How can marketers work more effectively with sales?

18th Aug 2016

As a Chartered Marketer, the definition I have of marketing in my head is: ‘the process of taking your goods and services to market’. That’s a pretty vast definition. It encompasses all elements of market definition, product development, as well as the whole path of customer acquisition, right through to service delivery, and beyond.

A far cry from many a ‘marketing department’ – where most people are focused on acting as the brand identity police, generating brand awareness, and just maybe chucking (barely warm) leads over the fence to a sales team. If the sales team is successful in securing a deal, the customer is then passed on to a customer service team of some kind.

This disconnected structure with wholly separate teams (and therefore wholly separate leadership, goals, and remuneration packages) persists as the default set-up in so many businesses. Whilst it is absolutely true that different skills are needed, the physical and psychological separation of the disciplines is hugely wasteful. 

Six key benefits to a closer working relationship between marketing, sales & service…

  1. A complete, consistent and compelling customer journey

This has to be top of the list. From a customer or prospective customer perspective, disjointed disciplines means a disjointed experience of your organisation. We’ve all experienced this as buyers. Perhaps there’s a marketing campaign that’s really quirky, but it’s followed up with a sales meeting in a collar and tie that just doesn’t fit the picture. Or, a caring – softly, softly, tone of voice in early interactions that swiftly changes gear to hard sales when there’s a sniff of you being interested in buying.

  1. Better understanding of your customers

So much powerful insight is lost in the cracks between teams. Marketing teams can build up a powerful picture of a person from their interactions with websites and emails, which simply don’t get presented in a way that’s meaningful in the moment a salesperson needs it. What’s more, those real conversations that sales and service people have every single day (that marketing would pay focus groups thousands for!) are rarely captured and interrogated with the rigour of a qualitative researcher.

  1. Higher quality materials for use at every step

Any marketer worth their salt knows that they best content ideas come from conversations with real people. Those conversations I mentioned above… that sales and service people have every single day: The questions they always get asked. The questions that leave them stumped.  The real way in which peple use the products and services. The problems they have with them. These are things you only get to know when you’re in close contact with real prospects and real customers. Effective content teams regularly download this sort of information from their sales and service teams. The very best, equip and empower their sales teams to create compelling content.

  1. Better performance all the way through

Closer collaboration between marketing and sales, and indeed into service, gets better results from everyone. When you bridge the gaps in customer insight, content creation and follow-up, everybody’s results improve. Marketing teams generate better leads, sales people have more informed conversations, and customers buy & use more.

  1. Sustainable long-term profits

Higher quality leads and sales conversations reduce the temptation to fall into hard sell techniques to hit targets. As well as increased conversions, this also tends to manifest in reduced customer churn. This is a double whammy in terms of profitability and certainty.

  1. Oh, and it’s much more fun!

Sounds good doesn’t it?! That’s because it is. When you bring these teams together, you spark some real creativity. The different perspectives help everyone to see things more clearly and have much more, and much better, ideas.

How do you create closer relationships between marketing and sales?

It needs to start at the top…

Leadership is the key here. I firmly believe that marketing and sales should be under one umbrella with one person ultimately responsible for both. That person needs to oversee the whole customer journey. In an ideal world I would look for someone who has done some real selling at some point in his or her career, but is also marketing qualified.

People need to understand each other’s roles and skills…

This should feed right through to everyone in the teams. I would seat marketing and sales people together, so that they see and hear what is involved in their jobs. I would have marketing people shadow a salesperson for 3 months of their induction. Listening into a proportion of their calls, joining them on sales visits, reviewing sales proposals, etc. Vice versa, I would have sales people attend some basic training in marketing theory, sit in on campaign planning meetings, etc.

Integrated activities need to be planned, measured and rewarded together…

All of these softer techniques should be backed up with more concrete elements. This includes clarity on tasks and relevant metrics that run all the way through the buying journey, on which everyone is measured and rewarded.

How would this work in practice?

If we take the example I’ve worked through in my previous articles of a buying journey where people are invited to a webinar featuring a case study at which there’s a special offer for a product purchase, here’s how it could work collaboratively.

Through joint planning, these are the team roles you could determine:

Marketing and sales

As detailed in my previous article on sales goals, this would output lead metrics across the whole journey. My approach to drive collaboration would be to get the team to set targets for each of these in a joint planning session.

Marketing and sales table

The best way to drive this behaviour through is to reward it. I would have bonuses in place for hitting and exceeding these targets, distributed evenly across the people involved. I would also build in a team reward of some kind, like a fun night out, to celebrate a successful campaign.

Collaboration is not only possible; it’s profitable and fun! In my experience, organisations that succeed in combining the skills and creative energies of their marketing, sales and service teams always out-perform those that don’t.

© Bryony Thomas.

Bryony Thomas is a professional speaker on marketing, the multi-award winning author of ‘Watertight Marketing’, and the founder of the UK’s only directory of quality-assured independent marketing consultants,

Grab your free digital copy of Watertight Marketing here


Replies (4)

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By EJohn Morris
19th Aug 2016 08:21

Bryony, Many thanks for this article, it certainly is refreshing to read and I especially like the inclusion of the Service element which is so often ignored in these discussions.
I have often wondered if the key reason Sales, Service and Marketing are so difficult bring together is because of levels of accountability. If marketing execs remuneration were we more directly linked to the quality of the new business brought in and to the capacity and quality of the service teams to meet the marketing / brand promises then there may also be greater respect and collaboration.
Thanks for opening the debate

John Morris

Thanks (1)
Replying to EJohn Morris:
Bryony Thomas
By Bryony Thomas
25th Aug 2016 08:48

Hi John, thanks for your comments. It irritates me a bit when service gets left out. We all talk so much about being 'customer focused' and then seem to leave customer service out of these discussions. I completely agree on remuneration. I think it's more to do with the time horizons that are rewarded, than on the rewards themselves, I talked about exactly that in this previous article:

Thanks (1)
Peter Strohkorb
By pstrohkorb
23rd Aug 2016 03:50

Hello Bryony,

I agree, our research into 185 B2B organisations shows that an those with close marketing and sales alignment are TWICE AS LIKELY to experience financial growth than those that do not.
Also, if you want to see the Top 7 mistakes that organisations make when trying to align their marketing and sales teams then visit:


Peter Strohkorb
CEO, Author, Speaker

Thanks (1)
Replying to pstrohkorb:
Bryony Thomas
By Bryony Thomas
25th Aug 2016 08:49

Hi Peter, good to have some research to back up the common sense. I wonder how much that would go up in bringing service into the mix too... after all, it is one journey.

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