Sales and marketing collaboration mistakes

Sales and Marketing Collaboration – 7 Pitfalls to Avoid

The evolution of marketing

In most small businesses, the line between sales and marketing is blurred. Initially, there is no designated marketing team, with commercial ideas coming from managers, external agencies or the sales team.

As the business grows, players need to focus on their primary tasks, and the first marketing personnel are hired. These newcomers are charged with market research, promotional activities, assisting the sales team attract prospects, finding and qualifying leads, and closing deals. Marketing’s role is to supplement the sales team, while the sales team’s function remains the same – selling.

As marketing integrates closer ties with planning, product development, and finance departments, tensions tend to rise. Both sales and marketing lose traction due to overlapping tasks, and budget competition.

Sales and marketing dream team

Therefore, it’s important to realise that marketing departments are constantly evolving, as the situation demands, while the sales team’s function remains reasonably stable.

Sales versus marketing in figures

It’s never good when two driving forces behind your business have differing game plans. The inability to focus sales and marketing departments on the same goals can trim your annual revenue by up to 10%, according to LinkedIn research.

Below are some other sales and marketing alignment statistics which might make you think:

  1. Only 8% of businesses claim to have a well-aligned marketing and salesforce. (Forrester Research)
  2. Cohesive sales and marketing alignment can spike sales win-rates by as much as 38%. (MarketingProfs).
  3. Companies with well-aligned sales and marketing teams have up to 36% higher customer retention. (MarketingProfs)
  4. (Marketo) states that marketing and sales regulation improves deal-closing by as much as 67%.
  5. Aligned sales and marketing departments boost annual growth by 20%. (Aberdeen Research Group)
  6. 65% of sales teams can’t source suitably enticing content. (Kapost)
  7. 47% of large conversions are the result of nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)
  8. 70% of B2B content wasted due to unsuitability towards target audience (Content Marketing Institute).
  9. 50% of marketing leads are ignored or neglected by salespeople. (ReachForce)
  10. 50% of salesforce time is spent on unproductive account prospecting. (ReachForce).

And old but gold rule is this; collaborating teams solve problems, but a lack of collaboration only manages to create them.

7 reasons why sales and marketing alignment may fail

According to Australian collaboration expert and author Peter Strohkorb, there are 7 reasons why sales and marketing teams struggle to align effectively. 

1. Admitting the problem

The first step towards any problem solving is accepting that there is a problem. Not only is burying your head in the sand useless, it may even magnify any existing issues.

However, it seems that it’s marketing people who ignore problems most. Typically, members of the sales team admit that closer collaboration with their colleagues in marketing would be beneficial.

sales marketing collaboration
Image credit: HomeBusiness Mag

Whatever the situation may be at your company, it is important to stop finger-pointing and engage in problem-solving. The sooner parties admit that things can get better, the faster the situation improves.  With cooperation between marketing and sales there are no losers, recognise problems and face them.

To better understand your sales and marketing teams’ interaction, try to assess their relationship. Philip Kotler defines four examples:

  •       Undefined relationship. Until there’s a conflict, both parties are heedless of each other’s actions. Joint meetings are dedicated only to problem-solving with little emphasis on cooperation.
  •       Defined relationship. Here, both teams collaborate via an established ‘playbook’. There is a clear distinction between roles. To prevent potential conflicts, marketers and salespeople have regular meetings to reflect on and solve common issues.
  •       Aligned relationship. Sales and Marketing sectors have clear distinctions, but their relationship is flexible. Marketers confer with sales force on big accounts, and salespeople have an understanding of marketing philosophy such as ‘brand image’ or ‘unique value proposition’.

      Integrated relationship. Integrated sales/marketing activities share the same systems, structures and rewards. The teams develop common metrics, share terminology, there is less friction, and budgeting becomes more flexible.

2. Relying on shortcuts

With sales quotas to fill, monthly targets to meet, and quarterly reports to write, quick fixes become convenient, but most of these fixes are rarely effective, especially when they revolve around sales and marketing collaboration. Some popular, but ineffective fixes include extra sales training, hiring more sales reps, and generating more leads.

More sales training

Sales training should be constant, both internally and externally. Seminars work well when based on existing knowledge and skills. However, these lead to down-time for sales teams and redoubling of efforts. Also, if newly-acquired skills are not reinforced within 30 days they are likely to be lost. Finally, the principles of change management state that things tend to get worse before they get better.

New skills require trial and error, losing time and sales volume, much to the annoyance of sales managers who may wish to revert to previous practices.

Increase the sales force

Another popular workplace myth is that more sales reps will lift sales volume. While that sounds logical, bringing in more new faces into a flawed sales and marketing workspace does not solve the core problem. It is the process which needs fixing, not the quantity of staff.

