understanding the unique diﬀerences between marketing and sales in the staﬃng industry starts with comprehending the nuances of a variety of sales channels. Let’s begin with recruiting. In this slice of the staﬃng world, relationships are with consumers, and regardless of what anyone says, recruiting talent is as much a sales role as anything else.
The sales role in staﬃng is cut on several prisms:
- Branch-level sales, in which an account executive works a local territory to build relationships with HR or hiring managers to generate transactional sales.
- Account managers who work with a number of hiring managers at a large customer or two in a local area.
- National account sales teams that hunt the big game — large, multi-location staﬃng or managed services deals — and network with C-level executives as well as HR and procurement leaders.
- Account managers who are responsible for the implementation and care and feeding of those large programs after the sale is made.
The role of marketing and sales — and the diﬀerences between them — changes depending on the prospect’s or customer’s needs and which sales role is in involved.
To understand better the current state of the relationship between sales and marketing in staﬃng, I spent some time with two senior leaders at Staﬀmark, a unit of Recruit Ltd. that delivers staﬃng and managed services to commercial, oﬃce and professional customers from more than 300 locations across the country. While Staﬀmark is certainly a significant player in the industry with major managed services programs, its branch-level operations serve as a proxy for how smaller staﬃng ﬁrms operate as well.
“For us, sales and marketing are a symbiotic and complementary relationship,” says Sally Barrier, vice president of national accounts for Staﬀmark. “Our job is to ﬁnd an opportunity in the market. Once we identify a prospect and build a relationship, we communicate the customer’s needs to the marketing team so we can jointly develop a dynamic, visual and engaging proposal or presentation that communicates our unique message and value proposition to the customer.”
That ability to work with marketing is driven by roles and responsibilities that are well deﬁned in the company. “The most eﬀective companies deﬁne the distinctions for marketing and sales and how they work within the company,” says Andrea Edwards, vice president of marketing and communication for Staﬀmark. “Sales teams that work in conjunction with marketing are the most eﬀective; the best salespeople provide feedback and work cooperatively with marketing to create the best message and to distribute that message to the customer.”
In the managed services space, Staﬀmark’s marketing and sales team work together to bring a creative spin to presentations — in some cases using the prospective customer’s products to deliver the message — to indicate that Staﬀmark understands the customer and that they can work together to achieve their goals. That not only comes from having an innovative marketing group but also from understanding what works with a prospect.
“It’s hard in this industry to create unique oﬀerings and customize an oﬀering to the customer because there are so many cookie-cutter solutions out there,” Barrier says. “I think our way of working together brings things to life for the customer,” Edwards adds. “When sales and marketing work together collaboratively we all deliver a better product to the customer. I’m fortunate that that’s the way that we work together here.”
The same approach works for Staﬀmark in branch-level activities, with the marketing team developing tools to help ﬁeld teams break through the clutter and noise created by a wide range of competition. “Marketing’s job is to get the customer to the door and to come up with speciﬁc solutions for problems. It’s up to the people in the ﬁeld to keep the customer there and to have a conversation based on those solutions,” Edwards says. “We provide the air support to help the ﬁeld build the relationship.”
Staﬀmark is a great example of what can happen when sales and marketing teams are well integrated in both branch and managed services operations. When they’re not, writes Michael Cage in his blog, An Entrepreneur’s Life, “very bad things happen. Sales teams that are not integrated and a function of the marketing strategy are doomed to mind-numbing cold calls and other wastes of time and eﬀort.
“Most big, dumb companies ﬁt squarely into this category.”
Raising Your Profile
Regardless of how sales and marketing teams are integrated, marketers need to build brands in local, regional and national markets that are populated by thousands of competitors and overwhelmed by hundreds of messages every day. Which begs the question: what can a staﬃng marketer do to break through all of that clutter and raise a company’s proﬁle, not to mention their value proposition?
The only way to start is by having a road map in place — one that includes marketing objectives (in synch with business objectives) and strategies and tactics that will help achieve those objectives. Then think small. Because one of the greatest attributes of many marketing programs is that many require a low up-front investment and, other than opportunity cost, are inexpensive to implement and manage. All of them, though, start with someone in the company playing the role of expert on a chosen topic so audiences can associate expertise with a person — not a company.
And with that expertise, a company can then develop content that can resonate with customers throughout their market. For example, let’s say the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., staﬃng market is ripe with opportunity for leadership. A shrewd marketer could gather pay rates and bill rates for the greater Poughkeepsie metropolitan area and generate quarterly content on trends in talent acquisition as well as the cost of bringing on contract consultants. That information can be distributed in face-to-face meetings with buyers, via press releases to pitch the media, local presentations to chambers of commerce or other local business groups and then further distributed via social media and internet channels. In time, this strategy can be applied to burgeoning markets in Schenectady, Elmira and even Binghamton to help build a company’s presence in the critical upstate New York market. And once that reputation is built, selling becomes easier because the marketing team has softened the marketplace and raised the ﬁrm’s proﬁle.
The costs are low. The rewards high. And the long-term value is limitless.
Jim Lanzalotto runs Scanlon.Louis, a strategy and marketing outsourcing firm, and Evalu8, a digital media buying and social networking company. You can follow him at @jimlanzalotto or email him at email@example.com.