Is this the way your company operates?  Are Marketing, Sales, and Service singing from the same sheet of music?  Do the three groups make great music together or do you come across like nails scraping on a chalkboard?Is this the way your company operates?  Are Marketing, Sales, and Service singing from the same sheet of music?  Do the three groups make great music together or do you come across like nails scraping on a chalkboard?

Back in the day, this is the way most businesses worked:

The Marketing, Sales, and Service teams were always finger pointing at each other.  And they had a well-rehearsed list of complaints.  Here are a few:

  • Sales (to Marketing) – We need qualified leads.  We waste all our time chasing people who were “just looking.”
  • Marketing (to Sales) – We sent you 100 qualified leads last month and you sent out two quotes.  Why do we even bother?
  • Sales (to Service) – This month we lost three accounts to a competitor because you could not fix their system.
  • Service (to Sales) – When are you going to stop giving away service?
  • Marketing (to Service) – Your Service contracts are much too expensive.  They are eating into our product margin.
  • Service (to Marketing) – Why can’t I get three hours during the next Sales training session to explain what we do and how to sell our contracts?

For those of you who are still living with this nonsense, my condolences.

How To Fire the Three Stooges

There are two terms that must be managed across the three teams:1 Focus on Customer Outcome2

  1. Metrics and Incentive Compensation
  2. Let’s talk about each in turn.

Focus on Customer Outcomes

No matter what business your customers are in, they all want three outcomes:

  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce cost
  • Minimize risks

Anytime you can show that you deliver one of these three outcomes, you become part of their conversation.  Deliver two of these outcomes and you are the conversation.  Deliver all three outcomes and there is no conversation – just the discussion about moving forward at full speed.

The only way to perform well for your customers (and prospects) is for the three customer-facing organizations to work together.  They must figure out how to create one or all of the desired outcomes, how to then deliver it, how to price it, how to support it and most importantly, how to get your customer to believe that you can actually do what you say.  The Three Stooges will never build the trust and respect that will underpin these types of confidence.  It is truly a team effort.

Metrics and Incentive Compensation

When you start a new project or program, one of the first things to do is decide how you will track progress.  This means deciding on the metrics and setting goals.  When breaking down silos these goals must be shared.  Everyone on the team must know, understand, and embrace the outcomes your business will deliver.

A number of years ago, our company signed an OEM agreement with IBM.  IBM wanted to resell our new product, and we wanted them to do a great job and bring in lots of orders.  I was the Manufacturing Technology Director and was appointed co-leader (with the Hardware Engineering Director) of a project to develop, document, and release this unique product into our Manufacturing process.

We pulled together a cross-functional team from our individual parent departments.  We started each day with a short meeting to get an update on prior day’s progress and individual plans for the current day.  We knew the end date was a little too close for comfort, so my partner and I decided to prepare an unofficial ECO (Engineering Change Order) increasing the number of workdays in a week from five to six and the number of weeks in a month from four to five.  Everyone on the team signed the document and taped it to a wall in our meeting room.  When the IBM representatives came for their first biweekly progress visit, they saw the ECO and changed it before signing – they made the day extend from eight hours to twelve.

Everyone was onboard and we achieved out planned acceptance date!

Today, our team would be on an incentive plan with the promise of receiving a cash bonus if we achieved out goal.  The bonus would have been the same percent of out monthly pay irrespective of our role, responsibility, or pay level.  The bonus would either shrink or grow depending on when we achieve the primary outcome – acceptance of the first production unit by IBM.

You should do the same thing for all Marketing, Sales, and Service people involved with a new sales initiative.  The people will then change from being involved to being committed!  Your project will have the best chance to succeed and your prospects and customers will see a cohesive team that is focused on helping them achieve their business goals.

Time for a high-five!