May 7, 2019
The dance between the marketing and sales teams can become fraught with missteps that lead to disappointing results. Too often, the sales team takes the blame for this misalignment. But the marketing team leads the dance and can sometimes step on its partner’s toes.
Much of the breakdown between these departments comes down to a lack of communication and empathy. Only 35% of salespeople feel like their marketing team understands their needs, according to Kapost research, and 33% of sales and marketing teams don’t have a regular meeting time set aside to work together.
Whether it’s launching campaigns without notifying the sales crew or leaving it to training teams to translate the story that needs to be told, marketing can leave sales high and dry.
With so much cost incurred in the initial stages of developing product messaging, marketing can’t afford a halfhearted handoff. Here are five steps to ensure seamless messaging and a great relationship with sales:
Bring in your front lines early. About a third of marketing teams don’t have a process for internal ideation, according to the above Kapost research. Considering that marketing creates the story that it asks sales to tell customers, it’s not surprising that the customer experience gets rocky when the two teams don’t work together.
When you give more time to internal ideation, you’re syncing everyone with the message from the start. As reported in Marketing Week, mobile network operator EE, a company that recognizes that the closest person to the customer (aka the sales team) should have a role in creating the customer message, sees higher levels of alignment using this philosophy.
Ask, don’t tell. Don’t come to the table with a fully developed idea just to ask sales to sign off on it. This gives salespeople no opportunity to be a part of the work. Instead, conduct focus groups and team meetings to ask others what they think.
When travel company Thomson rebranded as TUI, leadership went to great pains to secure alignment. According to the Marketing Week article, the company took 1,500 shop managers overseas to explore and explain what the new brand would signify. It might cost more upfront, but that kind of investment reaps benefits down the road.
Break the story into bite-size chunks. Customers usually don’t make buying decisions all at once, so salespeople shouldn’t try to tell the whole brand story or product story in one attempt.
Marketing teams should think about how the story they’re telling can be broken up into digestible chunks. If you equip sales teams to think in terms of a series of conversations, they will be more comfortable with the process.
Translate marketing language for front-line teams. Too often, marketing teams want salespeople to reuse language from marketing materials when talking to potential customers. They need to understand the conversations salespeople are having, though, to help them translate ad lingo into something relevant and personal.
One of my clients has a large team dedicated to selling to a network of independent retailers. Those retailers, in turn, sell to end customers. Yet the marketing materials are aimed at the end customer. If marketing fails to translate the message to speak to these retailers, it might cause a breakdown.
Provide ongoing support. Listen to the questions that come back from sales. This collaboration will allow teams to build dynamic partnerships that better serve customers in the long run. The real opportunity to improve comes from reacting to their needs after they have a chance to try out the story a few times.
Most sales teams crave support from marketing, and there is a big opportunity for marketers to step in and create better results for both.