In the organizational structure of most businesses, there’s a marketing department and a sales department. While this separation of activities may be necessary for reporting reasons, it often leads to confusion and tension between the two.
Marketing has a broad agenda in its responsibility to the business. This agenda includes:
- Lead Generation
- Web content
- Market research
- New product development
- Social media
Sales, on the other hand, has a specific focus. Sales people are charged with cultivating customer leads, qualifying those leads, managing a sales pipeline, and remaining focused on the key touch-points that move a general inquiry to a qualified lead to a buying customer.
Regardless of the difference in scope, both sales and marketing share the same objectives: satisfying customers and growing revenue for the business. So it’s essential for businesses to close the gap between the two departments – enabling them to work more efficiently toward these common goals.
Here are tips for bridging the gap between marketing and sales:
Start speaking the same language. In your organization, is there common agreement on what constitutes a “lead”? More importantly, does everyone agree on the definition of a “qualified lead”? Make sure a consensus exists on these critical terms, then focus your marketing activities on developing comprehensive target customer profiles and gathering information on key decision-makers within the target audience. If sales pursue individuals who lack the power to buy, their efforts are wasted and they end up distrusting the marketing team that sent them down the wrong path in the first place.
Create a jointly developed plan. Amazingly, many companies spend vast amounts of time and effort creating a strategic plan but never get input from their sales departments. Who else has more intimate knowledge and front-line experience of the customer than your sales team? A more effective approach involves sales and marketing creating a sales funnel plan that lays out every step of their customers’ buying process and details the best ways to reach out and influence those customers.
Measure activities and results. Encourage sales and marketing to revamp their analytics and to develop agreed-upon metrics that accurately measure the outcomes of the marketing and sales process.
Invite marketing staff to “walk a mile” in the sales team’s shoes. Often, tensions between sales and marketing arise from a simple misunderstanding of how a salesperson operates. One solution to this problem is to have members of the marketing team (from the top executive on down) spend a day or week with sales reps. See how they make contact with customers, develop leads, follow up on calls, etc. There’s probably no better way to learn just what information salespeople require as they work to influence the buying process.
It’s worth emphasizing the depth of customer knowledge a good sales rep has. They know what works with targeted customer and what falls flat. Within your organization, it should be made easy for sales to share this vital information with marketing and, armed with this knowledge, for marketing to give sales every tool possible to succeed in the field.