To be a winner, you can’t forget you are on the same team

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Coach Phil Jackson 

Most manufacturers, especially in the building products industry, are highly competitive. They love to bring in athletes to give the keynote address for their annual sales meetings and customer events. Everyone loves — and can relate to — a good motivational speech about working hard, setting goals, overcoming obstacles to become champions, and setting aside personal ambitions to do what’s best for the team.        

One of the key elements of a team is that it is made up of individuals with a wide range of skills and strengths and weaknesses. The best coaches know how to motivate each player to maximize their potential. The biggest downfall of every team is when one member believes they are more important, or they know better, than the rest of the team. We see it happen in athletics; it also exists, to a much larger degree, in companies. Manufacturing companies are no exception.

Over the past decade, it was relatively easy for most departments in manufacturing companies — particularly the sales and marketing groups — to work together as a team because budgets were small and initiatives were few. Sales and marketing relied on one another, which was nice for a change.

Marketing departments were limited in frequency and breadth of their outreach. The message delivered to the industry was targeted and strategic. On the other hand, there was limited volume within the industry and sales had to be worked for and won. 

Sales teams were looking for the marketing team’s support to plow the ground so they could go in and execute on sales opportunities. Sales teams didn’t have access to all of the sales tools they would have liked, but in many ways, the relationship between marketing and sales worked.

Beginning a new year

As we come off a relatively strong 2017, and begin a new year, marketing budgets are growing and sales are coming a bit easier. Finally, marketing departments have the budgets to pursue all those great ideas that have been sitting on the shelf. Sales teams can enjoy relationship-building activities a little more because sales are clicking with their existing accounts. Things are getting back to ”normal.”

Through my role with Builder Partnerships, I have the privilege of working with some of the most professional sales and marketing people in the industry. The past decade seasoned us, in a way, because those of us who came through it know what bad looks like. Still, there are small signs that the level of coordination between sales and marketing during the downturn has begun to crack. The internal rivalry between sales and marketing groups within the larger team has begun to creep back into organizations. 

As I mentioned, teams are made up of individuals and groups with different skills and expertise. Great teams find a way to coordinate those strengths for the success of the overall team. 

In a manufacturing company, the job of marketing is to evaluate the market through sales data and research to identify the best opportunities for growth, and then to position products to capture those opportunities. The job of sales is to build a plan around the marketing strategy and execute on that plan by communicating the message directly to the customer, while providing feedback from the field into the marketing process. 

Marketing teams need to be creative, open to ideas, and analytical, while sales teams need to be great at building and maintaining the relationships in their markets that provide the avenues for sales growth. The cracks in the coordination of these two groups occur when marketing disregards the input from sales (because they know what is best based on their research) and when sales disregards the input from marketing (because they know best what customers want and need).

Staying sharp

As we start a new year in a residential market that looks to have another couple of years of growth ahead of it, the challenge for managers will be the same as for any athletic coach whose team is playing a season of games they are expected to win. How do you keep your team sharp? 

Are sales objectives set based on historical levels or opportunities within the market? Are marketing and sales coordinated in their efforts? Or does marketing have the green light to throw everything against the wall, overwhelming the sales team with messaging to the point they tune the messages out? Are your team members continuing to strengthen their skills with training and education?

Management, coordination, and process were crucial to most companies that survived the downturn. The same will be true for companies committed to maximizing the opportunities presented by strong market conditions in 2018.