Sales and Marketing: Success Through Collaboration

For long-term success of any organization, Sales and Marketing must be aligned and this can only happen if there is mutual respect and trust. It’s the kind of relationship that can only come through collaboration.

The dirty little secret of the corporate world is sales and marketing do not get along. Call it sibling rivalry, frustration, misunderstanding or professional jealousy; but the result is a dysfunctional team dynamic that causes the company to suffer.

Do these sound familiar?

“Marketing isn’t doing enough to give us good leads.”

“The Sales team isn’t doing anything with the leads we give them.”

If they do, don’t worry, it’s not just your company:

According to 2012 survey, by Corporate Executive Board: “87% of the words to used to describe each other were considered negative.”

In small organizations, without a dedicated marketing department, part of the problem is that marketing is often an after thought. A marketing coordinator or junior designer is tasked with creating material the sales team wants, with very little consideration given to what’s possible or what will help close the deal.

In larger organizations, with a dedicated marketing team, marketing leadership is often disconnected from the sales planning process. The focus is on the marketing basics. The four Ps – price (offer), product (what’s special), place (where it’s sold) and the promotion (advertising), but many fail to consider the sales implications and requirements, including: the buying cycle, conversion rates, sales support and establishing measurable goals to deliver.

Now besides corporate harmony, why else would you want to fix these problems?

According to an article from the Aberdeen group, “Organizations with good alignment between sales and marketing teams achieved 20% annual revenue growth in 2010. By contrast, companies with poor alignment saw revenues decline by 4%.”

While the following recommendations will not fix all of the challenges between the two groups it will go a long way to start building trust, transparency and mutual respect. These few easy steps will start building a stronger relationship and align the sales and marketing teams, regardless of the size of the organization:

Start Working Together

It’s surprisingly simple, but doesn’t always happen. Teams build trust when they work together. Start leveraging each group’s strengths to improve your organization overall. For example, marketing should spend time talking to individual sales people, at all levels, to learn more about the buyer: define the buying cycle, their motivation, objections and key decision factors. Also, listen for what people are not saying and ask more questions to identify the tools that will help the sales team. Get input from both teams to identify key product benefits and positioning – what resonates and what doesn’t and be prepared to update material accordingly.

What Gets Measured; Matters

Start by determining some basic sales and marketing data. At a minimum, determine: the sales targets (quarterly or monthly); the average conversion rate from lead to qualified opportunity; what is the close rate for qualified opportunities; what is the average time to close a deal; what is the average deal size. This information will help determine the total number of leads required to meet the sales objectives. Next, determine who is responsible for delivering leads –prospecting by the sales team, marketing, lead generation team – and what percentage each team will contribute to the total.

Add Accountability for All

Sales teams have a target and are compensated based on their performance. It’s time to start holding the marketing team accountable for not only campaign impressions and click-through rates, but also the number (and quality) of leads they are generating.

For example, online marketing efforts should drive traffic back to dedicated landing pages on a corporate site. Once there, prospects can find more information and engaging content related to the product, offer or brand. Also, the on-page actions and outcomes can be carefully measured, reported and optimized. Marketers, who are accountable for reaching targets, will start tracking the actions and make changes to optimize their results.

Now, to be fair, not all marketing-related activity generates measurable leads; however, making a conscious effort to track and share the results will have a positive impact on results.

Reporting: Share the Good and Bad News

The next key step to align sales and marketing is to share the data with both groups.  Show each other how the company, and each department, is contributing relative to their targets. This act of transparency alone will demonstrate there is accountability for the whole team – helping to foster a willingness to collaborate in order to achieve overarching success.

An effective reporting method is to create a dashboard that shows the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each team, broken down by day/week or month – showing by quarter does not give enough time for course correction. Make it accessible to everyone and publicly celebrate wins or commiserate losses. Thank individuals for going above and beyond and create a sense of urgency as the quarter starts coming to a close.

These simple improvements, using collaboration, measurement and reporting, won’t solve all the animosity between sales and marketing, but it will help build trust, respect and communication. And that’s a step in the right direction.

What steps are you taking to ensure collaboration between departments at your workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

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