10 things you can do TODAY to improve Marketing-Sales alignment

Want some bad Martech jokes? Just Google “Marketing from Venus Sales from Mars”. (If you want to get seriously depressed- particularly about gender bias- just check out the image search results.) It shouldn’t be surprising that a podcast of the same name from marketing automation software provider Marketo is one of the first results to pop up. Just like the self-help industry thrives on convincing couples of their fundamental differences, the lead scoring industry thrives on convincing Sales and Marketing that we’re fundamentally at odds and in need of external support to effectively communicate. Particularly in B2B.

As I speak to Enterprise marketers one thing comes up again and again: there’s a fundamental disconnect between how Sales and Marketing operate leading to two general models.

  1. Marketing operates independent of Sales ROI, focusing in big sweeping visions (example: Etsy circa 2016)
  2. Marketing is dominated by Sales priorities and the Brand’s focus on the present, misses the forrest for the trees (example: Oracle and the Cloud Wars)

Both are short-sighted. The fact is that both organizations contain answers that the other is craving: Sales contains the budget- justifying attribution that Marketing needs while Marketing contains the long-term strategy & consumer insights that Sales needs. 

While ultimately it’s on the executive leadership to foster a genuine Marketing-Sales alliance, there are tactics that you can use as a marketer to begin to collaborate with your partners in Sales. Like any relationship- it takes work but it’s absolutely work it. Some of my most creative campaigns have come out of  joint brainstorms with my partners in Sales.

Here are 10 things you can do to jump-start your relationship with sales:

1. ASK: “What are you measured on at the end of the day?”

As marketers we get wrapped up in Vision and Strategy. We love a good digital transformation in the next 5 years hour-long conversation. That won’t fly with your sales partners. To begin to translate this for you sales partners you first need to see what the world looks like from their organization .

2. ASK: “What marketing activities best support your goals?”

This is a tough yet essential question to ask. The answer may surprise you. In one case, I found that demo requests on our website was the best source of marketing qualified leads. Considering all the effort exerted on other activities that was a painful pill to swallow. But also incredibly important to understanding the next steps we needed to take to align towards actual business value.

3. ASK: “Do you tend to see the value from activities like [fill in marketing activity you work on]?”

The key is to stay in listen and learn mode. Avoid “What happened to all the leads we gave you after last month’s webinar?” Instead try: “Do you tend to see value from activities like webinars?” Then follow up asking what could be done to make them more effective. In one case I found out that the lead delivery was too slow for effective follow – up. In that case the solve had to occur in marketing operations rather the at the content team level.

4. ASK: “What collaboration opportunities do you see between our departments?”

This is another critical question. Be sure to ask for their ideas before you jump in with your own- very difficult for marketers! How they answer this question will give you just as much information as the actual answer.

  • If they don’t have any ideas and/or sound skeptical of marketing-sales collaboration, then you know you have some TLC work to do with this particular partner. It will take some actual evidence to show them that marketing can benefit sales.
  • If they have given it thought then you will get a vital perspective and first step to building your partnership. As soon as you can work on a shared goal you will see significant progress in marketing sales collaboration.

5. ASK: “How can we work together?”

Sales organizations have very specific existing processes, with typically much more stratification than marketing. You will find your collaboration chances are best when you work with departments that already are set up to act on marketing information. Those teams will also already know how to give marketing attribution so the answer to your question may well be ” You work with me by working with x team. ”

6. OFFER: Audience/ Account Research

Find out how your sales partners gather information about their prospects. It ‘s been my experience then there’s a lot of crossover with Marketing Strategy research. This can be an opportunity to provide value to sales by providing them with work you’ve already done. Often all it takes is a little reformatting to make your research actionable. Be sure to follow up with your partners to find out if the research was useful and how it contributed to efficiency.

7. OFFER:  Trends and Insights

Is your sales team targeting marketers? Make yourself available to help them identify trends and various angles to reach people similar to yourself. You can also surface trends based on what you are seeing on social media that allow Sales teams to connect with the personas they’re targeting. Again- chances are, your team is already identifying these trends so it takes little additional effort to ship them over to your sales partners and add more value to your relationship.

8. OFFER: Social Media Best Practices

Marketers often voice frustration when they see sales teams awkwardly prospecting on social media. But how often do we actually offer to help them get better? Sales leadership knows that they need to train their teams on social selling. Often they’re struggling as non-digital leaders to understand these networks themselves. You don’t have to set up a training program. Simply offering your services as a subject matter expert- perhaps on a monthly sales call- can be massively useful.

9. OFFER: Content Curation

As part of social selling, Sales people know that they need to share thought-leadership focused content. Identifying this content takes up precious time during their day. There’s a good chance that at least part of this task can be picked up by your content curation team as part of their brand management. While there are various advocacy tools that can help automate this task, you can test it out as a proof of concept using a simple shared doc.

10. OFFER: Advocacy

Sales is more susceptible to negativity around your brands image than you probably realize. Particularly in a B2B company, Sales turnover each year tends to be quite high so they need to maintain a strong recruitment pipeline. Moreover, rival sellers increasingly are using poor brand reviews on Glassdoor and other sites to secure wins with prospects. By ensuring a constant stream of advocacy posts from both customers and employees, allows sales to push back against those attacks and ensures they can recruit the best talent.

A few last tips: Remember – sales always feels pressure to perform. The best way to work with them is to create genuine efficiencies for their teams. Be sure to check in to make sure that what you’re sending over is actually useful. Also make sure to keep any meetings you have very focused and as short as possible. Time is quite literally money for Sales. The more you demonstrate that you get that and respect their time, the more they’ll respect you and support you in the return.

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