One benefit of analyzing companies from the outside-in is that I pick up on many things in an organization that often go un-noticed by leadership. For instance, I can assess what’s wrong with a marketing strategy in a way that a CMO cannot, because I have an unencumbered perspective. I most often observe that the Sales and Marketing Departments are operating almost entirely independent of one another. It’s perfectly indicative of the old adage “the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.”
Before I address how to fix the problems, let’s discuss how to identify you have a problem. This is a somewhat loaded point, in that most of you will find you have this problem to a varying degree. How do you know? Ask these questions:
1. Does Your Sales Team Feel Abandoned in their Quest for Customers?
Pull the sales team away from others and ask if they feel like marketing is giving them the support they need to close business. Ask if they are happy with the amount and quality of leads they receive. More importantly, ask if their prospects recognize your brand when called upon.
2. Is Your Sales Team Actively Executing on The Marketing Strategy?
Marketing teams often grow frustrated with the lack of action the sales team takes toward promoting their strategy. Find out why. Sales may not understand the plan due to miscommunication of the goals from your marketing team.
3. Do You have a Position that is Bridging the Leadership for Both Teams?
Sometimes this position is the CMO or VP of Sales & Marketing. Is that person managing the two different personality types (sales vs. creative) correctly? Ask both teams with this person separated from the conversation. They may be focused solely on bottom-line results, rather than collaboration between teams – which will generally lead to better the results.
4. Are Events Capturing the Leads and Recognition You Hoped?
Events should be the one time when Sales and Marketing people are occupying the same boat … Marketing focused on throwing out the bait while Sales reels in the big fish. The only way this will work efficiently is if both teams move in perfect unison. When they’re not, you get sloppy data capture (you’ve seen the notebook pages of email addresses physically written down, or buckets of cards). You also get informal and unproductive sales conversations, or worse, outshined by your more creative and in-sync competition.
Recently I had a conversation with one of my advisors who told me that a Sales Team is a Marketing Team’s client. I didn’t like hearing that at first, as I think this road must travel in two directions, but the more I contemplated the advice, the more I saw its wisdom: when Marketing is treating Sales as a client, providing them everything they need and meeting their expectations, that client becomes happier and starts collaborating more. Marketing must travel down the street first before the traffic begins to contraflow.
If this is sounding like problems that exist within your organization, worry not, for all is not lost. If caught early enough, this problem can be kept from causing a more deep-rooted problem within your team. Look first to address these potential issues:
1. Management / Leadership
Probably the most crucial (but hardest) problem to fix, this can be a team’s biggest road block. We work with a client whose CEO believes very strongly in the marketing strategy and pushes that vision to the sales team. However, the Sales Manager refuses to acquiesce, and has a lot of clout with the sales team. This person can’t simply be demoted for insubordination; they have to leave the organization entirely. If you see this problem, address the Sales or Marketing management first. The answer may be opening a position that manages both departments together, as one unified front.
Sales people and Marketing people practically speak in different languages altogether. When Sales people are communicating to Marketing people, it can come off short-sighted, uneducated, demanding or condescending. When Marketing people communicate to Sales people, it can come off flighty, unrealistic, fluffy or a waste of time. Find someone who is capable of speaking both languages, and have them direct communication between the two. Bottom line: Sales MUST communicate effectively to Marketing, otherwise the communication loop is broken. The problem is rarely the other way around.
3. Team Building
The best way to dispel tension is to disallow it while providing better alternatives. Rather than “handling” both “departments” like squabbling siblings, remind them that they’re siblings. Take them out rock climbing, where one side is dependent on the other to succeed. Have them create a short film together, where they can all show their creative skills as pieces to a cohesive whole. Whatever you do, don’t allow the tension to exist.
Throughout this blog, I’ve referred to both sides as “departments”. That’s the last lesson I’ll teach: STOP USING THIS TERM.
People working towards the betterment of your brand are all on the same team. They’re not departments, or separate functioning entities, doing different things. They’re both trying to accomplish the exact same goal – creating revenue. So let the goal drive the team, not their work role. Managing that process is far more successful, and your team will be happier for it.