Marketing and Sales Alignment: The Hatfields vs.The McCoys

The topic of how to best align Marketing and Sales should be of interest to every company whether big or small. When these departments are in harmony, the sales funnel becomes a more manageable process from lead generation to being able to seal the deal. However, it’s not uncommon for these two groups to be in conflict with one another as they compete for limited resources and recognition within an organization. The typical bickering looks like this: Sales complains Marketing is not generating enough quality leads and Marketing fires back Sales is not working the leads provided hard enough. If things become acrimonious or divergent, that relationship can be likened to a modern day feuding of rival parties like the Hatfield and McCoy families. “You are either with, or agin us”.  Over time, that sentiment becomes ingrained and can be detrimental to business.

I have personally enjoyed working with various sales teams during my marketing career both in B2B and B2C industries. A common and extremely incorrect view is that selling and advertising are marketing and those efforts focus primarily on mass communications tactics to create awareness and generate leads or consumer preference for a company’s product or service. I believe one of the Marketing department’s key roles is to make the salesforce as successful as possible by shortening the sales cycle as much as possible.  Aside from generating leads, marketing needs to nurture the ones that are yet to be cultivated and provide the salespeople the tools they need to do their job-sell.  So what is the secret for the sweet smell of sales success?

I am often surprised by the number of marketers who have yet to sit in on sales calls and help close deals so they can truly understand the value of each generated lead and which marketing tools work the most efficiently when making those calls.  I learned some valuable and surprising lessons when I worked in my first B2B sales support role at Speedy Auto Service promoting a Commercial Repair Services.  I learned the “killer PowerPoint deck” I had laboured over was overkill when the sales team called on smaller clients.  I learned that I needed to get a better understanding of the subtle features and benefits key to growing Commercial Sales from our customers. It also gave me a chance to see first-hand how salespeople actually positioned the company and communicated the features and benefits of our services.  And most importantly, I had the opportunity to gain a real understanding of the customer’s pain points, the sales objections that needed to be addressed and what the competition was offering. The salespeople are your feet on the street and a tremendous resource for every marketer to learn from so you can manage the business more effectively.

So, how do you end the tussle on the battlefield?

The first step is to get Sales and Marketing to sit around the table to collaborate and foster an open dialogue. Get the sales team to provide feedback on the quality of the leads generated monthly, what’s working and what needs to be changed. This dialogue will enable marketers to better understand which types of leads are most likely to close so they can generate more of them.  Optimally performng companies understand that marketing does not just hand off leads to sales.  Marketing needs to be part of the process not seen as a speed bump to progress.

And the Sales team has a valuable ear to the street when meeting with customers.  Any key learning from those meetings should be shared with the Marketing team.

Speak the same language
Marketing and sales alignment begins with speaking the same lingo:. You need to create some common definitions so everyone understands the process: What is a contact? A qualified lead? An opportunity? What are the sales stages?  And when should a lead be shared with Sales.

Marketing Tools
Develop marketing tools sales people will actually use and keep these document in a common “H” drive so the team can quickly access these resources. There is no need to invent the wheel when making sales presentations. Make sure these documents have some type of automation where a sales rep can customize the documents for their meetings and build their own proposals. It saves the sales team a ton of time and also ensures a consistency in the branding and messaging you are putting out there.

Marketing and Product Updates
Marketing needs to ensure Sales is up-to-speed on any upcoming marketing programs before they are in market.  The same goes for maintaining a flow of information about changes to product features, pricing and what the competition is doing. Knowledge is power and it will only make the team better at selling.

If you have seen the movie “Legally Blonde 2”, you’ve seen the Snap Cup. In the movie, Reese Witherspoon’s character, Elle Woods, breaks the ice with a group of people by getting them to write nice things about individual members to build team spirit. Those positive comments are placed in her Snap Cup and read out loud.  Now, you do not need to go that far, but it is still a very good idea to celebrate the positives like winning new accounts,  securing additional revenue from an existing client or creating a winning advertising campaign.

I have learned the importance of aligning Sales and Marketing is no different than the importance of balancing your tires to optimize your driving experience and extend the life of your tires. Aligning your tires creates a smoother drive, requires less energy to go farther, equally distributes the weight of the vehicle, and reduces the wear and tear on your wheels. Ultimately, it improves driving performance and helps you travel safely to your destination.

Please share how your organization was able to align the Marketing and Sales functions.


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