An interim CEO, CMO or CSO charged with transforming a company’s revenue performance is going to assess how well aligned the marketing and sales functions are to each other and to the market. Misalignment between Sales and Marketing is a common cause of under-performance and inefficiency, after all.
Identifying that misalignment exists within the organization is relatively easy and even can be measured via an Alignment Index . However, solving the problem long term has proven very difficult. An interim executive with revenue responsibility is likely on point to “fix it” and fix it quick.
The results of a poll on this topic are enlightening even though the poll is not statistically representative. Responses in the poll suggest that the lack of B2B marketing skills within the Marketing department are the leading obstacle to achieving long-lasting alignment with Sales.
The poll asked the question, “What is the biggest obstacle to successfully aligning Marketing and Sales long term?” The choices given are:
- Culture–lack of commitment and trust
- Technology–lack of CRM, etc.
- Process–lack of a shared action plan
- Funnel–lack of funnel definitions, roles
- Skills–lack of the right skills in Marketing
Lack of the right skills within the Marketing organization has received 50% of the responses thus far. Lack of commitment and trust within Marketing and Sales is second most popular choice having been selected by 35% of the respondents. Lack of agreement to funnel stage definitions and roles is third most common obstacle to alignment with 14% of respondents.
My experience as consultant and interim executive in scores of B2B companies over past nine years validates this finding. The talented, eager, creative people in Marketing lack critical know-how to be strong strategic and tactical partners with Sales. The type of B2B marketing skills necessary for success in today’s companies are not taught in most Universities.
The required skills and best practices don’t always come to Marketers from years on the job if careers are spent in unsophisticated companies without strong marketing leadership.
The poll results suggest that companies wishing to align Marketing and Sales are smart to first invest in black-belt level of B2B marketing training for their Marketing teams.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“Leadership On Demand . . .” is a book I co-authored with Paul Travis in 2008 and today it still stands as the preeminent guide for how to effectively use interim executives. The book’s content can be viewed here:
With all the uncertainty that persists in the U.S. business environment companies remain loath to add full-time employees (FTE), especially in marketing and sales. Unfortunately, staff levels in these two departments are still at all-time lows following the cut-backs of 2008 and 2009.
For CEO’s one answer to generating revenue, capturing market share, keeping overhead in check, and remaining highly nimble is the smart use of interim managers in marketing and sales.
On the other side of the coin, for seasoned marketing or sales veterans with solid credentials who find themselves “in transition”, starting a new career as an interim executive just might be the right move.
Our book, “Leadership On Demand” is a good reference. I invite you to check it out.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
With my conservative-realist hat squarely placed upon my shaved head I ask you to consider that the economic environment we are seeing today (August 2009), specifically the unemployment rate, is what we’re going to see for many, many months to come.
I’m not going to be misled by politicians telling me just prior to 2010 elections that the days of milk and honey have returned. I know that the shaking we feel beneath our feet isn’t an earthquake; it is the vibration from countless business plans going through the shredder. There is fear and uncertainty in the land, but we must move forward even if on a different path with a different view of our business model.
Our economic world has changed–big time. I’m not an economist so I can’t and won’t talk about what the change means. I just know the business environment in which I need to succeed and help my clients succeed is very different from the one I was operating in prior to 2009.
What does this mean if you are a CEO or a marketing executive?
I believe that companies are going to be more and more reluctant to hire permanent marketers. Instead, companies will look to fill their needs on demand. They’ll augment skeleton marketing departments with interim and contract talent as they need it.
There is too much uncertainty in the land to confidently invest in a strong and capable marketing department. There is too much volatility in the marketing programs budget to justify a fully staffed marketing department. Better to keep fixed labor costs to a minimum and bring in the rock star interims for a few months as needed. No long-term commitments, no health insurance concerns, just the perfect skills and knowledge applied to the opportunity or problem for a season.
In past years, in a different economic climate, a high percentage of executives in the U.S. would scoff at the idea of relying on interim talent in marketing. Those same executives have no choice now but to seriously consider the interim option. They can’t stop marketing or else their companies will fall prey to the competition. However, they should think twice before burdening the operating budge with a fully-staffed, permanent marketing department.
Here are two sobering stats from The Financial Forecast Center.
