Strohkorb's SMARKETING Manifesto

Tony Hughes


'Smarketing' thought leader Peter Strohkorb sounds off on this subject for the ages:

First a caveat: I have nothing against technology. In fact, I am a big fan of it and believe that it has delivered great benefits to humankind. This article is about the WAY that it is often implemented, not about the technology per se, because human nature is such that anything that is imposed on us will initially be resisted, or even become outrightly rejected.

In my opinion, most business technology implementations are conducted the wrong way around, i.e. focusing on the Technology first, not on the People using it.

A common pattern that I have observed is that business executives become excited about what technology vendors are promising from their latest "solutions", be it CRM systems or any other kind of business process automation tool. In my line of work, I have experienced numerous implementations of CRM and sales enablement software, and this is how it all-too-often seems to work out: ?Eager to see the promised business benefits materialize the executive team approves funding and hands the implementation over to the technical team, who then appoints a project manager to coordinate the various project streams. Have you heard the saying that "To a hammer, everything looks like a nail?"

What I have seen is that at that handover point to the implementation team the entire project focus changes, from the broader perspective of delivering business benefits towards mostly just getting the technology installed on time and on budget. The project plan suddenly moves to reflecting milestones and deliverables that largely focus on the technology, while the end users often become a bit of an afterthought. "Oh, we'll give them training." is an often-encountered response.

Why is that wrong? How many sales reps do you know who love filling in forms? I have seen CRMs that demand the sales reps to fill in dozens of fields for each client interaction. Are you surprised that they then balk at this task and that process compliance and technology utilization rates reach nowhere near their projected targets?

Let's face it, sales reps don't view CRM systems as a sales support tool. They see them as a sales management tool, and what's more, one that expects them to give up their personal knowledge and client relationship information. They often feel that giving up this personal information makes them more vulnerable to job loss when their employer organization decides to downsize its sales force. In their minds, filling in CRM data is not only boring, time consuming, taking them away from selling but also reduces their personal job security.

According to Accenture, 85% of technology projects fail to deliver the anticipated business benefits. Is it any wonder? Are you surprised to hear that most CRM implementations take two to three years before they start to deliver the business benefits that the vendor promised would happen in a much shorter time frame?

So, what is the solution? For a start, you don't do what seems to be the standard way that consultants like to work and that many technology projects seem to be implemented. All too often, I have seen consultants and technology experts come into an organization, work predominantly with the executive team and with the IT department on a process and technology solution that is then imposed on the end users with only the barest minimum of consultation. The catch-all that I have witnessed, as far as the end users are concerned, is often just a group email addressed to them with a list of the proposed solution features, and the laconic offer to "Let us know if you disagree with anything."

Are you surprised then that when the new tool is switched on, the end users do not naturally embrace the change, and often outrightly resist the new solution, complaining it does not work the same way, nor better than the old?

I have even seen instances where the design of the new solution was changed at great expense and significant delay AFTER it was first launched, in response to belated end user feedback. As is so often the case, the people at the front line often have the best ideas but they rarely feel empowered to voice them, and only very few are ever asked for their opinion.

My recommended approach is to include those people early and comprehensively who are most immediately impacted by the new process and technology solution, namely the end users. What's more, the very people that help to craft the solution, will be far more likely to embrace it after implementation and they will be far less likely to resist change. So, in my opinion, most business technology implementations are conducted the wrong way around, i.e. focusing on the technology, not on the people using it.

One of my favorite sayings is this: "You can have the latest technology and the most sophisticated processes, but if your people are not with you, then it will all come to nothing."

Why is it then that most business technology implementations, particularly as far as CRMs are concerned, seem to focus on the technology first, and on the people last? So, are most business IT solutions implemented the wrong way around? Are CRMs putting people last? What do you think ?

My team works with Sales and Marketing teams in medium and large B2B organizations. We hear all the time how sales reps complain that Marketing doesn't produce high enough quality sales leads. There are statistics around that, that say that Sales only follows up on about 15% of the leads that Marketing provides. That's 85% of leads being wasted!

Sales says that Marketing doesn't produce "qualified" leads and Marketing says that it isn't their job to "qualify" them; that their job is only to generate enough general interest in their business offerings for prospective customers to just contact Sales. While they are really unqualified leads often Sales refers to them as "Cold Leads" or tire-kickers, rather than a real genuinely interested buyer.

That is the crux right there: Marketing may think that just a name and a phone number are a sales lead, whereas sales reps ideally want a ready purchase order and probably the accompanying payment for the product or service they are selling. Ideally, Marketing people argue, they want to be order takers, not sales people.

The old sales funnel is dying and the Buyers' Journey is upon us, which means that the entire way organizations attract interest and sell things is changing dramatically. Organizations that do not adjust to the new paradigm really risk being left behind only to go the way of the dinosaurs.

My experience, with a lot of different organizations, is that there often is no coordinated effort between Sales and Marketing on how to manage leads. Instead of an agreed, documented and managed lead nurturing program often the initiative is handled solely by Marketing and then imposed on Sales without much collaboration between the two.

This results in sales leads of various quality being simply thrown "over the fence" for the sales people to follow up and then weave their magic. Marketing gloriously acclaims that they have successfully generated X number of leads. While Sales exclaims that they aren't worth their attention.

