Repairing the fractured relationship between sales and marketing
You know the phrase ‘two nations divided by a common language’? Apparently coined by George Bernard Shaw about Britain and America, it could just as easily be said about different – and sometimes warring – factions in companies. In particular, sales and marketing.
United in a common goal – to get product in consumers’ hands and revenue into the company’s – the ideal would be for both to work harmoniously together. Even in this day and omnichannel age, the two are usually distinct entities but they increasingly share functions, language and KPIs. Or at least they should.
The reality is that a sales and marketing team that is a powerhouse of collaboration is considered an unattainable utopia. I’ve walked into so many businesses where the sales and marketing relationship has broken down so much that the teams are no longer talking. Failing to resolve the situation doesn’t just make for an uncomfortable working environment, it can easily throttle growth, reduce market share and even set the business on the road to failure.
So, what’s the answer? Is there marriage counselling for sales and marketing teams? How do we fix a situation where the two teams don’t even want to be in the same room together?
There are three factors at play here. The first is around a fundamental mismatch of goals. There is no alignment in the aims of the teams or the organisation as a whole. It’s more common than not for a marketing team to be focused on top of funnel metrics such as traffic, content downloads, and campaign interactions.
However, for sales, particularly in the B2B and technology world, their goal is to drive product demonstrations and revenue.
The single biggest issue is that marketing can smash their goals, hitting content download targets but this doesn’t translate across to sales. That causes a huge amount of friction between the two teams because of the disparity in what they’re tracking towards. The reality is, if sales haven't hit their goals, they’ll still be pushing to hit their targets.. That often means hammering the phones at the end of the month, pushing sales through too quickly and impacting customer success. It quickly becomes an insidious, long-term problem across customer satisfaction and reputation.
Next comes the lack of systems. Even today, many businesses are still working off spreadsheets. And neither has a spreadsheet that shares metrics with the other. Or they’re using dedicated software and systems in each department but there’s no interoperability between them. Ultimately they end up working in silos, not tracking the same metrics and, once again, working towards different goals.
Finally, there’s a mismatch in expectations. You have marketing spending lots of budget to drive various leads to the sales team, but when the leads get there, they’re not aligned with the sort of leads sales needs. A lot of the time they’re leads driven by content downloads, or event leads, or leads that aren’t qualified to speak to a salesperson. On a call, sales gets pushback from the lead “I don’t remember downloading/signing up for that”.
The only way you can truly solve this relationship breakdown is for everyone to be chasing the same goal and being measured on the same metric. In both cases, the answer is revenue.
Two teams, a common goal
One of the challenges is that there are really two buckets within marketing. Demand capture that is focused on driving demonstrations and revenue generation and everything is geared towards driving that. That is what makes sales happy.
But there also has to be the demand generation funnel, the part that is all about generating the buzz. Its job is to build reputation and credibility so demand capture can go about pulling sales ready leads into the funnel. The big question is how marketers can continue creating buzz while also pushing leads through to revenue.
That ‘buzz’ is essential because it builds brand awareness over time. The more potential prospects see and hear about a brand, the more likely they are to be primed and ready to buy from it once they’re in-market. You’re creating sales-ready leads that will drive revenue today from those who are ready to buy, but also builds long-term relationships that can feed into your demand capture of the future.
One way to stop buzz ‘leaking’ into capture is to split the marketing budget. Demand generation still has the goal of using leading indicators such as traffic and engagement, but there is a distinction between the goals and demand capture then progresses those prospects into sales leads and measurement by revenue. You can begin to attribute all marketing activity back to revenue and optimise accordingly.
Having aligned expectations, the next job is to get both sales and marketing ‘speaking’ to each other. Those disparate systems need to link up, getting a full funnel view between your solutions, between HubSpot and Salesforce for example. You can integrate the majority of systems like these so your teams are reporting on the same things.
Then, establish a funnel and define each stage – what donates a lead from marketing that should be followed up by sales? And what happens after this is passed off to sales? How qu All of these conversations need to be had up front, and be agreed by both parties..
Above all, it’s about remembering that behind these anonymous labels, ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’, there are human beings. Meet, talk, share and learn. You must have weekly meetings where you talk through the good, the bad and the ugly.
Walk a mile in each other’s shoes – have sales sit with marketing and vice versa, share results, celebrate each other’s wins. Sometimes, marketers are so focused on selling the business to the customer, they forget to sell themselves to the business. You need to take sales on the journey with you. Appreciation comes from understanding one another, listen to demos, sit in on customer calls, and get buy-in on campaigns early.. You can build amazing relationships when sales and marketing literally sit together, becoming ‘pods’ of business expertise, marketing nous and sales skill.