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GE’s Path to Marketing and Sales Alignment

 

As Vice President of Commercial & Digital Thread at GE, I lead our sales function and drive the digital transformation of our sales force. Lately, we are focusing on one of the biggest challenges (and one of the largest opportunities) for many organizations: the alignment between sales and marketing.

For GE, this alignment is important because the company is undergoing a transformation from an industrial company to a digital industrial company. We recognize that in order to sell digital, we have to be more digitally connected. We've made progress in our sales and marketing alignment, but we still have more work to do. Here, I’ll share some of what we’ve learned at GE on our journey.

Take direction from marketing.

I see marketing as the brains of any organization. Marketing knows where the sales team should hunt, and it knows how to find the biggest profit pools and opportunities. Marketing can see what’s around the corner, and quickly develop new ideas, technologies, and business models to drive rapid growth. Marketing is like a navigation app: they have access to data and insights that can help determine if sales should turn right and call on Customer A, or turn left and call on Customer B. One of the challenges for a sales team is being able to take advantage of all the marketing data in an effective way.

A recent example of a great partnership between sales and marketing is our new healthcare hub, RevealApp, that was developed in our healthcare business unit. We were able to take the install base data that marketing had collected over many years and put it in a digital format that was easy for reps to use and understand.

Now, anyone selling healthcare equipment can use this app to help guide how they prioritize opportunities. In just a few swipes, a rep can learn that she doesn’t need to sell to the hospital down the road that installed GE equipment last year. Instead, she should call another hospital, because they use a competitor’s equipment that is 20 years old. Apps like this are valuable because they can point the sales team in the right direction to drive growth and build out the pipeline — but this app couldn’t be built without collaborating with marketing.

Create more trust.

When I think about how marketing can enable growth, there’s still a hurdle for sales to overcome: Sales and marketing must work together to create more trust. GE Power is a good example of what is achievable. GE Power’s marketing organization did a great job of collecting information about customers exploring the website for one of our distributive power solutions. We recently had a sales professional who was surprised that one of their customers was interested in a particular product. It wasn't until the marketing team showed him the data and said, “We're collecting information about your customer interacting with our website… and based on the history, we are creating a ‘digital fingerprint’ of this customer. We encourage you to go and speak to them about this new product because the data shows they are interested.”

When the sales professional did engage with the customer, he quickly closed an $8 million order. Granted this is small for the size of GE’s typical deals, but it’s $8 million more than we had yesterday. It’s this type of story that demonstrates the importance of trusting marketing if sales wants to win more deals.

Get “smarketing.”

As sales and marketing work together more, I can see them blending and evolving into “smarketing.” This is the future. To capture your customer’s attention and earn a role as a trusted advisor, sales must be able to deliver unique, fresh insights into customers on an ongoing basis. It must be curated and personalized to meet the customer's individual needs. To be successful in the new Age of the Customer, companies need to be just as intelligent as their marketing team about new digital trends and innovations, and marry this with their sales team’s deep understanding of how customers operate. As a sales professional, your job is to be a digitally savvy and masterful storyteller, knowing how your customers make money, and translating how your solutions can help them make more.

Marketing is like a navigation app: they have access to data and insights that can help determine if sales should turn right and call on Customer A, or turn left and call on Customer B.”

Cate Gutowski | VP of Commercial & Digital Thread, GE

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