Is there a disconnect between marketing and sales in your company? It’s often said that Sales is from Mars and Marketing is from Venus—two planets in the same solar system but still worlds away. Much has been written on how to better align marketing and sales and the prescriptions usually involve alignment on goals and KPIs and longer term collaboration opportunities. My focus here are things that can be done right away.
Below are five immediate ways to take alignment to the next level that can probably be done in the next month. If they can be done well, BOTH sales and marketing can be more successful and entirely new programs can be created for your company.
BUT FIRST, LET’S GET REAL ABOUT THE DISCONNECT
Imagine a conversation between a sales leader and a marketing leader and what each might be really thinking. (Exaggerated for a little fun).
Sales exec: my people are concerned about the leads.
Translation: the leads you’re sending us stink. We’re wasting our time with unqualified window shoppers.
Marketing exec: I hear you. But we’re delivering many more “A” prospects than ever. We send over lots of good leads that just don’t close.
Translation: we’re delivering the leads; you guys just can’t sell.
Sales exec: I don’t think there’s enough volume in the pipeline to validate your lead scoring. It might be time to revisit the scoring model.
Translation: Your thinking might work on the whiteboard, but not in reality.
Marketing exec: our scoring model is based on BANT, and our criteria to qualify leads is used successfully by thousands of companies. We’re regularly tweaking the model and conducting tests to improve as we go, including using predictive lead scoring.
Translation: leave the lead scoring to us and focus on closing deals.
Sales exec: That’s fine but your people really should get out in the field more and talk to customers. Then you’d have a better understanding of who is really qualified.
Translation: you marketing folks are out of touch. We’re in the trenches here and know our customers best.
WHY THE DISCONNECT?
Both sales and marketing heads have valid concerns. They’re coming at it from different perspectives, operating from a different set of challenges and often with focus on different time horizons. For example, Marketing wants to build scalable programs and processes, and ongoing testing and optimization is part of their DNA. One stated goal of many CMOs is to “fail fast” and move on to winning programs. Sales,on the other hand, is on the hook for monthly quotas and revenue goals. Failed experiments are not necessarily seen as learning opportunities; they are often seen simply as activities that don’t move the needle on revenue. There are many strategic sales leaders who have long term views of course; but their teams are rightly focused on the here and now.
SOME IMMEDIATE SOLUTIONS
Here are some ways to bring the functions closer together and increase alignment, based on our experience.
- Going on sales calls should be a performance goal of key staff (if not everyone) in marketing. Make it mandatory, not optional. It works.
- Marketing should seek out sales tactics that can be developed into scalable marketing programs. How? Ask sales reps. One successful approach used by a single sales representative may represent a much bigger opportunity. Recently I spoke with a sales rep at one of my clients and found that she sells directly to branch locations who have been shipped products purchased by the customers’ headquarters. No other rep operated this way and there were no marketing programs targeting branch locations– branches were not a separate field in their CRM and could not be identified. After some probing we found that the client had thousands of “ship to addresses” in another database. We’re now moving them into the CRM system and developing a marketing program to scale the approach used successfully by that one sales rep.
- Sales professionals should have an incentive to report back on “why customers bought” (and objections) I wish I had a dime for every time a CRM system were under used. Imagine if understanding the reasons for buying (and objections raised) were operationalized in your company—they can be aggregated, quantified for key customer segments and validated. Arming marketing and sales with a deeper sense of customer motivations can improve targeting, messaging and tactics—particularly when “reason codes” are combined with data on the content people have read, web analytics and other profiling info. To capture more reasons for buying or not buying, consider giving sales reps some incentive to do so. For example, what if every time a rep reported on reasons with more granularity they get entered in a contest? Since it’s the behavior you’re trying to encourage, each rep can have multiple entries in the contest.
- Sales and marketing teams should do a joint Funnel Reality Check. This approach brings together sales and marketing teams and can be done as an off-site meeting or on-site. Each step in the sales and marketing funnel is discussed and all parties should have metrics on exactly what percentage of prospects are lost at each stage in the funnel (and why). People from marketing and sales are paired up into mini-teams, brainstorm ways to make improvements at each stage and report back to the larger group with their ideas. Separately, management conducts a sensitivity analysis to prioritize these ideas—based on data showing potential revenue gains achievable from improving each stage of the funnel.
- Marketing and sales leaders should spend an entire day shadowing each other. For one day, each senior person should immerse themselves in the world of the other– attending meetings, listening to conference calls, asking questions and offering suggestions. A deeper understanding of what it’s really like to be in the other shoes will give sales and marketing leaders a healthy reality check that ultimately trickles down through the organization. And it sends a very positive message to the company. Imagine if both sales and marketing executives both told their teams “This week we’re conducting a experiment. For an entire day each of us will shadow the other and be each other’s surrogate. Our goal is to continue learning from each other to make our respective areas – and the company – even stronger….” And then a week later, follow-up with teams to 1) share what was learned from experience, 2) encourage employees to reach out to colleagues in the other function and 3) report back with what they learned.
Mars and Venus may be different planets but they both revolve around the same sun that’s central to their existence.