As a marketing professional, what’s another department in your organization that your team frequently needs to work closely with?
If you said “sales,” you aren’t alone. And, if you said “sales” followed by an eye roll, a groan, and a hefty sigh, well, you aren’t alone there either.
Yes, there’s a notorious divide between marketing and sales teams. Despite having the same overarching goal (hey, we all want more dollars in the door, don’t we?), these two groups often feel like they’re at odds with each other.
The Divide Between Marketing and Sales
Why? Well, some of it has to do with the fact that they have different views—marketing tends to skew more long-term, while sales is highly focused on the short-term.
But, with that aside, a lot of it comes back to good, old fashioned finger pointing. It’s the marketing department’s job to generate leads (something that 63% of marketers state is their top challenge) so that the sales team can follow up and close the deal.
But when something breaks down and things don’t pan out as expected? The sales department is quick to say that the leads weren’t qualified, while the marketing department asserts that sales just didn’t do their job adequately.
Sound familiar? This sort of blame game is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s productive. Instead, marketing and sales professionals need to identify ways that they can better work together toward those shared goals—with as little hair pulling as possible.
“The ongoing conflict between sales and marketing is the ‘elephant’ in the room at many companies,” says Steve Martin, an author and sales trainer, in an article for Harvard Business Review, “No one wants to talk about the problem until it becomes so disruptive that it must be dealt with.”
Obviously, this divide is something that needs to be proactively dealt with in order to avoid chaos and to collaborate effectively. If you think that sounds impossible, we assure you it’s not. We’ve rounded up seven different strategies you can use to improve the way your marketing team works with your company’s sales department.
1. Get on the Same Page About Goals
With marketing and sales working toward the same overall object, it’s easy to assume everyone is already on the same page.But, that’s usually not the case.
Both teams need to ensure they have an understanding of the business goals and each other’s objectives. They’ll need to find the overlap in those objectives, and see where they can help each other. This means you’ll be able to collaborate, instead of compete.
“Although it may seem rather elementary, one tip is to ensure that both teams know what is expected as far as goals and expectations for the other,” explains Carly Fauth, Head of Marketing and Outreach at Moneycrashers.com, “If the sales team doesn’t know what the marketing team is supposed to accomplish in terms of KPIs and other metrics and vice versa, the relationship probably isn’t going to be very fruitful.”
Set a meeting where you can all agree on the shared objectives that you’re working toward, and then schedule a recurring conversation to check-in on everyone’s progress. Use the SMART goal framework to ensure that your aren’t just tossing out vague milestones that nobody will be able to stick with.
“If you don’t agree on shared outcomes, the day-to-day will feel like a battle and serve only to frustrate both sides,” adds Mike Schultz, President at RAIN Group.
2. Gain a Deeper Understanding of Responsibilities
Oftentimes, the chasm between marketing and sales teams is deeply rooted in a lack of understanding. Sales sees marketing as more of a support function than a real driver of business development, while marketing thinks sales has the easy part of the process—they just need to close the deal after all of the groundwork has been laid.
It’s frustrating, and it’s also exactly why marketing and sales professionals need to invest time into understanding the function of each other —through hands-on experience, if possible.
“Get part of either team involved in the other’s day-to-day operations, even if just on a basic level,” says Fauth, “Maybe someone from the marketing team handles a sales call or two, and a sales rep gets their hands wet with a particular marketing project. When the two teams take a step in the other’s boots, so to speak, collaboration is sure to improve.”
Dr. Elliott Jaffa, a Behavioral and Marketing Psychologist, recommends that a rotation of group members sit in the other department’s strategy sessions and then relay that information back to their own teams.
Initiatives like those increase understanding and reinforce bonds between the two departments.
“Being able to see behind the curtain of how one department works on its best days can lead to better communication,” adds Greg Roth, who runs The Idea Enthusiast, a speaking and training business.
3. Get a Grasp on Challenges
Understanding day-to-day tasks and responsibilities is helpful, but it’s not always enough. It’s also beneficial for teams to go the extra mile and get a better handle on the challenges that the other department is frequently facing.
Dr. Jaffa recommends, “Creative exercises for one group to solve the challenges the other group faces.”
This can be something as simple as an open conversation where you can discuss how to get past common roadblocks. Or, maybe you can swap problems and have each team pitch potential strategies for addressing them.
Whichever route you choose, by giving the other department the opportunity to attempt to address some of the problems you frequently encounter, you’ll solidify the understanding of all of the work that’s being done on the other side of the table—while increasing some much-needed sympathy as well.
