How can sales teams improve their collaboration with marketing?

15th Aug 2016

“No game plan”

“No strategy”

“A team of individuals”

“No synergy”

You might be thinking that I’m describing the reasons for England’s demise in EURO 2016 but I’m actually describing the relationship that a lot of sales and marketing departments have with each other.

Sales and marketing are a bit like siblings. One minute brother and sister are at each other’s throats, sabotaging their own success because they want to be right. In the next breath they pull together to be so strong that nothing could break that bond.

Sales and marketing, when working well together can take on the world. When they don’t, there is only one loser and that’s your company.

So what do I mean when I say “sales and marketing working well together?”

Well, it ultimately means that the two teams working close together to improve the processes and activity required to acquire new customers and to get existing customers to spend more.

This can include:

  • Generating leads.
  • Qualifying leads.
  • Lead nurturing.
  • Lead capture.
  • Lead scoring.
  • Specific campaigns with sales follow up.
  • Reactivating dormant accounts.
  • Closing sales.
  • Sales follow up.

There are lots of others!

So instead of having a lone wolf mentality sales and marketing should really have lots of interaction together to work out how they can help one another.

From marketing to sales it’s all about opening doors and providing specific intelligence to help the sales force to close more, more often.

From sales to marketing (and it works both ways) it’s about providing any information that they get to help marketing understand the buying process and the journey that your prospects make when making a buying decision. Sales should also provide valuable feedback to marketing on the quality of the leads that they are receiving – i.e are they being qualified enough.

Some common issues and how to fix them…

If I was to sum up in one word what sales and marketing teams need to do to make this dream team it would be this – ALIGNMENT.

It’s a common understand of what things mean, of what the plan is and how it will be measured.

For example, most often than not, when I ask sales and marketing teams independently what their customer acquisition funnel is, I receive two completely different answers. Not only do I receive the wrong stages in different orders but even the descriptions and terminally used for each stage is different as well.

For sales and marketing to work well together there has got to be a common understanding of the stages in the customer acquisition funnel.

This is a massive disconnect. For sales and marketing to work well together there has got to be a common understanding of the stages in the customer acquisition funnel, what the terminology is and the length of time a prospective customer takes to work their way down the funnel.

Does your organisation know what a qualified lead is? This, at times, is an area where sales and marketing butt heads the most.

“But the leads are weak” say Sales.

“The leads aren’t weak, you’re weak” replies Marketing.

Sounds like the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (and it is by the way!) but it’s a conversation being held around the country!

This is why sales and marketing need to get together to work out what a qualified lead is – this is a crucial definition that needs absolutely clarity because it’s like passing the baton in a relay race – it’s the hand over from marketing to sales.

Once again it’s a two-way street. Not only do you need to define what a qualified lead is but feedback needs to flow in both directions as to whether the qualification criteria is correct and if any tweaks are required.

Data – what else!

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

It’s an oldie but a goody and when it comes to sales and marketing alignment it’s critical.

You can’t rely on gut instinct or guesses; instead you need a more scientific method to work out your marketing ROI.

This is the business case for alignment as I mentioned earlier. You need a common understanding and approach and then set up your data systems to capture how well you are doing against that common understanding.

Some organisations have a common understanding but then don’t measure anything and others have no idea what they are doing but measure everything in sight. Both are as bad!

Marketing automation has made life easier when it comes to this but just as with a CRM system they are only as the good as the data you put into them.

Quick wins for sales teams

So you sell for a living. What can you do specifically to improve your relationship with marketing?

Here are five quick tips:

  • Common language & process – as a sales person you are ultimately the one who has to get someone to say “yes”. You should be the one driving for a common sales and marketing process and language that everyone understands and adheres to. Make sure lead this or you will be given it!
  • Share your experiences – provide feedback to marketing with your ideas and experiences. You can share customer insights, qualification criteria, buyer habits and everything in-between.
  • Colocation? – this may be a big ask but the closer you can sit next to marketing the more natural interaction you will have with them on a daily basis.
  • Formal team meetings – take the lead and schedule something in to the diary for formal sales and marketing meetings.
  • Sales representation – if there are marketing meetings then make sure you get a sales representative to attend so they have the heads up of what is coming and so they can input and then feed back to the rest of the sales population.

Is alignment enough?

I mentioned that sales and marketing alignment is critical.

Alignment means that there is a common understanding and that both groups know the “rules of the game”. Alignment means that both parties understand their roles and that there is a common language that is used to described the customer journey.

But is it alignment enough?

Maybe the term “integrated” should be used? This is when both groups become one. Imagine a sales person and a marketer teamed up to work on a specific account together?

Imagine marketers and sales people sharing commission and sitting side by side? Imagine that both groups are completely dependent on one another’s success? (I know this should be the case anyhow but it hardly ever is!)

Maybe integrated is what we should be aiming for? Maybe I am searching for the impossible dream.

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