Tips from the experts: Getting your marketing & sales teams working together

marketing and sales teamsThe CMO Survey® asked top marketers to describe how their companies structure the marketing-sales relationship. 7% stated that sales reports to marketing, 10.3% noted that marketing reports to sales; but most, 72%, have marketing and sales working together as peers. While this was published in the February 2013 issue of The CMO Survey, this has been the trend for some time.

Yet we know that, historically, it has been difficult for sales and marketing to cooperate. Sales people and marketing people have different personalities, they look at life through different lenses, and when they are peers they are both competing for scarce resources from the CEO.

So we need them to work together, but they don’t naturally get along, and we’ve pitted them against each other for resources.

I’m reminded of a BBC series on dinosaurs that my 4 year old likes to watch. Occasionally there will be an episode that pairs power house dinos together for an epic battle:

“T-Rex vs. Triceratops”, or “T-Rex vs. Spinosaurus” (these battles typically involve a T-Rex). But it’s funny, they DON’T have a, “Pre-historic Partners: T-Rex and Triceratops” episode. And yet, when it comes to sales and marketing, that’s the show we expect to see. It should be smooth sailing and a bunch of great minds thinking alike, right? You and I both know that is seldom the case in the real world.

Here’s some great advice from a variety of experts for how to bridge the gap and get them working together.

will schnabel1. They do have one thing in common: getting more customers.

Align the organization around that goal. Will Schnabel has some good advice on the Silverpop blog:

  • Agree on what a good lead is and measure that. Too often I hear sales people complain about the quality of their leads. This compliant has been around as long as there have been sales people! So put an end to it by sitting down with your sales folks and your marketing folks and clearly defining what a good lead is. How do you know it when you see it? What are the characteristics, the measurable characteristics, that make it a good lead.
    Once you have that understanding – start measuring those things. Are the leads you are generating meeting those criteria?
  • Create shared service level agreements. For as long as we have had sales people complaining about the quality of the leads we’ve had marketers complaining about sales people not following up on them. So now that we know what makes a quality lead, let’s agree on how quickly those quality leads need to be followed up on, and how many times, with what assets, etc. By establishing a consistent follow up process the marketers will know that the good leads they generate will be treated well!

mike volpe2. Build trust through improved communications.

Mike Volpe at Hubspot has six ideas for building deeper communication between your teams, including;

  • Mix ’em up. Too often marketing people and sales people exist in different parts of the office and only come together on neutral territory (the conference room). This accentuates the division between the teams and the perceptions of the stereotypes between them. Instead mix their workspaces together, and get them meeting, and socializing together more frequently. Increase the quantity of communication so that they can actually see each other working hard and solving problems.
  • Use facts and data where possible. The stereotypes and generalizations come fast and easy between these two groups. To keep that to a minimum use facts and data whenever possible. Instead of hearing, “Those sales people are so lazy! They’ll never close anything.” Insist on, “Here’s a chart showing the number of times we have followed up on the leads from the last 3 months. This shows that we will close 56% of the leads we contact 5 times, and 64% of the leads we contact 7 times. How can we make sure we are persisting to get that last 9%?”

Manya Chylinski3. Both sides want to believe that they are the hero of the business development story.

But in truth they each need the other to be successful. Manya Chylinski shows us some ways to highlight that whenever possible on the CMI blog:

  • Content that enables the sales person to be more of an advisor, and close the sale. In today’s selling environment the sales person has to be two parts teacher, and one part psychologist to bring a sale home. If you are using a content rich inbound marketing process, that same content that’s attracting new leads can also help your sales people to answer questions, position themselves as a resource and move buyers down the funnel.
  • Insight from the sales team that invites new research, content or messaging. The sales team is talking to buyers every day. Those conversations are rich with questions and concerns that buyers have during their shopping process. All of this information can be used to inform and inspire marketers as they create content, develop messaging and calls to action. By providing the marketers with those questions and concerns regularly, the sales people are making the marketing department more effective.

It’s critical that we get these two functions working together to build a superhighway, filled with leads and deals, that ends at our company’s front door. It doesn’t come naturally, but these strategies can get these often warring factions to lower their guard and start to work as one.

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