Sales and marketing are often depicted as two warring tribes, each desperate to prove the value of what they do, competing for the best leads. We think a closer analogy is of siblings – deep down they love each other, but they’re too close, with too many competing needs to get on.
Sales are often out of the office meeting lots of prospects, are results focused, and work on commission. Marketing are confined to the back office, celebrate success together as a team, and receive no commission. Their goal, however, is the same: to deliver highly-qualified leads.
This is an important starting point as we can instantly see that each team has different motivators, approaches, and activities, although the goal is essentially the same. In order to bring about harmony and get both teams pulling together, you need to discover what each team requires, what they can provide, and where they are finding friction with the other team.
The broad strokes
There are hundreds of blogs on this subject and it’s really not our intention to go over well-trodden ground. Here’s brief summary of the key points you’ll uncover:
- Understand goals – Part of the difficulty is getting each team to understand the goals of the other. The overarching goal is obvious: to gain more sales, but the necessary smaller steps aren’t always as obvious. For example, marketing may send over some demographic research into customers, and maybe even the heatspot analysis for a particular prospect, so why do sales claim they are spending hours ‘researching’ a client? On the other hand, sales might be wondering why marketing bother to write blogs that none of their prospects have even read, while marketing know how necessary content is to generate initial awareness.
- Agree on definitions – When tension arises, it’s usually due to misunderstandings around what certain words mean. The classic one is “leads”. Marketing usually define a lead as someone who has opened a number of emails, clicked through, read several pages of the website, and downloaded a whitepaper. Sales usually define a lead as someone who has shown a genuine intent to buy, someone who is sales ready. But how do you classify those intentions? By creating a lexicon that fulfils the unique understanding and requirements of your business, you can ensure that sales and marketing aren’t speaking at cross-purposes, and that no expectations are lost in translation.
- Define roles and responsibilities – Once each team understands the goals of the other and a common language has been agreed, you can get on with separating out the workload. It is really important to cast aside all assumptions and start from scratch. What will it take to convert someone with no knowledge of your business into a paying customer? By completing this task collaboratively, you ensure that each team understands the process the other needs to go through and the steps they are taking. In this way, you avoid the usual (but often false) preconceptions between the teams – one lazy, one stupid – and support a virtuous circle where everyone helps everyone else achieve their goals.
- Regular dialogue – You might have started off openly, with good communication and collaboration, but resting on your laurels will inevitably lead to the teams descending back to old habits and preconceptions. The only way to avoid this is to regularly meet with both teams together so each gets a good understanding as to what the other team is doing, why, and where they might need input to achieve the best outcome.
- Shared goals/incentives – The best way to get both your sales and marketing teams to work together is to incentivise self-management. That way both teams will want to work collaboratively in order to hit their shared targets. You might track targets by individual, if you want to name and shame, or you might want to do it by department to demonstrate the input that both teams have to the overall result.
Sharing information internally
Both sales and marketing uncover useful information every single day, the problem is that most companies do not have the tools or processes necessary to keep track of all that information in any meaningful way. Add to that the backlog of best practices, resources, process documents, and so on, and you have an unmanageable amount of information.
Some companies do a good job of developing this information into internal guides which can be systematically applied across the business. This also makes it easy to transition between staff (due to absence, maternity/paternity leave, and exiting) as well as keeping the process consistent regardless of which team customers talk to.
However, where these guides usually fall down is when it comes to updating them. Processes can quite quickly become redundant and by not updating the guide you risk staff simply using workarounds and falling out of consistency. Once one process has gone, staff end up not using the guides at all, leaving the business at risk.
A better approach might be to look at creating an internal Wiki that serves as the central repository for internal information. Whatever approach you decide to take, the most essential task is keeping the information updated regularly.
Passing on prospect insights
In order to do their job effectively, both sales and marketing need to understand the prospect. Marketing tend to start this work off by researching demographics, markets, and creating target personas. They use this to tailor content, advertising, promotional events/tradeshows, and so on, to reach those key groups.
Sales step in once the group has successfully been targeted and a prospect is identified. They then work to understand the prospect – what are their drivers, how does their business operate, who else is involved in a buying decision, how can they tailor their sales approach for that customer. Once they start talking to the prospect they will gain even more information.
But isn’t it a bit ridiculous that this information is rarely ever shared? Let’s leave CRM aside for the moment as it tends to be overcomplicated and underused. Wouldn’t the information marketing have researched be a useful head-start for sales? And wouldn’t the more in-depth information sales generate for individual prospects help marketing target even more effectively?
A Wiki could be useful here, but the amount of information gathered and the regularity with which you’ll have to keep it updated can make it unmanageable. An automated solution could be a far better option.
Here’s the classic dilemma: do you create a new presentation every time you pitch or do you create one ‘every eventuality’ slide deck? The former takes too long and doubles up on effort, the latter is far too cumbersome to use effectively and ends up sounding generic.
Prospects are coming to expect personalisation. They want you to speak to their individual needs, desires, and motivations. If the relevant information is hidden on page sixty of your tender then they won’t even bother looking for it, slide sixty of your presentation and you’ll probably find them asleep.
Everything from the initial email through proposals to presentations should be personalised based on the prospect, speaking to their needs, desires, and motivations. If you don’t know what those are, that’s the time to do your research and share your results – allow everyone to benefit from your work, don’t hide it away for yourself.
Creating a system
You might be thinking: All this sounds good in principle, but how do we actually achieve it?!
The answer is to create a system of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and task management that can be used by both sales and marketing. This will involve different sales tools and processes, some of which you may already have while others you might need to source.
The exact approach will depend on your business – all internal structures, processes, and goals are unique – but the key is to ensure everyone has access to the same information at the same time.
Key information to share:
- Competitor activity – What are the prospect’s competitors doing? How well are they achieving? How many offices do they have and where? What partners are they using?
- Product assessment – What are the prospect’s key differentiators. How are these marketed? What is the predicted cost, value, and ROI?
- Sales team – What has worked against this team in the past? What are they doing that hurts the marketing team and vice versa? Who are the people involved? What is the angle of the story they are selling to prospects (to help neutralise beforehand)?
- Internal resources – What have you done in the past? What are you doing now? What sites do you publish on? How frequently?
Bringing all that information into a closed-loop, self-sustaining system means your sales and marketing teams can work collaboratively and confidently to deliver the best possible leads.