Relationships can be tough even at the best of times. Add digital transformation, margin compression, rising customer expectations and an evolving workplace, and you’ve got tension that can strain (or sever) any relationship.
I’m often a counselor when it comes to conflicts between sales and marketing teams. From a salesperson’s perspective, nothing happens until a sale is made. From marketing’s perspective, a sale is made because there is a brand to sell.
There’s clear merit on both sides, which adds further complexity. As the co-founder of Intercept Group, here are the key principles I’ve used to solve some of the toughest sales and marketing conflicts for high-growth scale-ups and global blue-chip organizations.
What Sales Can Do Better
Sales professionals are on the front line experiencing customer wins and frustrations. Create a digital parking lot where the sales team can park their needs, ideas and suggestions that can be shared with marketing. In short, a digital parking lot is a single location where employees can share their feedback and suggestions. It can be as simple as a shared document or more robust to support large teams by using online form engines that can be streamlined within data visualization platforms.
It’s important to keep this parking lot clean — free of emotional-based jabs that add little value — and focused on constructive and pragmatic ideas. For example, “We lack verticalized marketing collateral to showcase our product’s industry-specific value proposition and use case, especially within manufacturing.”
Identify storytelling opportunities.
Marketing is constantly on the lookout for customer success stories that can validate the impact of their products and services. Being closest to customers, sales has the best vantage point to identify potential storytelling opportunities. By recommending customers for spotlight opportunities, both the customers and your marketing counterparts will feel valued and appreciated.
What Marketing Can Do Better
Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Before producing yet another piece of content, consult with sales to get real feedback on what resonates with customers. For marketing content or campaigns to drive revenue, they need to add value within the sales cycle and ultimately solve a customer need.
With declining budgets and resources, marketers must be more intentional than ever about the marketing activity we invest in. By involving sales early in the process, it gives them personal ownership over the strategy, which improves their willingness to support the elements of execution they’re responsible for.
Commit to account-based marketing (ABM).
Marketing is evolving from a cost center to a profit center, with increasing pressure for revenue-generating marketing tactics. ABM is garnering more attention these days, as it aims marketing activity toward specific accounts to achieve specific revenue targets. Embracing ABM doesn’t just mean procuring a shiny new marketing automation tool, it starts with sitting down with sales to review account plans and understand where marketing activity can drive profit and loss.
What Both Sales And Marketing Can Do Better
Like any relationship, having empathy for the other side is critical to finding common ground. One highly effective approach is internal ethnographies. Have someone from marketing job shadow their sales counterpart and vice versa. Walking in the shoes of your counterpart provides an enlightening experience that encourages creative divergent thinking rather than combative destructive thinking.
Establish feedback loops.
Both sales and marketing need to get better about communicating their pain points and desires. Set your cadence for regular feedback loops, including marketing campaign retrospectives, which should be conducted after every campaign. Promote open dialogue on what worked and what didn’t to inform future go-to-market efforts. Chat-based workspaces like Microsoft Teams or Slack can be highly effective in supporting cross-functional teams where feedback and ideas are exchanged more fluidly and organically.
One universal truth is that all great relationships are built on trust. Sales needs to trust that marketing is working to satisfy a diverse set of needs across the organization with finite resources. Marketing needs to trust that sales is making the best use of the provided marketing assets to drive revenue. In today’s highly competitive climate, our time, energy and resources shouldn’t be wasted on infighting. Band together, as great teams do, and take the fight to your competition.