In a previous post entitled “Why Can’t Sales and Marketing Play Nice?” I pointed out some humorous observations about how sales and marketing people often see each other and how this can be counter-productive.
In this article I will focus on some ideas that may help you build better sales and marketing alignment if needed. You may have your own thoughts, but for me, much of this simply comes down to empathy. Sales people and marketing people generally don’t understand what the other really does, or the challenges they struggle with. Below are a few suggestions that should help get your two teams working better together.
#1 Leadership Alignment
Sales and marketing alignment usually starts when their respective team leaders support each other. If you have progressed to run these functions, hopefully you’ve figured this out by now and lead by example. Together, you need to foster a “one team” culture. If they’re not already, get your teams working closely together – I mean physically in the office, in sales meetings and kickoffs, in the pub afterwards, etc. The more the teams interact and get to know each other, the better!
#2 Marketing Perspective
Marketing people need to understand the sales role and the inherent pressure, vulnerability and issues that come with it. When performing well, sales people can (and should) make lots of money and be recognized accordingly. Accept the simple fact that it’s the most critical part of a business and without it, nothing else matters. If you think the grass is greener, maybe it’s time to carry a bag and try it yourself? It’s not easy and the reward does comes with some risk.
#3 Sales Perspective
Sales people need to understand and appreciate the time, energy, and creativity that goes into the work marketing does. Nothing drives a marketer crazier than a sales rep (or sales manager) saying “can‘t you just whip this up?” That message completely diminishing the role and the recipient. Things take time and the processes and detail in marketing are never as simple as they may appear on the surface.
Focus on continually sharing and exchanging information. Marketing should know what’s going on in the pipeline and what’s happening with leads. Sales should know what the quarterly marketing plan looks like and the results from past activities. A steady stream of communication will go a long way in creating understanding and positive feedback.
#5 Help Each Other
Sales people should make a habit of following up on marketing leads immediately and providing constructive feedback about lead quality. Keep in mind, every lead is not going to be a “winner” so think “big picture.” Marketing needs to hear the feedback and work with their sales counterparts to improve the qualification process if the lead quality is weak. This area tends to be one of the more contentious between sales and marketing. Working closely together to improve the process on both sides is a far better option than finger-pointing and blame.
Share in your success as a team and make sure the marketing efforts are recognized as well as closed deals. Celebrate new leads and opportunities created by marketing. Talk about how deals started and progressed and be sure to acknowledge the people in marketing who helped support deals along the way. If your marketing staff is on some sort of bonus program, you may want to consider allocating a portion of it based on total sales results. This really helps keep marketers focused on the end-game.
I have tremendous admiration for both sales and marketing as disciplines. I’ve also worked with many wonderful and talented people from both camps. Yes, a little friction and competition can be healthy – but too much can lead to a toxic environment. This is somewhat ironic since everyone on both teams should ultimately be driving towards the same goal. When I’ve seen the “one team” approach work, the atmosphere turned from “us against them” to “us against the competition.” The results were always significantly better, and the morale was much higher.