Generating more leads

When challenged some organisations concentrate on lead generation. But, again it is better cooperation between marketing and sales which will lead to better results.

Unless sales and marketing work together and manage to generate, nurture, hand over, close, and report on leads generating extra leads is wasteful. Presenting the right content, in the right context is a far more sound approach. And, for that to happen, sales and marketing need to cooperate fully.

3. No middleman in collaboration

Communication can be expensive; eating up time and prolonging decision making. However, it is necessary to have a clear and reliable communication channel enabling sales and marketing to work closer. Frequently there is no one to connect between sales and marketing. People from both sides get frustrated by searching for assistance in all the wrong places. Having a middleman can be beneficial for both parties, this intermediary should not be related to either department and have a full-time role in this position. Both marketers and sales teams should know exactly who to contact, regarding all issues affecting both parties.

4. Don’t overlook the human aspect

Good collaboration can boil down to interpersonal relationships, so, having a human-first mindset is beneficial. Sales and marketing departments think differently, often with divisive results. Marketing people tend to rely on calculated and structured sales funnels and guide prospects through the process. Sales tend not to be so rational, basing much of their success on intuition, networking, and experience.

sales marketing teamwork
Image source: DataBox

This can be like two worlds colliding, resulting in conflict. Sales believing that they are the ones who butter the bread, while marketing believe that they are the ones who bake the bread.

The first step towards better collaboration is the realisation that working together benefits all stakeholders. Both sides coming together to implement the design of a process which will see their cooperation run smoothly, effectively, and successfully. Only then can those two worlds cohabitate in harmony.

5. When technology comes before people

The key to successful collaboration is to make sure that people are talking.  However, the correct technology can add value to good communication. But it must be remembered, without the willingness to embrace new technologies, and the readiness to onboard, the technology is useless. An intuitive and easy to onboard Sales CRM can greatly enhance the communication value between sales and marketing. Plus, with features such as a sales leaderboard your CRM can pinpoint the best performers, who is hitting their targets consistently, and which areas of the sales pipeline are causing the most bottlenecks.

A feature such as Smart dialer, technology can give your sales team the edge and the visible confidence to embrace new ways of doing business. Another technological advance is through email CRM integration, employing Gmail, Outlook and other software ensuring simpler and continuous communication pipelines. With technological advantages, such as a CRM LinkedIn integration, you can collect contact data easily and directly from Linkedin, saving you valuable time on direct data-input.

In reality, it is the end-users who have to deliver, and it is only by ensuring a company-wide cooperative spirit that results will be demonstrated. Without people, and their communication, technology is just technology.

6. Onboarding the executive

Company direction tends to flow downwards like water and it is the senior executives who must lead by example. Individuals who try to deliver change without the support of management are doomed to failure. Onboarding an executive to your idea can make all the difference, especially to proposals helping your sales and marketing departments work together more closely. Just be sure they fully understand the advantages such cooperation will bring to all parties.

7. There are no instant fixes

Once better collaboration has been established, impatience may set in. In reality, all change takes time to establish itself. And so it is with sales and marketing alignment; it’s all well and good saying that a thing has changed, but it is the people who must absorb the change and be the difference. It’s at this point that the patience of management and all involved is a real virtue. According to Peter Strohkorb, it takes at least 3 months before the first team collaboration results can be seen.

They will appear in three different stages:

  1.     Stage one. Managers will discover more about the organisation and its people. It will become clear who are the main stakeholders, what they think, and what their sentiments are.
  2.     Stage two. Insights on how the company should present itself on the market will become evident. Questions like “how do we look at our customers” or “what can we do to address them more successfully”, will arise.
  3.     Stage three. The first financial results appear.

It takes time to align sales and marketing teams, but if the right effort is there, it will happen.

Sales and marketing collaboration is the foundation of success

Executives often accuse sales and marketing departments of under-communicating, underperforming and over criticising one another. But, every organisation is different, with it’s own set of parameters and expectations. It’s, for this reason, that time should be wisely spent evaluating, assessing, and considering how to improve the situation.

Hopefully, this article has demonstrated that sales and marketing departments who are willing to collaborate demonstrate greater rates of success and satisfaction. In addition, newly introduced technology gets used wisely, and change is accepted more easily. With the adoption of the mindset of change, sales training, communication, and collaboration become the norm; as are the unexpected windfalls which come with that newfound mentality.

It’s fair to say that changes involving collaboration are difficult to adjust to, that is, until people learn to appreciate, trust and work positively with others. ‘Together we can be better’ should be the motto of a carefully aligned strategy aimed at bringing out the best from sales and marketing departments and allowing them to unleash their real power.

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Vytautas Ramanauskas

Vytautas is a marketing specialist. A writer by day and a reader by night, he is passionate about helping people in all aspects of technology, sales intelligence, online marketing, and design.
Find him on Twitter @vytautasram

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