Roadblocks to Sales and Marketing Alignment

It’s unfortunate how common it is for sales and marketing teams within the same company to have a less-than-harmonious working relationship. There’s too often a struggle to align and see the value both can offer each other. You’d think sharing the same goal of bringing in business for the company would lead to a beautiful partnership. But often, neither team believes the other is on the same page at all.

When properly aligned, both sales and marketing teams can experience heightened success.

Properly Aligned Sales and Marketing

With there being evidence of how valuable the partnership between sales and marketing can be, why are there still companies out there where both operate as separate entities? I believe it’s because there are certain roadblocks that require effort to get past. But you have to realize the time and effort are worth the end result:

  • Higher retention
  • Higher sales and win rates
  • Higher potential for leads to close

Being a marketer myself, I’d like to come from a marketer’s perspective and share things the marketing team in our company has learned from our mistakes and what we’ve learned from our sales team.
So what are some of the roadblocks that get in the way of a productive relationship between sales and marketing:
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Not Realizing How Different Your Roles Are

It’s easy to assume that sharing an overall goal with another team means you have the same immediate goals. But that isn’t the case. What’s important to you as a marketer may not be immediately important to a salesperson and vice versa. Knowing the differences between each other’s roles gives you insight into how to communicate with each other.
For example, it’s common for a marketing team to make a change to or improvement on the way the company does something and then be surprised when the sales team doesn’t buy in. Because salespeople deal with immediate results and interact with clients in real-time, it’s not likely they’ll adopt something they aren’t convinced will affect their “now.” So you have to prove that it does. How does it help them secure a client or improve their process? Tying it in to what’s important to them gets their attention.
Knowing the differences in each other’s roles also prevents your team from taking on tasks that fall outside your role. For example, our sales team does a good job of using the materials we create that help them have better conversations with clients. But that comes from the sales team knowing it’s our role to create such materials due to having the expertise and resources to do so; and also trusting us with the responsibility. That being said, it still takes cooperation between both teams to ensure accurate information is used in the materials and the message is communicated in a way that resonates with the audience it’s for.
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A Lack of Trust

It’s easy to trust someone if you know they’re on your side. We marketers don’t always do a good job of communicating this because we fail in the following areas:

  • Communicating Early:

    It’s a common bad habit for marketers to spring things on the sales team and can be a blow especially when it affects the sales team. Our team has made the mistake in the past of waiting too late to bring sales in on campaigns, leaving them to follow-up on leads they know nothing about. So we started involving them during the planning stage and keeping them involved throughout, setting them up for success once the leads start rolling in.
    Early communication shows you value the other team’s input.

  • Delivering on What You Promise:

    It’s one thing to say you’re willing to support the sales team, but what are your actions saying? Do sales requests go ignored for the sake of bigger projects? Don’t get me wrong. The overall success of the company is every department’s priority, but ensuring the success of sales plays a big part in the overall success of the company. Also, how successful are your campaigns? Are they delivering desired results? Actions speak louder words. Be who you say you are and you prove yourself as trustworthy.

  • Listening:

    The sales team has face-to-face interactions with the very people you’re trying to reach in marketing. That alone should prove that they have insight into your audience’s needs, wants, interests, etc. That’s valuable information that can improve the way you approach marketing. So be willing to learn from the sales team. Have one-on-one conversations with them. Be present for client calls. Go with them on client visits every once in a while.

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No Transparency

It’s impossible to know how to help if you have no insight into what the other team is doing. So be willing to share information. Here are some areas where sharing can help both teams:
Lack of Transparency

  • Metrics:

    This will involve team managers meeting to find out what’s being tracked and what metrics both teams have in common. The end goal is to determine what sales metrics the marketing team can contribute to and vice versa. For example, our sales team has a metric of getting 100% engagement with a client by a deadline whether through a phone call, an email, etc. Our marketing team can share information we have on clients so the sales team can have more informed conversations. A metric on the marketing side is increasing newsletter subscribers. So the sales team helps by informing their clients about our newsletter subscriptions during client conversations.

  • Data:

    It helps to know what data the other team could use that they don’t have. This goes back to communication between team managers and even communication between team members. There’s data sales can provide marketing that educates us on who to go after and how to go after them like sales cycles, days to close, ideal customer, signs an account is in danger, etc. On the other hand, marketing can provide data that helps sales keep clients happy. For example, data that tells sales how campaigns are performing like page views, video views, content downloads, lead forms, and so on.

  • What’s Working and What’s Not:

    It’s easy to say what’s working but can be hard to admit when something’s wrong. Sharing what is or isn’t working, can reveal to the other team what needs to be continued as is and what can be improved on. For example, let’s say the sales team provides marketing with an audience to target in a campaign and that audience isn’t responding. By communicating this to the sales team, you can gain insight on that audience and identify the issue. Or even from a sales perspective, admitting they couldn’t close leads marketing provided can reveal a need for marketing to change what kind of lead they send over or how they warm up the leads.

In cases where it’s difficult to determine what to share or where to help, a good practice is to simply ask, “how can I help you?” The team can express a struggle or roadblocks which can clue you in on where to apply your expertise.
Building a strong partnership between sales and marketing takes time and effort, and involves both teams working toward removing roadblocks. Don’t be afraid to be the team who takes the first step. Your effort could be the needed icebreaker that opens the door to a highly productive relationship.
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