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Having spent time as a sales professional, I can honestly say that I love sales professionals. I have spoken at marketing conferences and to many young marketers over the years, and one of the things that I always tell them is that to be a great marketer, you have to spend time in sales.
Because sales and marketing are distinct jobs within a company, and both rely on the other for success, they will often have conflict. Marketing professionals are responsible for building the overall brand while helping to drive engagement and awareness with potential buyers. Sales professionals, on the other hand, help convert that engagement and brand awareness into revenue.
The competition between the two departments often can reach a fever pitch. During my career, it always feels as if one side is always jealous of the other and vice versa. The catch is that these teams have to be in sync with one another. Because salespeople need the brand awareness that marketers develop, and because marketers rely on sales to foster deeper connections with buyers, sales and marketing are really two sides of the same coin. There needs to be unity between the two departments in order for a company to have ultimate success. Let’s look at four strategies I have used over the years that can help you adopt and translate that competitive nature into better camaraderie for smoother, more influential, and more profitable marketing and sales collaboration.
1. Meet regularly
Lots of factors will influence how often sales and marketing get together, such as the complexity of your offerings and campaigns. External factors also come into play, too. For example, during the pandemic, many organizations needed to adjust the number of virtual meetings, not only because so many people were offsite but also to provide reassurance and support to everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and reduce or increase the number of meetings according to your circumstances.
When I first got my sales and marketing teams together, I talked through my own agenda a lot. But the meetings evolved over time and became an opportunity for everyone to introduce and talk through ideas. With everyone contributing, conversations became cohesive. People felt much more like we were on the same page. I also intentionally blurred the line by inviting our head of sales to present with me at a marketing-focused event. We spoke to the assembled guests about how sales and marketing can work together for the good of the organization. This top-down collaboration modeled for both teams that it was not only acceptable but was actually preferred for us to work as a team.
2. Define terms
Sales and marketing teams often use their own languages, throwing around terms such as lead, prospect, engagement, and close. Even when both teams think they are familiar with the definition of these phrases, there can be differences in connotation that can create a disconnect or confusion. So one of the most critical aspects of bringing sales and marketing teams together is to deliberately define what the words or phrases within your organization mean to you. Going through this process improves understanding and efficiency. It gives people a chance to consider the goals and values of the company, too, because you’ll use specific language as you try to develop and implement specific strategies. When people can talk clearly about what the business wants to do, it’s easier to get both buy-in and a healthier relationship between departments because everyone understands their role and purpose within the bigger picture.
3. Discuss process
Both sales and marketing can seem to each other superficially straightforward, but there are many steps to get to any set finish line, including conducting buyer surveys, A/B test campaigns, or adjusting campaigns, products, or services based on sales feedback. Some of these steps can be independent within a single department. Others are linear, where sales can’t move forward until marketing is done or vice versa.
Both sales and marketing need to understand the steps that are necessary to complete the process and why you’re going through them. This gives people the reassurance that others aren’t wasting time or resources and helps them see how all of the various steps tie into a larger strategy. It also helps people be realistic about pacing. If you need to adjust your process, the togetherness and awareness both teams have will make those transitions more seamless. That’s critical given that markets are never static and require high agility from businesses. Discussions of process also allow you to reevaluate your tools and organizational structure.
4. Track and trust
There are plenty of options for sales and marketing teams to track their collaborative success, such as through customer surveys or checking how many units you’ve sold. But get as much of your data in one place as you can (i.e., creating a single source data encapsulating both marketing and sales data), then make that information accessible to everyone. When you democratize data like this, people can extend trust that others will use that information appropriately for their tasks. Build out dashboards that highlight the appropriate data to help hold everyone accountable because the data then lets everyone know how your organization is progressing.
Taking the first step begins a powerful walk
As the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, if your sales and marketing teams are more disjointed than you’d like and fixing the gap seems overwhelming, just focus on getting the initial meetings going between departments. Start the conversation and let them taste some initial results because it’s through the process of creating those discussions and experiences within a safe environment that you can get people to start dreaming about how unity could transform the company. Those dreams can then turn to collective motivation that will propel you forward. Sales and marketing always will be essential to each other, so help your people start to see that and use their competitive nature to help them pull in the same direction.