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How CEOs Can Use Military Tactics for Marketing-Sales Alignment

20499463_s-196x150This post was originally published on the Salesforce blog on June 25.

During my time as a civilian with the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School, I was exposed to my fair share of military terms and lingo. While learning about the organizational structure and interdepartmental relationships and listening to the stories from the naval officers I was training, I realized the military faces a similar set of challenges that exist in organizations in the civilian world. I would hear all about “putting out fires” when communication broke down between units, and marked tension and masked blame occurred between fleets when things went wrong. Despite the differences in military and civilian careers, both experience organizational frustrations with a common root that can make fragmented silos a challenge to overcome.

The “Silo Mentality,” as defined by the Business Dictionary, is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operations, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.

I have since moved on from training naval officers, but I draw on this experience in a number of ways as a CEO. Take, for example, another branch of the military: the US Army. When the Army plans an operation, every unit is assigned a job and a role to play. Combat troops are out in the field, in need of food, water, and fuel while their support unit holds down the fort and consistently supplies their counterparts with what they need when, where, and how they need it. Combat troops can only go as far as their support takes them, and the support unit can only do their job if combat troops are receptive to their supplies.

In order to overcome the complexity of all the moving pieces in an operation, the Army focuses on painting a “common operating picture.” The concept of a common operating picture is to provide a clear understanding of the overarching view and goal of the operation in order to avoid unnecessary errors. This notion of a common operating picture can be applied in companies today, especially for aligning sales and marketing teams to streamline the sales cycle and break down barrier-ridden silos.

In this analogy, sales reps are the combat troops in a company, the individuals who close in and accomplish the mission — whether this be setting prospect meetings, conducting demos, or closing deals. Marketers are the support troops, the individuals who understand the mission of the sales reps and provide the necessary support for them when, where, and how they need it. This includes creating and distributing relevant sales collateral, generating marketing-qualified leads, and nurturing leads to the point of sales interaction.

Clear lines of communication between these teams are necessary to ensure that feedback is provided. The lead generation system is designed around feedback from sales reps in the field, so marketers are able to allocate their content-creation time efficiently. From the beginning to the end of the sales cycle, both teams must be centered on a common operating picture that guides all sales and marketing efforts to the mission at hand. After all, the mission of both teams is the same: provide an effective, personalized customer experience through 100% of the buyer’s journey.

Knocking down silos and aligning sales and marketing teams enhances the customer experience and ultimately increases win rates. Aligning the functions of sales and marketing teams isn’t easy, but it’s doable, important, and necessary for accomplishing the company’s overall mission of success.

Doug Winter
Doug Winter
Doug Winter is the co-founder and CEO of Seismic. Doug also co-founded Objectiva Software Solutions. Doug served as Chief Operations Officer and general manager at EMC Document Sciences until founding Seismic in 2010. In 2019, Doug was named one of the 10 Best CEOs of Small/Mid-Size Companies in the U.S. by Comparably.