They forecast the U-3 unemployment rate in the U.S. to be 11% in February 2010. (A group of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal estimated the unemployment rate for December 2010 will be 9.5%.) We’re looking at 10% unemployment for at least the next 16 months, if you wish to belief these sources.
The other sobering forecast is the GDP. The Financial Forecast Center shows the GDP improving from -3.8% in June 2009 to zero GDP growth in February 2010. I like seeing the numbers heading north, but we can’t expect much, if any, growth for the foreseeable future.
Low growth GDP and 10% unemployment is the new business environment for the U.S.
Those who adapt to the new reality will succeed. Those who manage with an eye in the rearview mirror will stumble.
Let me know directly if you’d like to discuss what an interim marketing solution might look like for your organization. To learn more about interim management within the marketing and sales function check out my book, “Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue.” It’s also available through Amazon and other online book resellers in paperback and eBook formats.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
As an interim marketing executive I consider myself a part of the revenue-generation team of my clients. In this role, together with the sales executive, I frequently have conversations with the company CFO about the sales forecast and resource requirements within the marketing and sales departments.
I’ve found that in companies where a sophisticated revenue funnel is in use for planning and performance management, and the CFO is very familiar with the model and its metrics, these conversations about forecast and resources are shorter, smarter, and frankly, less contentious.
On the other hand, in companies where a sophisticated funnel model is not in use and the CFO is not privy to the metrics and assumptions that drive the model . . . well, let’s just say the meetings aren’t much fun.
The revenue funnel isn’t the sole domain of sales or marketing. CFO’s should be as familiar with their company’s funnel structure and metrics as any sales executive or marketing executive. Here’s why.
- Funnel modeling tools provide the best way for marketing, finance, and sales to talk the same language during planning and reporting.
- The variables of the funnel make up the actual metrics of the revenue engine. These variables are the levers and dials over which management has control.
- The funnel, over time, enables the sales forecast to be made with higher and higher degrees of accuracy.
- Requests for more resources from Marketing and Sales can in part be justified or refused based on funnel economics
CFO’s should be trained in the use of sophisticated funnel modeling tools right along side their marketing and sales colleagues.
An excellent source of this training is the FunnelAcademy(tm), which includes comprehensive training on sizing a funnel and measuring progress. It also includes the most robust funnel modeling tool I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I heard it again yesterday. A person mentioned that companies who are in a “crisis” or in a “turnaround” situation should consider interim management in operations, finance, sales, or marketing. That is a true statement, but the majority of interim engagements are not in troubled companies.
Just because a company brings in an interim manager it isn’t a sign the company is in trouble.
Most interim marketing and sales executives, for instance, are engaged by a company to address one or more of these situations:
- Revenue growth has flat-lined, or is in decline. What worked in the past isn’t working now and the management team needs objective insight, new energy and different skill sets for a season to help them point the growth curve in the right direction again.
- There’s a temporary gap in leadership, gap in skill set, or gap in bandwidth that has an unacceptably high opportunity cost associated with the gap.
There should be no scarlet letter associated with the hiring of an on-demand leader. It simply means the company is very smart about how it allocates its resources.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Do you suspect that the marketing function at your company is not doing enough to help grow revenue and move the company forward? If these thoughts are in your mind don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. There exists in many B2B companies a “marketing malaise” that is a drag on company performance.
Much can be done in 3-4 months to transform the marketing function into a finely tuned and inspired machine.
I give an overview of my approach in a Flash presentation called, “Transforming the Marketing Function in B2B Companies: The Road to World-Class Performance”. View the presentation. No registration required.
Please share your comments and thoughts on the topics after you’ve seen the presentation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Four new blogs were launched in December that you should check out and add to your RSS feeds. The initial posts indicate that these blogs will be valuable sources of tips for executives–permanent or interim. Plus, as with any blog they also provide a means to comment and link back.
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The Executive Politics Blog
The Executive Marketing Blog
The Executive Sales Blog
The Executive Productivity Blog
One of the things I like about being an interim marketing executive is the variety of assignments I am fortunate to work on each year. Not only do I work with a wide range of companies in different industries, but I’m asked to take on projects as well as interim assignments. In fact during the past few years my project to interim assignment ratio is about 2:1.
It’s not uncommon for an on-demand executive to be involved in an interim gig for one company a few days a week, and run a project for another company that occupies a day or so per week.
