Better together? The Sales & Marketing Relationship

11 November 2015

How to get sales and marketing to work better together

First there was Sales. Sales put in all the grit and hard work to get customers in the door and money in the bank. Then came Marketing. Marketing used words – oh so many words, and pretty pictures and messages – to get more customers and money in, and help the sales team with the selling – making their job easier.

At least, that’s how they say it all began. These days Sales and Marketing can run hot and cold. Sometimes they bicker as Sales thinks Marketing does the wrong thing. Other times Marketing will moan that Sales waste the opportunities provided; and then still on some rare occasions the pair can run a genius campaign together as the ultimate match.

Depending on which business you’re in, the gripes and differences between Sales and Marketing teams are real. In this two-part we explore some of the key differences between the two functions including reasons why they are better together what can go wrong, and what steps you can employ to help Sales & Marketing teams work better together.

When it’s not working

It’s that case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Miscommunication between these two facets of business can lead to Sales feeling as though Marketing isn’t doing anything helpful. That it’s ineffective. Many larger companies have big marketing budgets, and when results aren’t shared, communicated and realised, then sales managers in particular can feel as though an additional sales execs would bring more value than marketing delivers results! A lack of alignment between sales’ needs and the ‘marketing solution’ can be a real issue here.

Without buy-in from sales teams, a brilliant marketing campaign can stop dead in the water. This can happen in a number of ways. For example if Sales aren’t fully briefed, an influx of calls could be greeted with a bewildered sales team unaware of the appropriate language, messaging and even the promotion itself – giving the customer a poor reflection of the business. Without the guidance and instruction on how Sales can execute the campaign, there is unlikely to be buy-in, and sales execs may put their own spin on the campaign causing the message to be lost. Marketing teams can grow exacerbated with getting Sales to get on board with their strategic vision. Campaigns may be more focused on brand and positioning than selling, and it may be difficult for sales teams to adopt and appreciate objectives outside of pure selling.

Alternatively, complex campaigns that don’t consider the process of sales teams may hinder lead generation efforts. Without clear instructions, Sales can be unsure what to do with the campaign, consider it a waste of time, and continue with their current sales process with the objective to meet KPIs – always their most pressing concern.

How about the benefits?

One of the biggest value-adds of revitalising the relationship between Sales and Marketing is the insight that comes from communication. Sales teams on the front lines are interacting with customers on a daily basis; overcoming the objections and listening to what customers really want. This valuable information can go a long way in marketing efforts with messaging and also positioning.

On the flip side, marketers seek to understand how campaigns can be successful. This communication with sales teams makes it easier to ask what is working, and perhaps what isn’t working as well. Armed with this vital insight, changes can be made to improve marketing efforts.

Additionally a great relationship means that sales teams can ask the all-important question: “how did you hear about us?” This lends to validating marketing’s value and the active role it plays in generating leads. Collaboration lends to a campaign that consistently flows from the first touch-point right down to a sale, proving that efforts are well worth the ROI.

Whose job is it anyway?

This is the big question for Sales & Marketing teams. While it is the marketing team who is essentially running the campaign, Sales are masters of the campaign in action, the execution process and lead generation.

Some organisations seek marketing externally. In this case they bring an identified need such as a new product release to a marketing agency. As part of the campaign and in our experience, it is always vital to consider the sales process as part of the marketing formula. What is the customer journey? Where are the sales touch-points? What materials/messages/incentives/tools do sales teams need to close a sale?

You can instantly see how adopting a more considered approach is likely to garner more sales.

See also: Customer journeys: Discover what 81% of B2Bs are doing

Internal Sales and Marketing teams may have a tougher time joining collaborative forces. Another factor here is time. Each are working on their own objectives i.e. make more sales and get the next campaign out the door!

Savvy marketing and sales managers over the years have learnt the value of cohesion between departments. Without oversimplifying, all it does tend to take is for one or the other to begin asking questions. A marketer could ask: What’s the biggest issue that your team is facing to close a sale?” and “What’s selling well, and where do you think we should focus our efforts?” Sales teams can ask: “What campaigns are in the pipeline for this month? What is the expectation of involvement from my team?” General Managers, and those operating at a higher level of visibility play an integral role in getting the two to talk. Holding a strategic brainstorming sessions between the two departments at the very minimum during annual strategy planning, is a great way to identify how real sales needs can be addressed and executed with marketing solutions.

Unless you have the hearts and minds of sales management, it is very difficult to achieve the kind of results that truly honour the investment into your marketing campaign.

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