Where Is the Love Between Marketing and Sales?

10 Tips to Help Bridge the Gap

By Published on .

Sales and marketing both claim to be pursuing the same goals -- revenue, market share, shareholder value -- but we certainly don't seem to be on the same page. In fact, sometimes it seems that we're working against each other. Why can't we get along?

This misalignment is rooted in a variety of factors. Different vocabularies. Inconsistent metrics. A legacy of mistrust. We stare at each other across a chasm of misunderstanding and tension.

Whatever the reason, sales and marketing are set up as rivals. Salespeople think marketing is irresponsible and irrelevant. Marketing thinks sales is arrogant and lazy. Sales says they never get anything useful from marketing. Marketing says sales ignores their contribution. We need couples therapy.

But instead of moaning, what can we do about it? Here are 10 tips for marketers to begin building bridges across the chasm.

1. Waiting for sales to change its stripes is an exercise in futility. They are who they are. If marketing has the problem, we as marketers have to find the solution. So it's up to us to get proactive, and make some changes.

2. Read the sales plan. If we are the partner of sales, we have to share their goals. Our objectives should mirror theirs.

3. Eliminate the marketing fuzz. Make every communication an investment. Measure it, benchmark it, test it, and seek regular improvements over last period.

4. Plan together. You don't have to sing "Kumbaya," but you must bring the sales team in at every stage of the marketing process to understand their needs and gain their buy-in.

5. Get input from sales, but don't let them push you around. Some reps will say they want to be copied on every customer communication into their territories. You have to find a middle ground that makes sense economically and satisfies the sales rep's need for account control. Sending messages to customers under the name of the account rep is one solution (as long as the rep agrees).

6. No more unqualified leads. You must engage sales in defining the criteria for lead qualification, and deliver only leads that clearly meet those pre-agreed levels.

7. Insist that the sales compensation plan include rewards for follow-up on marketing leads, as well as penalties for ignoring them.

8. Get senior management support. They view marketing as a cost center, too. Show them your numbers.

9. Take great care when claiming results. You may have the greatest closed-loop lead tracking system around, but it's a slippery slope when you brag that your marketing program drove the sale. Better to limit yourself to activity-based measures, like cost-per-qualified lead, and leave the revenue claims to sales. At least when you are in public.

10. Interview key sales reps and managers regularly. Think Ed Koch: "How'm I doing?" Ask what are their key challenges and brainstorm ways you can help them succeed. And then deliver on what you promised.

Is this annoying you? Are you resentful that the burden of change is on our shoulders? I think it's worth the effort. Think about how complex and interesting b-to-b marketing is. How gigantic the value of each account. This stuff is a blast. Especially when you get a well-deserved pat on the back from the sales team. It happens, sometimes.

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