For the client the advantages of using an interim leader for certain project work is very clear. Interim executives are very experienced leaders with 20 years or so of duty in the field running sales or marketing organizations. They’ve been building a track record of achievement in the real world for 20 years, not holed up in a business school library.
The on-demand leader that takes on a project is a senior-level person, not a junior associate. He or she will most likely be over-qualified for the task. So what? That means its going to be done right and with a level of insight and objectivity that’s hard to find.
So, for your next important project in marketing or sales that requires some outside assistance, ask an interim manager for a proposal and see how it compares to the usual suspects you ordinarily use.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The newest Manpower employment survey was released on December 9. It revealed that 67% of the companies surveyed planned to hold steady their staff levels in Q1 2009. Caution is in the wind. Most companies are taking a wait and see position and who can blaim them.
For really smart companies this is a great time to sock it to their competition with the help of interim marketing and sales talent, of course.
Taking a “wait and see” attitude doesn’t mean your company should put itself in neutral. It simply means taking a conservative stance in terms of headcount for full time employment. Use interim sales and marketing leadership to help you accomplish those mission-critical initiatives or fill key vacancies for a season. This is an opportune time to gain market share from those competitors who are hiding in their dens afraid the sky is falling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
In light of the global economic chaos smart CEO’s recognize that this is actually an excellent time to assess and tune every aspect of the company’s revenue engine. “Business as usual” just won’t cut it because we’re not facing an “as usual” market. The time is right for an interim executive, the master mechanic of a sputtering revenue engine.
Fresh ideas, complete honesty, and an absence of bias is required to conduct an insightful audit of the company’s revenue engine—the marketing and sales functions that lead to revenue generation.
This is yet another excellent scenario for using interim managers. Frankly, only an outsider can provide the unbiased perspective necessary for an accurate assessment of the inner workings of the revenue engine. Also, only a well-seasoned executive with strategic and tactical or operational experience in marketing and sales has the in-depth experience that an assessment requires.
Here’s what one typical interim engagement might look like if aimed at assessing the effectiveness of a company’s revenue engine and realigning it for achieving 2009 revenue targets. This engagement could be lead by a VP or C-level interim marketing executive with back up from a VP-level interim sales executive (or switch the lead and backup roles).
- Assess characteristics and capabilities of the sales force and channel partners. Define the ideal set of characteristics needed for success over the next 12-18 months and make recommendations how to align the organization accordingly.
- Assess the compensation strategy and plan. Revise as necessary.
- Assess the opportunity pipeline. Just how real is the forecast? Revisit and adjust the opportunity scoring methodology—remember this isn’t business as usual.
- Revisit and assess if the stages of the pipeline are well defined in light of today’s business climate and how your customers are purchasing. Is a CRM system being used properly?
- Evaluate if marketing and sales strategies and tactics and properly aligned to each other and to the pipeline.
- Assess every component of the marketing plan, specifically the positioning strategy and all lead generation activities. Are the right investments being made? Will the marketing activities be sufficient to generate the required leads?
- What metrics are being used to measure marketing and sales? Are these the right metrics or are there others that better indicate contribution to company objectives?
- Conduct an analysis of the competitive landscape. A formal SWOT analysis is good, but at least conduct an analysis of positioning, messaging, and direction. How does the company compare?
- Review all customer satisfaction surveys, or if none exist conduct a survey that includes key question for Net Promoter Score.
- Assess management. Are the right people in key roles within Marketing and Sales? What skills are missing that should be added via training or outsourcing?
No doubt the list could include 20 steps or more. It wouldn’t be difficult to create another list of 10 steps with completely different activities. However, I’ve seen that if these areas are evaluated and tuned to the realities of the marketplace by un-biased, seasoned executives, the company’s revenues will jump.
In this example scenario the two interim executives assigned to the engagement could conduct the assessment and make the majority of changes in about 3 months.
There are three primary benefits to engaging interim managers for this work:
- Unbiased, objective counsel from senior executives.
- They drive the assessment and the action to make necessary changes.
- They are focused on the engagement’s objectives while the existing management team keeps their eyes on the day-to-day operations.
Imagine: A revenue tune-up in 3 months. No loaner car required.
Want to learn more about the effective use of interim management in marketing and sales? Preview the book, Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Managment To Drive RevenueRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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