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Creating a true partnership between marketing and sales

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Two years ago, the CMO Council reported on a huge disconnect between marketing and sales in its white paper, “Closing the Gap: The Sales and Marketing Alignment Imperative.” Sales and marketing—according to the report, which surveyed 506 sales, marketing and channel management professionals online—were more “antagonistic than synergistic” and there was “mistrust, misunderstanding of function, and a lack of alignment and singularity of purpose [between the two],” the council found.

And yet, two years later, the two departments still aren’t working together, said Kevin Darlington, senior VP-product marketing at financial software company HNW Inc. “Sales and marketing are typically out of sync or—at worst—are undermining each other,” he said. “Even at very senior levels where there is a deeper ownership, there can be a less-than-collegial environment.”

The CMO Council said that sales and marketing have a serious imperative: Partner or perish. At technology companies, where, very often, salespeople aren’t on staff, it can be even more crucial to speak with those reselling the products or services. To that end, Darlington provided one secret and one lie the understanding of which may help bring sales and marketing closer.

Secret: Send your marketing folks out with your salespeople.
The pharmaceutical market does it all the time: The marketing rep will sit in on meetings with doctors and administrators while the salesperson makes his or her pitch. It works, Darlington said, because the marketer sees the salesperson in action and learns which points seem to resonate. The marketer also gets better firsthand knowledge of customer questions and issues. Both sets of data can help a marketer produce better leave-behind collateral, case studies, press releases and display advertising. “Marketing has to understand—really deeply understand—the nature of the sales call,” Darlington said. “It’s so basic, and yet technology companies will rarely do anything like this.”

In the reseller market, a ride-along can also be a good time to educate salespeople. Sure, you’re probably doing plenty of education and programs; but, when a reseller feels special and cared for, he or she is more likely to push your product over someone else’s, Darlington said.

Lie: Marketing and sales should be working daily to build a large database of leads.
“There’s a general skepticism out there in sales about the quality of leads that marketing is generating,” Darlington said, “so you end up having salespeople spending as much as a third of their time on lead generation.” But involving sales in building a database can negatively impact the bottom line, he said.

Good salespeople should spend their time networking and building relationships—not adding names to a database. The only way to get sales to stop spending so much time adding names is by doing a better job in marketing, Darlington said. Resellers in particular rely on companies to pass them vetted sales leads, and the company that gives them the best, not necessarily the most leads, is going to win their loyalty.

But that doesn’t mean marketers should spend a lot of time adding names, either. Focus on mining analytics to find the most engaged customers and prospects, and concentrate on shaping and designing materials that will help salespeople make their sales, he said. “Marketing is a ‘pre-sales’ job. It’s not about collecting as many leads as you can find; it’s about focusing not on quantity but on quality of leads,” Darlington said.

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