How to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

June 26, 2012

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This is a guest post by Brad Shorr.

Internal struggles between sales and marketing are commonplace in organizations of all sizes. Having worked on both sides, I’ve come to appreciate how difficult it can be to remedy the situation, and also how rewarding it is to get both departments singing the same tune. Sales and marketing can make beautiful music together in the form of more leads and sales! Here are a few thoughts on how to make it happen.

Problem 1: Political Infighting

Might as well start with the toughest and touchiest problem. Tensions abound when sales and marketing leadership are locked in a battle of wills. Everything each department says or does is seen by the other in the worst possible light, cooperation is virtually nonexistent, and the entire situation becomes a long and depressing tailspin into mediocrity.

One possible fix is to create a VP of Sales and Marketing role. The potential for infighting is high when two departments are battling for favored treatment from a neutral shared boss, such as a CEO or branch manager. Bringing the departments together may not obliterate turf battles, but at least they will be contained within a single department, and resolved there.

Another way to short circuit political issues is for executive leadership to clearly articulate the roles and priorities of sales and marketing. Some firms are sales-driven; others are marketing-driven. If a department doesn’t know where it stands, it will naturally push as hard as it can for as much as it can.

Articulating roles and priorities is not a one-time exercise, either. Priorities can change rapidly, depending on what’s going on internally and industry-wide. For example, consider a sales-driven company ready to introduce a new line of products into a new market segment. Marketing will now take precedence, but marketing will be tentative and sales will be frustrated if the new priorities aren’t understood.

Problem 2: Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt

You often hear sales types complain that marketing doesn’t understand sales. And just as often, you hear marketers complain that sales doesn’t understand marketing. Unfortunately, these statements usually contain more than a grain of truth, and nothing fosters ill will and ineffectiveness so much as ignorance.

Fortunately, the fix for this problem is simple: cross-training.

When marketers understand sales, their work becomes more relevant to customers, and more persuasive. When sales people understand marketing, they become more systematic and efficient. I don’t think it’s an accident that many successful marketers have had freelance experience, where they were forced to be sales people by necessity. And, throughout my career I have seen many sales reps become tremendously successful by incorporating solid marketing techniques into their work.

Cross-training also alleviates political infighting and internal communication issues. Having a better sense of where a person is coming from, and having some idea of the method behind his apparent madness makes for constructive dialog.

Problem 3: Poor Processes and Shaky Structures

 Sometimes, firms just don’t know what they’re missing by allowing sales and marketing teams to plow ahead without having an organized system behind them. When internal systems are ill-defined and chaotic, sales and marketing tend to clash not only on issues that matter, but also on ones that shouldn’t.

For instance, every marketing department should have a clear process for producing a sales brochure, a process that defines responsibilities and timelines. But for many firms, creating a brochure turns into a fire drill, and it’s never done the same way twice. As a result, steps get skipped, input is overlooked, reviews are haphazard, expectations run the gamut, and everyone generally walks away underwhelmed.

Even worse than poor processes is the problem of shaky structures. Many of us have seen the firm that delegates marketing to a customer service rep who took a few creative writing classes and uses Facebook a lot. And perhaps we’ve also run into the sales manager who checks in with his reps once a month and spends the rest of his time playing customer golf.

If a firm doesn’t appreciate the complexity and difficulty of sales and marketing, it is really setting its staff up for failure. Political infighting is at least organized fighting; when staffers are at each other’s throats because there’s no other way to get things done, you’ve now set the stage for a gang war.

These issues arise frequently in entrepreneurial firms that have enjoyed rapid growth; adding a little management talent is often all it takes to completely transform the situation.

Work On It

For executive leadership, I suppose all of these three sales-marketing problems come back to that same issue of working on the business instead of in the business. Sales and marketing are completely different disciplines with completely different mindsets. And just because both groups have the same goal of increasing sales, it’s by no means a given that they will get along. It’s a tough problem to be sure, but that’s why execs get the big bucks.

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an agency that does web marketing in Chicago. They specialize in B2B with clients in industrial niches from credit card mobile processing to machine knit fingerless gloves.


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When Leads Go Cold

June 9, 2011

Rusty Funnel by TMWeddle @ FlickrIt seems with all the systems we have today to generate, score, and nurture leads, it all comes down to sales. The amount of time it takes for a sales person to follow up with a lead can determine whether the deal is closed or not. At least, that’s what the recent HBR article “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads” states, saying that 24% of companies take more than 24 hours to respond to a lead, and 23% of companies never responded at all.

According to their research, the average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.

These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold – HBR

The article doesn’t go into much detail about whether the leads being followed up had been nurtured by a Marketing Automation system, or even a break down of industries but it does point a good possible flaw in the sales process of most companies.

What good is implementing a complex nurturing system if when the marketing qualified lead is sent to sales, the rep doesn’t follow up? Plugging this hole in the funnel takes more than software.


Why Sales and Marketing Don’t Get Along

March 24, 2011

Talk to marketing mangers and sales managers about their biggest complaint and you will likely hear “They don’t follow up on leads!” from the marketing guy and “Their leads suck!” from the sales guy. No news there. But why is that this fight on lead quality continues?

According to a recent chart published by MarketingSherpa (below), 80% of marketers don’t spend time qualifying leads before sending them to sales.

B2B Lead Qualification Requirements

What information is required before leads are passed to sales?

It is interesting that back in 2009, MarketingSherpa had published a chart showing the key challenges marketers faced and “generating high quality leads” was the top one. Sales keeps insisting on receiving better leads, marketing knows that is an issue, but still they are not delivering. In their “CMO Perspectives on B2B Marketing Automation” this challenge for high quality leads is shown as having increased from 69% in 2009 to 76% in 2010.

A Gartner Group presentation on allocation of Marketing Budgets for 2011 showed that the top three marketing priorites for this year are:

  • Acquire new customers
  • Improve customer retention
  • Support sales including lead generation programs

If the budget is there, then maybe more companies will be able to finally put some technology in place to help with lead quality, more specifically marketing automation with the goal of improving lead quality. Because the solution to the disconnect facing marketing and sales today is to fix the “lead problem”, once leads are better qualified the two organizations can be friends again.

 


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