If the organization doesn't have a mutually agreed plan in place on what constitutes a lead and how to handle them, then the leads will most likely end up wasted with the response from the sales rep something like this: "I called them and they weren't interested," or even worse "I called them and they didn't remember making an inquiry about our product." I believe this is where the "Death of a Lead" happens, because what happens to a lead once it is handed over to a sales rep will demonstrate of how much value it was to start with.

In many organizations the quality of the feedback from Sales to Marketing is either non-existent, very poor or at best rudimentary. What is missing is a structured, measurable and - most importantly - consistent and constructive way for Sales to inform Marketing of what works and what does not.

Once Marketing receives constructive feedback from all Sales reps it can then make informed decisions on how to better support them. So, if we can close the feedback loop between Sales and Marketing we can create what we call a virtuous cycle of collaboration that stops wasting time, money and effort on both sides and allows both teams to live up to their full potential. We call that Sales+Marketing Collaboration, some call it Smarketing.

But no matter what anyone calls it, most would call it Nirvana. And wouldn't it just be a wonderful thing?

Sales and Marketing are two of the most customer-facing functions in any sales organization. As the key revenue-generators they are what a customer gauges the business on and they are the organization's present and future growth engines. So you would think that there can be no higher priority to the senior management team than to ensure these two vital teams work together as effectively as possible in order to present the best possible image to the market and to entice customers to buy from us, rather than from our competitors.

Additionally, there is a whole lot of evidence that closer Sales+Marketing Collaboration lifts Sales Productivity, and I can show you that a lift of just 5% in Sales Productivity can yield a 20% increase in profit. So, Sales+Marketing Collaboration should be a BIG DEAL.

So, what stands in the way of getting Sales and Marketing teams to support each other more effectively ? The following is a collection of high level mistakes that we have compiled for you. Contact us for more detailed information.
Here are seven of the most common mistakes:

1. Ignoring the Problem and Doing Nothing
The worst mistake one can make is to turn a blind eye to problems. Yet, denying that there is a problem, that there is room for improvement, and merely accepting the status quo can magnify issues that would be otherwise manageable. For too many companies, sales and marketing departments are working in their respective silos, blissfully unaware of the need to adapt to the changing world that surrounds them. Too many organizations have taken this path and have suffered for it. How did Kodak miss the digital-camera revolution? How did Canon not see the threat from smartphones with in-built cameras? Show initiative and address the problem.

2. Relying on "Quick Fixes"
The world is increasingly impatient and our attention spans are becoming shorter. Combine that with the short term results outlook in many sales organizations and it is no wonder that when problems arise we look for quick fixes. However, shortcuts rarely work when it comes to sales and marketing collaboration. When sales reps do not make their targets, many organizations try to fix the problem with short-term solutions.

Let's look at some of these quick fixes:

• Provide more sales training
This is a popular panacea but according to the nineteenth-century German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, 87% of new knowledge is forgotten within 30 days. What do you think happens 30 days after sales training?

• Hire more sales reps
The rationale for this popular choice is as follows: if X number of reps bring in Y amount of revenue, more reps will bring in more. However, bringing more reps into a flawed sales and marketing environment will not yield the desired results .

• Generate more sales leads
Surely, this is the way to boosting sales results? Well, it would be if all your sales lead creation and management processes were perfect, if sales and marketing were working harmoniously together to generate, nurture, hand over, close and report on leads perfectly. If that is not the case, why would you want to spend good money creating more leads only to see them dry up and lead nowhere thanks to a flawed process? Stuffing more leads into a flawed sales process will not resolve a sales effectiveness problem. The best thing here is to fix the cause, not the symptom.

3. Having no one responsible for improving Sales+Marketing Collaboration
Sales and marketing obviously need to work together. For such cooperation to be possible, cross-functional processes need to be in place to make sure that both sides are in alignment. Not having a intermediary in place to intermediate between Sales and Marketing is a gross oversight. Get a referee.

4. Neglecting the Human Element
Collaboration is a deeply inter-personal matter, it relies on people doing the right thing. When attempting to foster a cooperative relationship between Sales and Marketing it is important to address the human dimension as a priority. Only then will it be appropriate to move on to HOW each department can support the other, what tools should support them or what joint processes and metrics we should use. People come first.

5. Believing that Technology will deliver a Miracle
I have nothing against technology, as long as it is deployed properly. It seems though that there are vendors out there that offer their latest whizz-bang technology by promising the world. It is pretty obvious that even the most sophisticated technology will remain ineffective if you don't have your people and your business processes aligned first. Technology is good, use it wisely.

6. Trying to implement Change without Executive Support
When change touches on aspects of corporate culture, implementing reforms can be an uphill battle. As laudable as it might be for middle managers or junior staff to attempt to make cultural changes, such optimistic projects are often doomed to failure unless they have executive buy-in. Get the boss involved.

7. Expecting Immediate Results
Too often, we expect overnight results, and sometimes even that's not fast enough. The fact is, any change must be given time to work its way through the system if it is to have any chance at producing the hoped-for results. Hasten wisely.

Now it's your turn, please go check out Peter Strohkorb's acclaimed consultancy: How are you aligning sales and marketing in your organization? How are you solving the age old problems of CRM with proper implementation and enablement? What are your thoughts on Peter's powerful thought-provoking contribution and advice above? Perhaps drop him a line in the comments below if you agree or have a different opinion. He's raised some critical issues that all business people must endeavor to collaboratively resolve in the information age.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at


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