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Fixing Your Company’s Sales-Marketing Culture

Fixing Your Company’s Sales-Marketing Culture

By Bridget McCrea

Publisher’s note:  It’s time to face facts. Your sales team and your marketing team are probably not on the same page. The marketing team has poured over piles of research and countless product selling points, and it can’t figure out why the sales team isn’t using that information to help sell more. Your sales team is wondering why the marketing guys think they have all of the answers without actually grinding out the sales effort in the field day after day. The interesting part is many distributors and manufacturers in this supply chain have people at the executive level with the title “Director of sales AND marketing.” So how do you get everyone on your team working together? We explore the best practices in the second of a two-part series. You can read the first part here.
– Scott Costa


Half of the average sales team’s time is wasted on unproductive prospecting, yet most of those sales teams ignore as many as 50% of the leads that marketing hands over to them. Lost sales productivity and wasted marketing budgets cost companies at least $1 trillion a year, and just 30% of chief marketing officers have a clear process or program to make marketing and sales alignment a priority.

The news doesn’t get any better. According to this Wheelhouse Advisors infographic, a full 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales, with “lack of lead nurturing” being the most common culprit. In the B2B space, 61% of marketers send leads directly to sales, yet just 27% of those leads are ever “touched” by sales.

Many of these issues can be traced back to poor alignment between a company’s sales and marketing teams. In some cases, marketing isn’t creating the right kind of content. This could be because they lack the customer/buyer insights and knowledge that the sales team possesses. In other cases, leads that are generated by marketing are mishandled by sales. Yet, the bottom line is that 95% of buyers choose the vendor that provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.

Bringing it all Together
The question is, how can you develop a corporate culture that brings together a distributorship’s sales and marketing teams, makes better use of generated leads, and creates campaigns that are both relevant and useful for customers (and, of course, for your company’s sales team). “When there is little or no synergy or alignment between sales and marketing goals, each group will expend their energy and focus on what each deems necessary,” according to Vablet’s 3 Signs Your Marketing and Sales Teams Aren’t Aligned.

“Everyone wants to do a good job, but if your corporate culture doesn’t recognize the value of sales and marketing alignment, it makes everyone’s job that much harder. Finger pointing, blaming, and undermining become part of the deflection tactics used when sales results aren’t attained. The result can be frustration, indifference, and even high turnover rates among the sales and marketing teams.”  

Dov Baron author of Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent, speaker, and president of consulting firm Full Monty Leadership in British Columbia, says misalignment of sales and marketing teams is a fairly common issue in today’s business world. He blames corporate silos for creating the problem, and says the fact that everyone is focused on his or her own job or responsibilities can create some serious rifts between departments. In many cases, the sales team gets put on a pedestal because it “brings in the money,” leaving other departments—marketing included—to rally around it and try to do what they can to support that sales team in its efforts.

“Very often, marketing feels like the player who always passing the ball and never getting the goal (i.e., making the ‘assist’),” says Baron. “There’s not as much glamour in that.” There’s also not as much pressure involved with getting the assist, he notes, and sometimes no solid ways to actual track the marketing team’s efforts or achievements. “It’s like, you made the sale, Bob, but without Fred in marketing that sale wouldn’t exist,” Baron explains. “The argument from the salesperson is, well it wouldn’t exist at all if I haven’t actually closed the sale. As a result, the glory always goes to the salesperson.”

To stop that vicious cycle and get both sales and marketing working toward common goals, Baron says electrical distributors should start by focusing on the people within the two departments and the managers or leaders who head up those marketing and sales teams. “Rather than trying to develop crazy systems and accountability, go to the people and ask them what they need to be able to communicate better with one another,” Baron advises.

The leaders themselves are a good starting point for this exercise, Baron says. Start by asking those individuals what their problem is with the “other side,” and inviting them to open up about the issues without fear of backlash or judgment. “You can do this in a town hall meeting type of setting, where people can feel safe communicating their concerns and issues,” says Baron. “Get them talking about what matters most, how they want to be recognized, and what issues they have with the other company departments.”

From there, Baron advises company leaders to focus on the comments and feedback around recognition—a point that’s becoming even more important as the huge millennial generation makes its way into the workplace. To accommodate these shifts, Baron says leaders should come up with ways to effectively recognize both sales and marketing employees for their efforts and accomplishments.

Avoiding the Backslide
To avoid sliding back into bad silo’ed habits and misaligned work styles, Baron says companies have to view sales-marketing alignment as an ongoing effort—and not a “one and done” task. One way to achieve this is by putting marketing employees out in the field with sales reps, and vice versa. “This helps to stoke both empathy and compassion because you can’t really understand someone until you’ve walked in his or her shoes,” Baron points out.

This “job rotation” exercise can also help teams solve each other’s problems. A sales rep that is struggling to break into a new market, for example, may learn some tips by working shoulder-to-shoulder with a marketing professional for one day out of the month.

On a final note, Baron says the corporate cultures that focus on transparency and vulnerability (i.e., being open about problems and issues) are the ones that do the best job of maintaining sales-marketing alignment. “It’s about being open about what the problems are and then figuring out ways to do something about it—the accountability factor,” says Baron. “When leadership is open to insights and feedback, and when you sales and marketing teams have walked a mile in another person’s moccasins, you can start to get everyone on the same page.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.


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