Thought Leadership on Marketing and Branding Success presented by O2 Lab.
It’s one of the great ironies of business: Marketing and sales people have the same ultimate goals, but often they seem to be working across a great chasm. So how can you bridge the gap and reap the benefits of cooperation? Here’s what we’ve learned from working on both sides of the divide.
- Find an ally.
Identify someone in sales you think might be interested in working together. Start small with a coffee date or just a chat in the office. Be upfront about wanting to understand your mutual challenges and opportunities better, but don’t grill the other person. This is just the first step in an ongoing relationship. Make an effort to really get to know who this person is, and then follow up with a note or email about something that relates to your conversation. Need more ideas? See our article on networking.
- Learn why they do what they do….
Once you’ve developed a rapport with a colleague in sales, see if you can get a peek at how the sales team works. Can you go on a ride-along? Some salespeople may balk at this, worrying that they are being judged or that you are going to say or do something to derail the sale. But if someone has come to trust you on both a personal and professional level, it should become clear that this is a golden opportunity. Salespeople can learn from your insights, and you can glean valuable information — and a new respect for your colleagues—from seeing the tough challenges they tackle on sales calls.
- … And help them understand why you do what you do.
For people without a marketing background, it may not be immediately obvious how maintaining a strong brand differentiates your company from the competition. You can explain how consistent messaging, visuals, and core values imbue your firm with its personality, thereby driving customer loyalty. Try using a familiar example, like a luxury car brand, and explain why sub-par photography or off-message language can damage the relationship between company and customer. Invite a friend or two from sales to a marketing meeting to learn about the next campaign. Explain your thought processes. Then listen — really listen — to any insights and observations they offer. I bet you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
- Understand the process of making a sale.
Closing the deal is a multi-step process. Salespeople usually have to make several visits before reaching their goal. That’s because complex sales are relationship driven. Just like you don’t become friends with people the first time you meet them, a buyer is unlikely to work with an unknown salesperson. The buyer wants to trust the salesperson’s skill, knowledge and abilities just as much as the integrity and capabilities of the company. And take note: Often the best deals are done not by a buyer asking directly for something, but by a salesperson understanding the buyer’s opportunities and challenges, and suggesting solutions.
- Give them what they want (within reason).
While you have an important agenda (marketing your company with optimal impact) the sales team has a slightly different purpose, and the materials you provide them need to acknowledge that. Take time to understand their plan and how marketing fits in. Maybe you need to rethink how you package information for them to present to a prospective client, for example. A new marketing piece could be a great reason for sales to make that crucial next visit to a potential buyer. At the same time, you don’t need to say yes to everything the sales team asks for. Set appropriate boundaries and stick to them, but explain the thinking behind your actions.
- Make time for play.
If you really want to raise the comfort level between the two departments, get the sales and marketing groups together once in a while outside the office. Go bowling, for example, but don’t divide the teams by department, pitting marketing against sales; mix up the groups. Or organize a community service event that will have you all working alongside each other for a great cause—the ultimate way to build camaraderie. There are hundreds of possible activities to choose from. The goal is to get folks to feel more connected, more willing to speak up and share. Clearly, one team-building exercise isn’t going to fix all the issues your firm might have, but it’s a terrific way to start a culture of collaboration.
- Don’t give up.
The first time you try to make a connection with the other department, you may fall short. Relationship building takes time. If you feel your enthusiasm flagging, keep in mind that the process of building this bridge has its own benefits. Getting sales and marketing to work together is not only good for the company and the client, but it also adds to your own skill set going forward. It’s win-win-win!
Are your organization’s sales and marketing teams not as harmonious as they could be? Try using this article to kick-start a conversation. From my experience, I can say without hesitation that both sides are closer in alignment than they may believe. Your colleagues may just need a little push.