Q&A with Gary Carandang on Aligning Sales and Marketing

Gary Carandang is an entrepreneur and senior consultant of Corporate Achievers Institute (COACH). Prior to this, his corporate life includes being VP Commercial of Republic Cement, Key Account Director and Commercial Unit Director of Coca-Cola Femsa, National Sales Trade Director of Mead Johnson, VP Sales of Nestle where he was expatriated in Switzerland for a year and a half. Gary took Advanced Management Program from INSEAD. Armed with these accomplishments, he shares with us his views on the need for aligning sales and marketing.

Q1: What have you observed about sales plan as compared to marketing plans when you were in corporate life?

A1: Marketing Plans tend to be more elaborate and detailed than a Sales Plan. The Marketing Plan is about market segments and consumers and creating strategies to reach these consumers while the Sales Plan is about developing strategies to sell the products to the customers in the chosen channels. The Sales Plan therefore often forms part of the broader marketing strategies which is why the Marketing Plan tends to be more elaborate. There are far more aspects in the development of a Marketing Plan in terms of identifying market and consumer segments, identifying consumer needs, branding, messaging and communication, product offerings, consumer promotions, category strategies, alignment with corporate brand guidelines, etc. as compared to mostly Channel and Customer Plan, Distribution Plan and Trade Marketing Plan for Sales. In the end, the goal is to develop a well-integrated Sales and Marketing Plan in order to win both the consumers and the customers! An Integrated Sales and Marketing Plan will also allow efficiencies in terms of the proper allocation of the advertising and trade spend budgets to the critical sales and marketing activities. I have observed though that this is not the case always!

Q2: How can companies align their sales and marketing plans? What should be in their agenda?

A2: The starting point is always a “collaborative approach” to sales and marketing alignment. Neither group should be adversarial in their approach because in the end they have the same purpose – winning consumers and customers. This is a mindset and behavior that both groups should have.

There are basically 2 ways some companies have applied to integrate sales and marketing alignment – structural and procedural.

Common set up for medium sized and specialized products or services companies (some examples – B2B businesses, specialized pharmaceuticals, Tech businesses) are commercial organizations where there is only one Leader for both Sales and Marketing. This allows the sales and marketing agenda and alignment relatively easier with one Leader overseeing the planning down to execution.

In big and complex FMCG companies for instance, businesses are broken down into Business Units while Sales becoming a “shared service” for all BUs. In some cases, however, a representative from the Trade Marketing Group under Sales (or the Channel and Category Team as coined by some companies) is assigned within the BU to represent the Sales agenda specially in the planning stage.

This is where an integrated planning process (procedural) becomes even more important in terms of alignment and integration and in ensuring that resources (brand, advertising and trade budgets) are allocated appropriately to the critical sales and marketing activities.

Whatever the means are to alignment – structure or process, there has to be a clear and documented sign off of both groups on the plans and that the implementation and results are reviewed together and adjustments are made together as well. This is to keep both groups informed and are given feedback on what is working or not. Having shared KPI also works including the rewards and recognition that goes with it.

As mention before, it is sad to note that I have only observed this is in a few companies! This is a mindset and behavior that needs to be encouraged in order to win in the market place. It is also wise to note that the other functions need to anchor their plans on winning customers. In the company I worked before our CEO has this mantra to say – there are only 2 functions in this company, the one who sells and the one who helps to sell!

Q3: A relatively new function called Trade Marketing has been added by many consumer organizations, how has this contributed to better sales and marketing alignment?

A3: Trade marketing has been regarded as one of the disciplines of Marketing. It translates the Brand and Marketing Strategies into Field Sales Activities and Execution. In most set up now, Trade Marketing belongs to the Sales Department as this group coordinates and translates the marketing strategies into executable tactics and activities for the channels and customers. They are the Sales voice in the Marketing arena. This group also ensures demand creation at channel and customer level through trade and customer programs. They also support the sales efforts in selling the products through. They are the vital link between Consumer activations and programs and Retailer activities and programs. This group is truly the “bridge that links” Sales and Marketing together in winning consumers and customers!

Q4: How different is alignment of sales and marketing in the digital marketplace?

A4: The digital marketplace has made access to consumer and customer information relatively easier (demographics, consumer behaviors and preferences, etc.) and it has also allowed a more targeted approach from consumer messaging and communication all the way through customer acquisition and retention. As they say, the world has become a smaller world to live in. Everything is now accessible through the touch of the fingers. While the digital era has made Sales and Marketing planning and execution a lot better to a certain extent, the concept of alignment and collaboration with Sales and Marketing to my mind becomes even more so important. Why is this so? Given the speed of acquiring information, there is also the danger of the “speed of losing your reputation” in an instant. In the digital marketplace there is very little room for error. What you actually promise is what you should actually deliver. That is why Sales and Marketing collaboration, alignment and integration become even more critical than before! Their plan should be well coordinated and integrated to deliver on that promise to their customers.

Q5: Can you share some pitfalls to avoid in aligning sales and marketing?

A5: Avoid silos! Collaboration, alignment and integration are the key behaviors needed to develop a well-integrated Sales and Marketing Plan. No amount of structures or process will beat that!

I have worked in a company where there is always friction come planning season specially when each group are lobbying for which activities to be approved and in securing the bigger share of the sales and marketing budget. This was a company that has a Consumer and Medical Marketing, a Medical Sales Group and a Trade Sales Group components being in categories that has both medical/ethical segments and consumer segments.  A very smart move was undertaken by our Regional Office. They commissioned a regional study by a 3rd party research firm to understand the factors, levers and degree of influencing consumer to purchase in terms of consumer marketing, medical marketing, doctor recommendation and the point of purchase influence for each of the segments of the categories we play in.

That was a big revelation to us in the Sales and Marketing Team when the study was presented. It required a “wholistic lens” for us to see the “total picture” of the consumers and customers we all wanted to reach, acquire and retain. It has provided the team an integrated framework on how the Sales and Marketing should plan together and develop activities to be prioritized. It has also allowed us to drive efficiencies in terms of maximizing the Sales and Marketing budget to the few and critical sales and marketing activities.

In the end, there is only one goal for Sales and Marketing to keep in mind … that is to win consumers and customers! You can achieve that through an integrated sales and marketing plan.


Josiah Go is the Chairman and Chief Innovation Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. Follow him at www.josiahgo.com

Gary Carandang is chairing the 2nd COACH Leadership and Strategy Conference on February 6, 2020, entitled Leveraging Culture, Diversity, and Technology. For info, Click http://bit.ly/COACHConference2020

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