There is an ongoing debate between Sales and Marketing departments that parallels the question of the chicken versus the egg. Which department drives the activities of the other? Who wags the tail of the dog? The answer is neither. Because organizational success is contingent on the activities of both functions, it is extremely important for Marketing to build cross-functional relationships that improve collaboration with all of the internal customers Marketing supports – a subject addressed in more detail in the new DocuStar Marketing Organizational Leadership Blog Series.
A recent article entitled Why Sales Hates Marketing describes the tug-of-war that often ensues between Sales and Marketing. While the author presents some good ideas, we endorse a more collaborative approach that recognizes both functions as equally important to organizational success. Sales has the detailed knowledge of customers and prospects that Marketing needs, while Marketing has the campaign fulfillment expertise and analytics that Sales needs to shorten sales cycle time.
Aligning Sales and Marketing activities can be challenging, but when both departments work collaboratively, their functions achieve more success: According to research from the Harvard Business Review, “When Sales and Marketing work together, sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.” The best companies channel healthy friction between the two groups to improve organizational performance. Below, we provide seven techniques you can use to improve Marketing’s collaboration with Sales.
1. Build informal relationships
Neither Marketing nor Sales can operate in functional silos, because success, even at the functional level, is interdependent upon identifying and meeting the needs of other functional groups. In organizations where silos are prevalent, the barriers to collaboration are sometimes observed the form of misunderstandings or undervaluation of other functions. These misunderstandings can be curbed by building one to one relationships with business unit leaders in other functions to foster trust and transfer cross-functional knowledge.
2. Attend joint meetings
In today’s fast-paced business environment, marketers are often so time-pressed with support activities that it can be challenging to make time to stay informed about what is happening in other groups; however, this reactive approach is short-sighted. Marketing’s collaboration with Sales can be greatly improved by attending Sales meetings, and likewise Sales should periodically attend Marketing meetings. Both groups should consider joint monthly meetings where Sales provides updates on opportunities at various stages in the sales pipeline, including a discussion of lead origination/source, while Marketers provide updates about active and upcoming marketing campaigns and timelines for when support resources will be provided to Sales. When scheduling joint meetings, meeting objectives and goals should be clearly defined in advance so that meetings stay on track and benefit both groups. Joint meetings not only enable both groups to synch up activities, but they also facilitate improved understanding and awareness of each group’s drivers and decision-making processes.
3. Collaborate on market insights
Marketing can greatly benefit from understanding what Sales is seeing and hearing in the marketplace – including customer needs, objectives, and new competitive activity – all of which can be important inputs to product messaging and the new product development process. Additionally, Marketing can assimilate market research and the sales insights to provide specific guidance to help Sales with the selling process.
4. Discuss pre-sales and post-sales support activities with Sales
This is a simple process-oriented step that will tremendously improve Marketing’s credibility with Sales. When Marketing plans and campaign schedules are shared with Sales before campaign launch, over time, the process can foster a healthy two-way flow of information between Sales & Marketing that improves collaboration and the effectiveness of both groups. Before any new marketing campaigns are launched, goals and objectives for each campaign should be established and shared with Sales. Additionally, Sales and Marketing should discuss and agree upon campaign expectations, such as what will constitute a lead and how lead follow-up will be managed (e.g. timeframe for Sales follow up, how updates will be tracked in your CRM system, and timeline for how new leads will be nurtured as they move through the sales funnel).
5. Collaborate on targets
This is a natural extension of step four. As you begin collaborating with Sales in aligning pre-sales and post-sales support activities, it will be natural to seek Sales input earlier in the campaign planning process, especially in defining which customer segments to target with campaigns. CRM and Marketing Resource Management (MRM) systems can serve as an intermediary between Sales and Marketing in selecting initial campaign targets for review and discussion with Sales. If you’re not speaking with Sales about which targets they need Marketing’s help nurturing, then you’re overlooking a significant opportunity to collaborate and add value.
6. Harness the expertise of your sales force
The geographically and often globally distributed sales force heralds an increasing necessity to leverage sales force knowledge in localizing and personalizing marketing messages. MRM systems enable Sales to create personalized communications with marketing approval prior to launch and provide an extra check over marketing materials in use. Because MRM systems significantly reduce the time required to create customized marketing materials while empowering sales team to manage customizations individually, the risk of Sales creating their own materials (that may or may not meet brand guidelines and standards) is minimized.
7. Measure results
A significant step all too often overlooked is scheduling a post-campaign analysis between Sales & Marketing to review campaign results, including costs, conversions and ROI. The post-campaign analysis can include a discussion of what worked in the campaign and what should be changed in the future to improve campaign effectiveness. Measures to hold both groups accountable to results can include the volume and quality of leads passed to Sales from Marketing and the percentage of leads converted into sales. Leads should also be actively monitored for Sales follow-up.
As the customer buying lifecycle evolves into a more pull-oriented, customer-driven model, marketing will become increasingly more involved in lead nurturing than in the past. While the roles of Sales and Marketing evolve as a result, these changes in customer behavior do not minimize the role of either function, but rather demand better collaboration between Sales and Marketing in campaign execution.
We hope these seven steps have helped you to identify gaps in your Sales and Marketing processes and provided some good starting-off points to improve Marketing’s collaboration with Sales. What step will you start with?