Crossing the divide: Bringing Sales and Marketing together

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35 percent.

That’s how many of the Sales teams we surveyed that rated their relationship with their internal Marketing departments as “close” or “very close”.

And that’s just pathetic.

Pathetic, but not surprising. If you work in Marketing, you’ve likely seen this time and again.

Take one recent example: I worked with a B2B2C company that faced some pretty common issues: an aging product line, the lack of widespread brand awareness, and a “sales enablement program” that essentially consisted of little more than a convoluted SharePoint site of dubious value.

The firm’s leadership, recognizing these challenges, was determined to take action. At their Q4 sales meeting, the Marketing team rolled out a slick presentation that promised the introduction of two new products , as well as a high-quality television spot that would air on networks nationwide.  Sellers were thrilled, confident that the company would soon become a household name. They enthusiastically told existing customers and new prospects to look for exciting changes ahead.

Fast forward three quarters to another sales meeting. Instead of two all-new products, the company introduced a couple of new features to their existing products. Their highly-anticipated national commercial? Replaced by spot cable ads running in the middle of the night in selected markets.

Understandably, the sellers were deflated. But not defeated. They simply rolled up their sleeves and did what 25% of Sales teams tell Leopard they commonly do—they created their own sales materials, without turning to Marketing.

While Marketing may not have been responsible for the lack of new products or the decision to cut back on the media campaign, they were responsible for over-hyping an ultimately underwhelming product upgrade. And worse, they were slow to let Sales know of the reality of the changes.

The trust was shattered.

It didn’t have to be this way. By keeping two simple tenets in mind—truth and speed—the critical relationship between Sales and Marketing can become a strength for any company.

For Marketers, working with Sales team is a bit like working with a lawyer. To do their jobs effectively, salespeople need and deserve to know the whole story—even if the news is disappointing. And they need to know it sooner than later. By arming them with the facts (i.e.: the commercial will run, but not on the networks), they can craft the right proposals for prospects, without making promises that won’t pan out or under-delivering on expectations.

That kind of truth and transparency engenders trust, and spurs Sales to look to Marketing for the kind of high-quality sales materials that they’re trained to do, rather than having individual sales people heading off to create their own. More than simply a waste of a busy salesperson’s time. this type of divide can lead to mixed messaging, dissolution of the brand voice and value proposition, and significant internal strife between departments.

Given the pace of business today, speed is another critical factor that Marketing must deliver. Most Sales teams are under pressure to get the word out to customers and prospects and close deals quickly, before a competitor sweeps in.

To help those salespeople thrive, Marketers must deliver accurate, up-to-date and engaging materials at the speed of business. Even if you can’t provide the “game-changer” they want , don’t leave them empty handed.  Rolling out a steady diet of new materials—think new marketplace positioning, additional research or updated insights into what competitors are doing—helps keep sellers motivated, gives them new things to think and talk about, and helps strengthen the relationship between Sales and Marketing.

Listen, doing business today brings plenty of challenges. Truth and speed can go a long way towards ensuring that your sales and marketing teams remain unified and focused on maximizing results.