Resolving the conflict in B2B

There’s been a long battle between sales and marketing, especially in B2B. People still wonder if sales and marketing can get along or whether the most effective organisations are sales or marketing led.

There seems to be a similarly combative vein running through the way we talk about the relationship with our customers.  The language used (such as wins, losses, hunters, exit strategies) often implies the battlefield rather than the boardroom.
We all know that when B2B sales and marketing departments act as one, it works really well - making a nonsense of any conflict metaphors. Similarly, when sales form real partnerships and build trust with customers, any talk of confrontation is usually hidden by an avalanche of mutually beneficial business.

But I stumbled across an even better perspective. It came from William Ury in his TED talk “The walk from "no" to "yes"” ( I won’t let the irony that the theory came from someone talking about his role in conflict resolution stop me. (Nor will I admit that I only watched it because I thought it was about sales negotiation!)

I’ll let you rely on Google to find out who William Ury is, but his 18 minute talk gave me a completely new perspective on the role of B2B marketing.  In any conflict the usual view is that there are always two sides.  Ury’s key message is that there are in fact three sides – the third being those around the other two sides. It’s when this third side gets involved that things start improving. It is this third side that “brings the other sides to the balcony” where they can get a different outlook on things.

And that is B2B marketing’s role – to bring people to the balcony to get a new perspective. We need to bring sales people along to see that it’s not all about the next commission statement but making sure that those commission statements continue to roll in ad infinitum. And we need to bring customers to the balcony to see that price isn’t the only important factor in a deal.

So B2B marketing is not about being on one side or another, choosing whether to be a sales ally or a customerchampion , but instead it is all about helping everyone to see a better view.

And when all three are looking out on that balcony, the walk to success can really begin for us all.