Our two-part post looks at the uneasy marriage between sales and marketing and asks ‘How they can get along better?’
Sales and marketing. You’d think it would be a match made in heaven. After all, ultimately don’t they share the same goals? Don’t both of them exist for company growth and profitability? Yet in many companies, you’d never know it. Relationships between the teams are often characterised by a grudging acceptance and, to be frank, a certain amount of mistrust. That’s not great for morale or for business. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this and some possible ways forward.
Sales are from Mars, marketing are from Venus?
One of the main difficulties in the relationship between the two parties can be that they have different expectations, working practices and cultures.
A credible and frequently cited survey suggests that 4 out of 5 CEOs don’t really trust their marketing team. They complain that their marketing teams seem disconnected from commercial realities. They use a different language, peppered with buzzwords like actionable analytics, gamification and hyperlocal. It’s sometimes said that CEOs leave the marketing team alone not because they’re satisfied, but because they assume that marketing must know what they’re doing and don’t want to break anything.
We think that some of this could apply to the sales team’s view of their colleagues. They know that marketing produce plenty of materials, and organise events, and that sometimes these are helpful to their sales efforts. But marketing don’t talk in the concrete terms of sales targets, and much of what they do remains a mystery to the sales team.
From the marketing team’s perspective, Sales can be the grumbling foot soldiers who can’t see the whole battlefield. Lacking the big picture, sales teams often don’t think strategically. This means that they may not always appreciate the more intangible aspects of the work marketing does, such as brand perception. Yet ultimately, these still impact on sales.
So does this mean that sales and marketing are doomed to a marriage of convenience? Or can they fall back in love?
Communication is everything
As every marriage counsellor will tell you, the keys to improving a relationship are communication and mutual understanding. In a nutshell, sales and marketing departments need to talk and listen to each other more.
That’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. How does a company foster more productive relationships between these two teams? Without a driving force for change, it may be hard to convince each department that there is a better way of working.
Senior executives are best placed to examine the working practices though, as noted above, they may be inclined to leave things alone. One solution can be to bring in marketing consultants. As objective outsiders, a good consultancy will quickly identify where changes can be made and propose creative solutions.
They might, for example, suggest structural changes, such as amalgamating sales and marketing into a single revenue team. There’s plenty going for this option. Separate teams mean different workflows, data, metrics and language — not to mention locations. That puts an artificial barrier bang in the middle of the revenue-gathering process. Combining the departments means that the customer’s entire experience with the company — their journey from first awareness to sales — can be dealt with by the same team.
However, if the time isn’t right for this or other major adjustments, there’s still plenty that can be achieved.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the best way to get people talking to each other is to sit them down together. That means scheduled regular meetings. We don’t just mean team leaders, either: this doesn’t work well as a top-down process. As far as logistics allow, the whole teams need to be involved.
Yes, we know that meetings can be, and often are, unproductive bore-fests or moaning sessions. That’s down to how the session is managed to avoid that and get everyone engaged. A good start is a focused agenda that addresses the company’s current priorities, driven by objective data. That can set the tone for meetings that zing along and get people listening to each other.
In Part Two, we will look at more ideas to give sales and marketing a second honeymoon.