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Have we nailed the Holy Grail?

How Sales, Marketing and CX will merge into a single function 

The battle between sales and marketing, and the struggle to unite them, has been raging for so long that it almost became the accepted norm. Along came Account-Based Marketing, and stories of harmonious alignment were at the centre of conferences and award ceremonies everywhere. Then came Covid. Now alignment is going next-level. 

So much so that in Marketing Predictions for 2021 and Beyond: Marketing Hits Reset, Gartner is predicting that by 2023, some 25% of organisations will amalgamate Marketing, Sales and Customer Experience into a single function. 

One in four companies, with a fully operational, multidisciplined single function. Within 2 years.  

For sure, no one is denying there’s an urgent need for organisations to work cross-functionally. Gartner confirms that 90% of marketing leaders think this way – while 76% simultaneously admit their independent efforts to work efficiently are impacting their effectiveness. Gartner offers various action points, including sharing insights, using customer journey maps and identifying areas of duplication, but are these just papering over the cracks?  

There’s a world of difference between the understanding that functions should align for the good of the business, and fully amalgamating them into a workable unit in the real world. 

MOI’s SVP Strategy, Julie Wisdom says “2020 definitely has changed how teams work together, but when you talk about a single function with three historically distinct disciplines in play, who leads? Some companies already have marketing report into sales, which when done well puts a powerful commercial lens on everything. Others have sales report into marketing, which means marketing leaders have a financial responsibility but they can look at sales through a lens of ‘what’s the most important thing for our customers?’ In most businesses they are still separate functions working as peers, some definitely more effectively than others. Is this an opportunity for CX as the newcomer to be the great unifier? To truly move us into thinking not just about customer experience, but business experience?” 

But whether the lead role is taken by sales or marketing, it’s quite possible that the same age-old tensions between the two functions would still exist. They might even intensify, given that in either scenario, one function would now officially be subordinate to the other. 

Is there perhaps a more “level” solution where the success of the two functions is incentivised as their ability to co-operate, as opposed to striving for independent goals? Or are we still not fundamentally changing anything that way? And where would the responsibility fall for customer experience? If viewed as a Venn diagram, would the space where the marketing and sales circles overlap be occupied by CX? 

Glenn Landauer, MOI’s VP Customer Experience, had this to say: “Sales and marketing are typically incentivised against different KPIs, ranging from brand to pipeline to deals closed. Some might articulate the individual contributions of sales and marketing as a Venn diagram, but I think it’s best illustrated from the customer’s point of view: as an end-to-end journey.  CX is really the through-line.”  

Most would agree. If an organisational objective is to be customer-focused, then customer experience needs to be considered at every touch point. Glenn goes further: “The whole idea of a ‘CX approach’ is that if you focus on building a great experience for your customers – one that provides value along each step of the journey – your business outcomes will follow. On the flip side, if you focus exclusively on business objectives from the outset, without fair consideration given to the experience, your outcomes will inadvertently suffer. Brands like Nike and Warby Parker have embraced this thinking for a while now, and the results speak for themselves.” 

Some might say that’s all very well in the B2C space. But is it realistic in a B2B environment? Julie responds with a great example from AWS. 

“Historically, AWS didn’t need to market themselves. They were the cloud. Competition crept in, and they now need to be more forthright about their own value. Their strategy was to hire executives from some of their best customers to create an Enterprise Strategy Team – a kind of think tank that to not only solve the challenges customers have today, but to predict business outcomes based on where they can go tomorrow. They are incredible brand stewards for AWS because they understand the value of customer experience – they’ve been through it.” 

Both agree that the examples of B2B organisations focused on the future from a CX perspective are limited, but growing. Glenn concedes “prioritizing the experience above – or at least on par with – business objectives, like revenue and customer LTV, might require a small leap of faith, but the consumer space has proven time and time again that this formula works.” 

Although a great example of a company leading from a CX perspective, the AWS Enterprise Strategy Team aren’t marketing and they aren’t sales, so we still have the question of how all three functions could be organised as one in the new, future-facing B2B organisation. 

How would that work in practice? 

Glenn offers a solution “In a CX-led organisation, sales and marketing shouldn’t be driving independent agendas. Instead, a Head of Sales and a Head of Marketing might report into a Chief Experience Officer, and that CXO would be accountable for the connected, full funnel customer journey.” 

So will the amalgamation of marketing, sales and CX take the form of a single function, led by the Chief Experience Officer? It would certainly make sense to ensure a customer-first approach, where the customer journey is considered as infinite, and where there’s complete consistency from awareness through acquisition, decision, to implementation, advocacy, loyalty, and back to renewed opportunity. Perhaps this is the model more B2B organisations need to adopt to most effectively support sales and marketing, working as two essential elements of one extremely powerful team.  

Julie Wisdom, SVP, Strategy  
Glenn Landauer, VP Customer Experience 

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