For as long as there has been a separation between sales and marketing, there has been hand-wringing over successfully transitioning leads from marketing to sales. Especially when things are not going well, the hand-wringing is quickly followed by finger-pointing (and sometimes other not-so-nice gestures).
It doesn’t have to be this way! Sales and Marketing are both more effective when they work together. But while it’s easy to see how the two should work together, it’s far from easy to make this the reality. Let’s discuss some of the more common obstacles and powerful ways to bridge the divide.
Having been on both sides of this fence during my career, I understand all too well the obstacles that prevent an integrated approach. But I have also learned along the way that we’re more likely to see success when everyone concentrates on sidestepping the major pitfalls to cooperation.
I started my career embedded with a B2G sales team and I still believe it was the best place for me to get my feet wet because:
1. Selling to government agencies forced me to think externally.
Coming from the private sector, I really had to work to understand our customers’ needs. Because market dynamics among private businesses are so different from market dynamics among government agencies, there was a steep learning curve. I spent a lot of time researching the industry, so that I could understand my customers better.
2. It taught me that the sales process doesn’t happen overnight.
When you first learn the ropes in sales, there’s a lot of talk about human psychology. The “tricks of the trade” are all about learning the right techniques to help you push all the right emotional buttons and close the deal. There’s also a lot of mystique built up around sales phenoms who can “sell sand in the desert” or whatever your preferred euphemism.
I quickly learned to set aside a lot of this conventional wisdom. I learned that sales is more about trust than trickery and that this holds true whether you are selling an aircraft, business software, or laundry detergent. Building trust-based relationships in B2G, B2C, or B2B requires cultivation.
3. I learned that being effective in business takes a team.
Cliche, but true. Not only did our sales team need to cooperate, but we also needed support from finance, pricing, contracts, operations/delivery, and communications/marketing. A successful customer approach requires more than the right technical solution. It also has to be priced correctly, with a mutually beneficial contract, and a solid plan for customer implementation.
Obstacles to Sales and Marketing Integration
Since those early years, I’ve talked with so many colleagues and clients who struggle with implementing an integrated approach to sales and marketing. I’ve noticed a few common patterns as well as a few common solutions.
My observations from the trenches and a few thoughts on what worked to overcome these common obstacles:
1. Silo’d departments.
Sales and marketing too often run on parallel paths. While there may be the occasional shout out across the cavern to make sure the language is consistent, most of the time, corporate marketing messages and tactics seem a world away from the needs of the sales team.
What helps: Share plans and ask for feedback.
While in sales, I spent a lot of time frustrated that my marketing team “didn’t get” what we needed to really sell. The truth was we hadn’t shared what we needed and they hadn’t asked what we were trying to accomplish. We assumed someone else had shared our goals or that they would instinctively know what we needed. They asked specific questions about markets for advertising placements or trade show investments, but not about bigger goals.
Later, when I was leading a marketing team, I spent a lot of time sharing our marketing plan for the year, asking for feedback, and asking “why” to get to the business goals we were trying to accomplish. For example, I would ask, “Why are we going to ABC trade show?” If the answer was, “because that’s what we’ve always done,” that was a red flag to me.
By the way, my team reduced trade show costs by over 30% and improved individual event ROI in 15 months, just by asking this question about every show.
2. Lack of shared goals at the working level.
Generally speaking, leaders have common incentives based on their shared understanding of business success. Generally speaking, leaders do a good job of communicating sales goals too. It’s fairly clear: orders, sales, profit. But communications can break down at the level of aligning marketing and sales to help everyone meet their goals.
What helps: Finding and communicating shared goals.
As a marketing leader, I would sit with our sales team(s) to understand their goals and align my operations and goals to support them. Then, I would communicate those goals to my team. I would also try to draw clear lines from the company’s mission and corporate-wide goals to each individual’s role.
Knowing the tactical goals made it easier to help each other. These goals go beyond sales and marketing alignment to internally communicating key metrics to help keep things real. In addition to keeping everyone on the same page and holding them accountable for their roles, sharing metrics that are reflective of goals, provides an effective way to share progress throughout the year.
3. Lack of trust.
This one is a bit soft and squishy, but those trust-based relationships (see above) are just as important to internal communications as they are to external communications. Marketers often view salespeople as “cowboys” shooting from the hip. Salespeople often view marketers as stuffy “PowerPoint junkies,” who can’t have a conversation without pointing to a chart.
What helps: Getting away from your office/cubicle/desk.
I’ve found that regularly attending already scheduled staff meetings is a great way for both sales and marketing to hear about the “real” work, as well as get a better sense for how to support, engage, and share fresh perspectives. It’s always useful to hear a fresh take on the market, your competition, or other issues facing your industry.
It’s human nature. The more you hear from others about their reasoning and approach to a particular challenge, the more you will begin to trust their judgment. Trust is key to figuring out how to work together.
So, invite a coworker in another department to Get coffee… Go to lunch… Go for a walk. And ask what they’re up to, what their biggest challenges are, and how you might be able to help.
With sales and marketing on the same page, you will see the hand-wringing and the finger-pointing put to rest. It’s challenging to find an integrated approach that works, but the results speak for themselves.
We have the experience, the patience, and the audacity to break down unnecessary barriers to business success at Audacia. If your sales and marketing teams could use some fine-tuning, give us a call. We’re always game to Get coffee… Go to lunch… Or Go for a walk!
Photo credit: rido / 123RF Stock Photo