The Sales and Marketing meeting is a sacred space. Ponder that the most dangerous sales person in your organization just might be the an engineer who understands the dynamics and language of the sales process. So let’s take that a step further.
What if an Engineer ran the next Sales and Marketing meeting?
Industrial Interface, had a great post called Top Ten Things That Annoy Engineers. And while this post is humor from the trenches, the top thing identified as annoying engineers the most was “non-technical marketing decisions/timelines.”
Let’s face it. An Engineer just might be the head of your company, if you are a small to mid-sized business. In larger companies, departments tend to be fiefdoms and job functions remain siloed. The conceptual chasm separating sales and marketing from engineering is right up there with the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You know, where Jones is contemplating crossing the abyss to get to the Holy Grail, and there is no visible bridge across a canyon that drops into the infinite? Remember that scene? Talk about “leap of faith.”
What would happen if an Engineer ran the next Sales and Marketing meeting?
1.The meeting would be efficient.
It would run within the time slot allocated. Perhaps even less time. Which would provide process improvement metrics because the goal -from the engineer’s perspective – might be to accomplish more in less time. On the other hand, the goal – from the sales and marketing perspective – might be to accomplish less while devoting more time to someone’s “great idea” that may not have a straight forward engineering solution in the first place and is being thrust on the table, much to the surprise of the engineers. Nothing like getting blindsided in those Monday morning meetings, is there?
2.The meeting would reach definite conclusions about the topics being addressed.
No room for “maybe” or “let’s table that discussion until next time, when we have more information.” Engineers would demand that sales and marketing folks do their homework before they introduce the subject. The engineers would be annoyed that sales and marketing folks would take up a lot of their engineering time coming up with the questions that should have answers in the first place. Sort of like chasing one’s tail just for show.
3.The meeting would be boring from the sales and marketing perspective, instead of pointless from the engineering perspective.
There would be lengthy discussions at a technical level never traversed by the sales and marketing folks, which effectively shuts them out of the discussion. And while these sales and marketing folks may not be bright enough to be engineers (and then again, perhaps they DO have an engineering background), the sales and marketing folks simply see the same thing from a different perspective than do the engineers. Which, the last time I checked, was the basis of customer-driven design if all voices around the table are speaking in dialogue.
4.The engineers would get up from their side of the table (yes, even a siloed perspective to seat selection) to retreat to their cubicles or offices to attend to what is most important to them: completing their projects.
The sales and marketing folks would stay in the room and continue to discuss what had not been fully fleshed out . They would come up with even more ideas for the next meeting. Perhaps one of the sales and marketing folks would think of an engineer or two they felt they could enlist for assistance in determining the feasibility of the next new project idea. Ah, a Skunkworks in the making!
5.The amount of work the engineers had to accomplish would diminish over time because meetings with the sales and marketing folks did not result in new product or technology development.
Due to the requirements from the Engineer running the sales and marketing meeting, most or all sales and marketing ideas would be shut down when introduced because insufficient information was being presented from which the engineering staff could determine feasibility. As more and more ideas were rejected, the sales and marketing folks would simply shut down and stop being creative and just stick to selling and marketing the status-quo.
6.Sales would drop because the company had no new products or technological advances.
As no new innovation came out of the company, that company’s brand was eroded by competition whose sales and engineering staff worked more collaboratively. As revenue dropped, management began looking for strategies for cost-containment. Since revenue was driven by sales, the company would favor retaining those sales and marketing folks directly responsible for driving revenue. The company would also be looking seriously at retaining senior engineers with the most knowledge and the engineering staff who worked most effectively in a cross-functional manner, namely, with the sales and marketing folks. Just in case those engineers had to be enlisted to serve a sales function as more staff was pruned.
Humor is always appreciated, especially in light of the daunting economic environment which faces us all. The IEEE has yet to post current rates of unemployment for engineers updated from April 2009. However, you know what you are going to read once these data are available.
The days of Engineers are from Mars and Sales and Marketing folks are from Venus is officially over. I addressed this topic in my July 04, 2009 post. Yes, I admit it. I was blogging on July 4th. Organizations that encourage cross-training among their staff, rather than silo-ed approaches to problem solving, are going to be ahead of the curve. Check out my August 21, 2009 Personal Branding post on this topic.
Let’s face it, do you have to wait until your organization prunes its ranks to a place where you have no other recourse but to join forces with the remaining sales and marketing and engineering staff?
This is not a kumbaya approach to the engineering-sales/marketing interface. It’s just realistic.
Where are you planning on sitting at the sales and marketing meeting? Yes, even getting those two disciplines to play nice together is a grand business challenge. So what do you plan on doing to improve this situation, starting today?
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Image source: iStock