Jerry Blais, Marketing and Sales Executive, Business Leader
Jerry is a Marketing and Sales Leader with extensive experience delivering revenue and profit growth through development and execution of strategic business initiatives. He has proven ability to align Marketing, Sales and Operations to work from a shared strategy and objective. Jerry is known as an empowering and inspiring leader who identifies new growth opportunities and drives people, planning, and process toward realization of maximum potential.
Tell me about the marketing and sales alignment at your most recent role.
Let's take a step back first. When he became VP of Marketing for a $800M single business unit, it was in shambles. There were a lot of things not being done. That’s when they set the goals for marketing and goals set for sales. Creating brand plans, marketing plans, strategic plans. It all starts with a plan. Get that done first.
Tell me about working closely together sales. What does that look like?
He was the VP of Marketing and worked closely with the VP of Sales. They met on a regular basis and understood what each was trying to accomplish because they communicated with each other. What typically happens is marketing has their objectives, sales has their objectives and if those aren’t aligned, marketing has activity and sales has activity but by not working together, it’s just activity, no results. You have the mutual respect when you’re trying to accomplish the same thing that you agreed upon.
Both were executives on the business team and made sure at the executive level they were aligned before making sure their teams were on the same page. Alignment starts at the top - without agreement at the highest level, the alignment will lose focus, buy in and meaning. Remember playing the game 'telephone' as a child? It's like that but with your business and your job.
How were the interactions at the team level?
Brand communication director and brand communication managers reported to Jerry. They were a manufacturer of building products. They had a multitude of brands that went to market through a multitude of channels. A lot of channel conflict so they managed the brand conflict and take to market. They work with a VP or national sales manager for that brand. They would sit down and build a plan for that brand – the marketing and sales plan to deliver on that particular plan and channel. Then it goes down the channel from there.
Were there push backs from any level?
Yes! There will always be push back. Think about the sales person level and how they are compensated. They plan their day based on what they need to meet their objective. And if you aren’t doing something that impacts them, i.e. field sales, they don’t want to be distracted by things that may or may not affect them and their compensation.
Preach to the marketing team, they aren’t just there to make pretty pictures, if it’s not something that leads to one of the key objectives, which would be revenue gain or earnings gain, then they probably shouldn’t be doing it because spending a lot of time doing those things isn’t impacting anyone else and ultimately the end result.
But marketing typically is a little more strategic than sales so you have to think longer term like out a year or two which is another big difference between marketing and sales. Sales is very tactical where they think of ‘what have I done today?’ and marketing needs to be tactical but also very strategic.
How did it work at the individual contributor level and marketing team member level?
Definitely working together. Try to work together with tools, documents. Sales saw that as paperwork. In reality it’s about getting everyone to think through what they are going to accomplish, what their strategy is what their tactics are so they can get it all done and everyone be held accountable for.
They had growth planners all the way down to territory sales manager. They would be involved in those as well as have visibility over that.
Some are 'gunslingers' and going to do their own thing. As long as they are successful it’s OK but if they understand what marketing can do for them, for example be productive for them during their windshield time, they could be that much more successful.
If there’s a senior marketing or sales person on board and they are successful and meeting objectives, you don’t need to try to change them but embrace them and their successes into the group while influencing change in the places you can to maximize the opportunities to exceed goals.
The Personas that you developed, who was responsible for that and how did it work for you?
Marketing took the initiative. A lot of research. A variety of ways to do that. They used secondary data because there is a lot available. Did a lot of primary research and hired a company to do that or himself meeting with sales and customers to get the information without being a survey (conversation vs. asking a series of questions). Do all of that to understand the various customer types then evaluating and matching with the solutions you offer.
Had distributor customers (direct), they have contractors, builders, architect, home owner customers. As the manufacturer they had to support all those customers including others that are smaller groups. The message is going to be different for each of those groups. If you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.
When you transitioned into the role where you were over Marketing and Sales, tell me about that.
It was his dream job. You’re leading both teams but it sounds better than it is especially when there are a lot of layers. But you do have a lot of ability to influence especially if you’ve been in one of their roles. Jerry was one of the sales people so the sales team he now was overseeing was respectful of him because he was in their shoes.
Ideally it’s OK to have someone over marketing and sales as long as there is collaboration and they are working together.
It can be difficult to have one person over both marketing and sales especially in a bigger company. You’ll typically have that person lean toward either marketing or sales. And reason why it’s important to have succession planning. The situation and roles really depends on the company’s needs and size. There is no right answer!
Is there a preference in how marketing and sales alignment should work?
It’s purely situational. You’d think being the leader over both you have more control over both. But he leans toward having someone over both so you don’t find yourself always negotiating, bargaining all the time. If you can get the right people in place, it would be best to have a sales and marketing leader just because it was such a big job.
What would you recommend – one person over both teams or keep separate leaders – first step to move in the direction toward alignment?
It all starts with a plan. The two leaders or executive team has to sit down and identify what your goals are in the organization and what the strategy is to make it happen. Without the plan in place and without everyone on marketing, sales and operations aligned driving it through the organization, it’s a really difficult thing to accomplish. Write it down so you can be more analytical about it and hold each other accountable for it. And it’s easier to communication and share what you’re trying to accomplish.
The alignment and goal setting needs to start early including during budget planning time. When changes are made and not approved until late in the year or even after the beginning of the new fiscal year, by the time it gets to the sales person who already has their month or quarter planned out, it’s going to drastically change what they need to do to work through a price increase, for example (and churn!).
'As a sales person I already have my target but what is marketing doing to help me? If my job is to sell this and marketing is promoting something else, it’s disconnected.' Marketing should be supporting sales not necessarily from a tactical standpoint but from a strategic standpoint and be aligned with the sales efforts and what solutions they are focused on selling.
Where to connect with Jerry online:
Jerry is currently in transition and seeking a Senior Leadership Role in the Cincinnati Ohio area. If you are seeking for someone with his expertise or know someone you can connect Jerry to, please reach out to him via his LinkedIn profile.
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