Establishing Sales and Marketing Alignment

What can you do to foster greater collaboration and shared focus between your organization’s sales and marketing teams? Constellation Brands’ Chief Commercial Officer, Bruce Jacobson, shares some winning strategies with Axiom Consulting Partners’ President, Garrett Sheridan.

Garrett Sheridan: Bruce, one of the things that many CEOs ask us to do is to try to better align their sales and marketing organizations. Sometimes it is challenging because they are competing, or at least in their minds they’re competing, for the same resources. What do you do to foster greater collaboration and shared focus on growth among sales and marketing?

Bruce Jacobson: There’s no question that is one of the keys to our success over the last 10 years. It used to be that I would, as the head of sales at the time, go to the national sales meeting to see what the marketing team was doing. It was not coordinated at all. In the last 10 years, we have really developed a planning process that brings the sales and marketing teams together. The core of that being successful is that we are all aligned with exactly what we need to get done. So we don’t worry yet about what tool gets us there, but we all know what our volume and revenue and profit numbers are, and we use that as kind of the alignment of the organization. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a TV ad that helps Corona or Modelo grow, or a new salesperson in a particular geographic area. We know that we have got to have a mix of all of those things and that ultimately the only measure of success is the success that we have versus our business plan and its expectation.

It also helps that we have a CMO that says sales volume is the measure of success. It is not about winning awards in the marketing world. It is about hitting the plan and making sure that we are maximizing the potential of the brand. So it really helps that the teams work really well together. I will tell you, though, those are some really difficult days. You get together with the sales and marketing teams and it’s like a bunch of siblings getting together to have a conversation about the resources. And it is such a strong relationship between sales and marketing that there is a deeply seated trust in the two organizations that we know are both working for exactly the same thing. That doesn’t make it easy to do, but it absolutely has a manageable level of conflict and we get to the very best conclusion that we possibly can. So I give a lot of credit to the team (for) having a thick skin to be able to say ‘This isn’t personal. This is about the business and we know that we are all there to make the same things ultimately come.’

GS: Having worked with you, I know that as business you believe in having fun. And I remember a time—and I’m going to have to attest whether this is true or not—where when you would allocate a sales goal you would give the guys some boxing gloves and some shorts and tell them to come back with the number.

BJ: Yes, that is exactly what we did. And we actually gave it a name. We called it Thunderdome, which I believe is a Mad Max movie if I remember correctly. And we would put the business unit VPs in a room, tell them what our total number was, and then we would let them decide how you divide up. So this group, much like siblings, had a lot of trust in each other. That didn’t mean that they wouldn’t try to get the best number they possibly could for their business unit, but I was there as the referee—and the first time we did this I actually wore a referee shirt—and helped them to understand that it didn’t matter if their business unit was successful if the total company was not. So we had to have the right allocation of the plan, not just a simple, easy allocation for their particular business unit. It evolved over the course of time and got to the point now where we are better at doing that from a big data that standpoint and we can walk into the room—we don’t call into Thunderdome anymore and it is a mild version of that at this point in time—but we can walk back into the room with very clearly allocated volume opportunities and make minor adjustments at that point in time.

GS: I remember that Bill Hackett said to me at one point in time, ‘We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we take our business very seriously.’ What kinds of things do you do to maintain that in the culture and how important is it to you as a leader?

BJ: The big thing about not taking ourselves too seriously, but taking the business seriously, starts with accountability for the business. When you have the business unit VPs or a general manager as part of dividing the plan up or setting what the plan is going to be, with the sales and marketing teams working together, you have their buy-in. And it is probably cliché, but you are supposed to argue behind the close doors and hold hands and lock arms when you walk out. And that is literally what this team does. We don’t all win every single time. We don’t feel like any side is the dominant player, and it works for us because we have that accountability in the system. And right after we have one of those meetings, we always have a dinner that night and talk about what is going on. The business unit VPs try to get money out of the brand managers because they are the ones with all of the money. So they do that, but it is done in a way that comes from a basis of trust. And when we have found over the course of time is that when we have a player either from the business unit side on the business side from sales or on the marketing side that does not come into it with that kind of trust, they kind of tend to weed themselves out over the course of time. They realize that they are not the right fit and they move on. That’s been very healthy in building a really strong team for us.


Other videos in this series:

Growth Through Data and Customer Insights

Creating a Distinctive EVP

Meeting Challenges to Drive Growth

Facing Competitive Threats: Constellation Brands and the Craft Beer Industry

Great Brands = Great People: Keys to Effective Talent Development

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