Here’s a question that all CEOs should ask themselves:
“Are my sales and marketing teams working together as a close-knit unit – or are they, essentially, adversaries?”
Indeed, you may be asking yourself this already – the idea that these key departments should be more co-operative is not, after all, an entirely new concept to most industry executives. However, it seems that even with the best will in the world, there are many organisations that continue to struggle with turning the theory into a working, profitable practice.
Marketing Week agrees, and has some worrying figures to sound the alarm:
“Despite the fact that 80% of businesses recognise the benefits of greater alignment between sales and marketing, most (60%) aren’t unifying their divisions. So says a new report from recruiter Ranstad. However, unification doesn’t mean a full shake-up of departments or a new sales and marketing boss, instead marketers need to find ways to collaborate more closely with their sales colleagues, much as they do with the rest of the business.”
The Wall Of Contention and Confusion
Traditionally, of course, sales and marketing have been entirely separate entities – often working at completely opposite ends of the building (or even, in some cases I’ve seen, in completely different locations altogether). And herein lays the problem.
With legacy operations like this, there is a ‘wall’ dividing the teams – both physically (in some circumstances) and figuratively. This wall not only stands in the way of meaningful working partnerships, but also in the way of basic communications – communications that would enable smoother operations on a professional level, and better colleague relationships on a personal level (which, of course, is where conflict often escalates).
For instance – there is far too often a very fundamental discrepancy between sales and marketing as to what makes a lead “sales-ready”. The guys in marketing have their own definition, but, on the other side of the wall, the sales team have a slightly different point of view on what constitutes a genuine sales opportunity.
So, what happens? Well, marketing gathers up their sales-ready leads (as they define them) and “toss them over the wall” to the sales team, which is then expected to deliver a conversion. Very little useful communication occurs between the teams at this stage, and, as a result, the sales team don’t agree that half of these leads are “sales-ready” at all, and when they fail to close deals, they blame the marketing team.
But of course, the marketing team disputes these allegations, citing that it’s the sales team that is inadequate. Back and forth it goes, both teams banging their heads against the brick wall that separates them, and the continuous conflict carries forward once more at this contentious boundary between marketing and sales.
One Team, One Vision
It is a frustrating scenario, for sure, and unfortunately just one example amongst many that keep sales and marketing at loggerheads.
A quick solution to the above problem would of course be to have a unified definition between sales and marketing teams as to exactly what constitutes a lead as being “sales-ready”. But, even then there are difficulties. No two leads ever are created equal, and what’s good for one is rarely good for another at exactly the same point on the slide down the sales funnel.
So, what to do? How do you, as a concerned CEO, implement processes that can start to align sales and marketing in a much more productive and profitable way?
Well, you will be pleased to know that there are numerous approaches that can be taken to help sales and marketing begin a process of knocking that wall down (whisper it) together.
Let’s consider a few of these, and the beneficial outcomes that will result.
Knocking Down The Wall Together
It’s not difficult to perceive that the main cause of the problems that occur usually boil down to inadequate communications between sales and marketing teams. What I have found in my experience is that there is a general lack of understanding as to what the other team actually does on the other side of the wall, and this disconnect gives rise to assumptions and conflict, which, in the end, is beneficial to no one.
In the process of building one team with one vision, it’s imperative that communication pathways are forged in order that sales may understand better what marketing does, and vice versa. Marketing and sales will always have different skill sets, but that doesn’t mean that one cannot learn from the other.
Indeed, as Thomas Brown, director of strategy and marketing at the Chartered Institute of Marketing puts it:
“Marketing and sales are both key parts of an organisation’s value chain and, much like any chain, remove one link (or have a weak link) and the chain will break.”
Communication and Education
Essentially, two questions need to be asked – one from each team to the other – in order to build better, more profitable and valuable relationships. These are:
- How can marketing help sales close more leads?
- How can sales help marketing generate better leads?
Marketing needs to be able to get a firm grasp on the actual buying process of sales prospects. This will, of course, be different from organisation to organisation, and so in order to adequately educate marketing as to what happens on the sales side of the (slowly crumbling) wall, there are a number of things that can be done.
Here are a few ideas:
- Schedule Monthly Meetings Between Teams: First and foremost, you cannot hope to start building bridges unless organised discussions are facilitated. These meetings need to be regular (I suggest monthly, but a higher frequency may be more beneficial, especially at the start), with agreed topics for discussion and plenty of data that can be presented in order to qualify any disputes that may be smouldering. Informal meet-ups outside of the office should also be encouraged.
- Mix Desks: If it’s possible, then break down the physical wall by mixing desks in the office. If sales and marketing can start working in the same room together, then everyone can see first-hand what everyone else does, how they do it, and how they might alter their own approach to improve the team’s overall performance.
- Have Marketing Listen in On Sales Calls: This is such a simple thing to organise, yet too few organisations practice it. By having members of the marketing team regularly sit in on a few salespeople’s calls, the amount learned by the former can be transformational. By hearing exactly what real customers ask and what the sales team says to them, the marketer can then begin to create new marketing material based directly on these insights. Customer questions can start to be answered before they ever make contact, which helps prospects self-identify what they need earlier, moving them further down the sales funnel faster.
- Have Marketing Read Enquiry Emails Sent to Sales and Services: Customers invariably email sales and service teams with enquiries: “How do I do this?”, “How does this work?” etc. These emails are a great source of content ideas, as well as being an almost critical insight into the behaviours of customers, and the varying roles of sales. By addressing what is learned, marketing can refine its strategies to produce better leads.
These are just four examples of how sales and marketing can start working better together on the path towards one team with one vision. All the ingredients are already there to achieve results. Marketers, by profession and often by nature, are highly analytical, project-focussed and data-oriented individuals. They think in the long-term. By contrast, salespeople work in the here and now, building relationships with customers and closing the deal in front of them. These are your short-term heroes.
Combined, you already have all the characteristics and makings for a highly skilled, results-driven team – both immediately and for the future – that is greater than the sum of its parts. And the key to unlocking this potential is found in making greater efforts to enable communication and collaboration.
We’ve only scratched the surface here of how sales and marketing can combine to become one great team with one vision. To get more from your sales and marketing operations, get in touch with us here at Cope Sales and Marketing today to get the full insight into our solutions and what we can offer you as a company. Please browse our site – www.cope-salesandmarketing.com – and use our Contact Page to reach out.