4. Encourage Together Time
There’s nothing like some time spent together to ease that perceived divide. “Spend time together,” advises Schultz, “Emailing and messaging and talking on the phone isn’t enough.”
Attending each other’s meetings is a solid place to start, Schultz recommends. “You’ll get to know and trust one another,” he adds, “No collaboration happens until you establish trust.”
Schultz also says that it can be smart to participate in shared brainstorming sessions. “You don’t even need to have a big agenda,” Schultz explains, “Just get together and ask, ‘What should we be doing to be most effective for the company as a whole?’ If you do this, you’ll learn how each other thinks, and what their belief systems are that drive their behaviors.”
You also need to make sure that you work together on the projects that require input from both sides—rather than working on them in isolation and attempting to smash them together in the eleventh hour.
The more both sides work alongside each other rather than in siloes will go a long way toward building trust.
“While the ideal situation has marketing and sales teams sitting together, at the minimum marketing staff and sales staff should work closely together on buyer persona development, buyer’s journey mapping, and content creation,” says Joshua Feinberg, Chief Thought Leader at SP Home Run.
Oh, and when in doubt, don’t hesitate to strengthen your bonds outside of the office as well. After all, a casual happy hour never hurt anybody!
5. Draft a Service Level Agreement
Creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) might seem overly formal or rigid. But, taking the time to map out your promises to each other can actually go a long way in smoothing out your collaborations and mitigating any potential conflicts.
“Think of the SLA like wedding vows,” says Feinberg, “Sales teams and marketing teams make commitments to each other that focus their collaborative efforts on sales growth outcomes.”
“Sales promises typically include reaching out to each qualified leads within X minutes/hours and for Y times Z days apart,” he continues, “Marketing promises typically include generating a certain number of sales accepted leads or sales qualified leads each month.”
Of course, the specifics of what you include in your own SLA can vary. One caveat: Be clear that the SLA is a mutual agreement—a partnership—or you risk turning the sales-marketing relationship into an agency-client one, where one chucks work over the fence to the other. In any case, making the effort to agree on expectations from one another will prevent a lot of future headaches.
6. Create Together
Unfortunately, sales and marketing teams have fallen into a habit of only truly communicating or collaborating after things have gone off the rails. If sales and marketing only come together to react to unexpected problems, it will only add to the brewing resentment and negative feelings between the two. You never get to enjoy working together if you’re always doing it in a high-pressure situation.
This is one of the many reasons why you should make the time to brainstorm and create together—without any heated debates or finger pointing.
“Have meetings designed to co-create. Not just meetings where people air grievances,” explains Roth, “I refer to those meetings as ‘idea fitness,’ when one department has an idea for a strategy or process, they should work on it about half to completion, then present it in a dual or multi-department meeting for critique.”
This sort of approach involves the other team in the process—before anything hits the fan. This effort adds to the idea of collaboration, rather than competition or constant complaining.
7. Integrate Your Software
This last tip covers a more logistical change you could make to ease collaboration between your marketing team and the sales team: integrating your CRM with your marketing automation platform.
Technology won’t solve all of your woes, but it can certainly help in terms of providing closed-loop reporting. Such reporting also encourages further collaboration between sales and marketing. They’ll have to work together to analyze the data, see what’s working and what isn’t.
“By knowing the exact traffic generation, lead generation, and lead nurturing campaigns that lead to closed deals, sales and marketing can stop the blame game and collaborate a lot more effectively,” shares Feinberg.
So, if integrating is an option for you, it’s definitely something worth exploring to keep your sales and marketing team members on the same page.
Over to You
Within any organization, the sales and marketing departments need to work closely together. But, despite the fact that they’re two sides of the same coin, they can often find themselves at odds with each other.
When things fall apart, sales is quick to point the finger at marketing and vice versa.
However, the best-performing companies find ways to flip that standard dynamic on its head and inspire these two groups to work in harmony.
If you think that sounds like a pipe dream, it’s definitely not. It just involves implementing some tactics and strategies, including:
- Ensuring you’re on the same page about goals and KPIs
- Gaining a greater understanding of each other’s responsibilities
- Getting a better grasp of the challenges each group faces
- Spending time together, both in the office and out
- Drafting a Service Level Agreement that both parties need to abide by
- Reserving time to create together, rather than to just air grievances or work out issues
- Integrating your CRM with your marketing automation platform
Slowly start introducing those seven tips into the mix, and you’re bound to see the collaborations between those two notoriously at-odds teams improve.