StrategyEducating leadershipWorking together: Why sales and marketing need to collaborate

Working together: Why sales and marketing need to collaborate

Marketing and sales are traditionally two separate functions, but as we start to gather more data and build a single customer view it becomes more important to not only be aligned but to share common goals and data. In our recent ClickZ webinar, we discussed best practices on how you can affect this change in your organization, and why it’s worth it.

Our guests in this webinar titled ‘Bridging the gap between marketing and sales: Creating a seamless user experience‘ were Deborah Womack, CRM and Data Director at Ralph Lauren and Mark Bornstein, VP Content Marketing at ON24.

Modern businesses are awash with big data, however, quality is more important than quantity.

The modern CRM allows both marketers and sales teams access to one common database, meaning they can both see each other’s interactions, but more importantly it gives both teams a common language and a common goal. Historically, sales and marketing have had entirely different processes, different CRMs, and different goals, with the inevitable result that they view the world differently and act competitively, rather than collaboratively.

Customers expect one seamless experience, they really don’t care where marketing ends and sales begins. The consequence is that marketing is responsible later in the customer lifecycle, and sales is involved earlier.

The two teams are moving from a serial relationship where marketing used to hand over a lead to sales, to a parallel relationship where both teams co-own the lead and the ongoing process to qualify that lead. There can no longer be two separate processes. There is only one customer funnel, it belongs to both marketing and sales.

Using content to qualify leads

Customers spend more time educating themselves prior to purchase and are seeking more information, which presents an opportunity for marketers to provide high quality, valuable and relevant content.

Ironically this now presents the challenge of there being too much content, whitepapers have become ubiquitous and are largely unread. Even if someone does download the content from a gated page, the information you glean is what Mark calls, “passive”. It’s impossible to determine where they are in the buying cycle, or to qualify their purchase intent.

Mark believes that more interactive content, such as webinars and interactive landing pages, affords marketers the ability to engage with customers and learn more about them via poll responses, questions, and conversations. Modern marketers should be gathering deeper and more meaningful insights that help them qualify their leads.

As Mark elaborated:

For our marketing to be effective, it has to be engagement driven – we’re now focused on assessing the value of the lead.”

He also talked about the positive effect of raising the threshold for MQLs. Although this meant fewer leads for sales, they were of a much higher quality.

Smart companies focus on lead qualification, not lead generation”.

As ever, when making this sort of change it’s vital to involve the sales team in the process, once they understood that they would be getting higher quality leads, that are more likely to convert, they were supportive of the fact that there would be fewer leads overall.

Collaboration doesn’t happen overnight

Working more collaboratively has an immediate commercial benefit, but most organizations will already have separate sales and marketing teams with their own leadership and targets. How can we bring about change in the structure and mindset of those teams and break down any organizational inertia?

Strong leadership is a critical factor for success. Leaders need to set the vision and explain the reason for the change, but most importantly leaders give individuals the ‘permission to prioritize’ this change. We can all relate to having multiple priorities to juggle, so for individuals to change their behavior requires an unambiguous, simple and often repeated message from the top that this change is the number one priority. As Deborah put it:

This is what we’re going to be focusing on, and this is why we’re going to do it.”

Making change the priority gives people permission to prioritize the change.

Deborah also advised sitting down with both marketing and sales teams to review each other’s timeline.

We found that they had a different cadence of interaction with customers

Understanding the rationale for these different timelines was illuminating for both parties and led to a more effective and joined-up approach.

Thinking and acting holistically

Finding mutual or shared goals is fundamental to building a collaborative culture, as Mark put it:

The answer to break tradition is communication and to share perspectives. It’s important to create a one team culture… to create aligned goals. Both teams should be judged on revenue generated and any success or failure is a team success or failure

Having one goal requires both teams to communicate and build collaborative processes. They know that their counterparts are working towards the same goal and that working together will maximize the impact of their efforts.

Deborah explained how at Kimberley-Clark they wanted to bring to life the conversations that the sales and customer services teams were having with real customers. They did this by displaying the social conversations on screens on the office walls. Marketing could now see the depth of the insight that was routinely available to the sales team. Despite the fact that the sales teams talk to customers every day, marketers routinely turn to their agencies or market research companies to gather insight and data about customers.

Marketing should stop looking outside the organization for data that sales and customer services handles every day.”

Not only do sales teams have regular contact, but they understand the language that customers use to describe their needs and pain-points. Most importantly, sales teams hear the ‘objections’ that customers use, many of which can be addressed through marketing, but only if marketing is made aware of them.

So how can marketers extract the insights from the sales teams? We discussed the idea of the tried and tested ‘workshop’ but the word can be quite emotive and often dismissed as a waste of time. Deborah advises calling them ‘working sessions’ – a far more descriptive term that conveys that this will be a productive session with valuable outputs. For salespeople, time is literally money, so any working session has to be positioned as adding value. Deborah advised spelling this out in advance:

This investment of time is going to be worthwhile. We promise to use what you say and that you will be listened to

Understanding the customer journey

One exercise that Deborah recommends is asking the sales team to map the customer journey and explain how they segment their customers. When both teams understand they have a complementary role to play, they can see the value of investing time in collaborating, knowing that the final output will make them more efficient. The sales team know they will get better leads, the marketing team know they will get better insights.

But mapping the customer journey is an increasingly complex task, it is multi-device, multi-touch, off-line and on-line and rarely linear.

Deborah suggested using two lenses to analyse the customer journey; The ‘macro’ journey allows you to map the bigger picture, how the customer progresses through the funnel from lead to sale; Whilst the ‘micro’ journey allows you to zoom into specific events, such as the customer downloading a white-paper or attending a webinar, and analyse their specific needs.

By breaking the customer journey down into manageable chunks you will be able to identify where sales and marketing can help reduce friction.

One very effective way of reducing friction in the customer journey is to use webinars.

Mark shared an impressive stat from Microsoft, where they found that 7.2% of the people who attended their webinars went on to become a customer. According to Mark, webinars allow meaningful human interaction and the ‘the ability to have a conversation’ which drives engagement between the lead and the brand.

Getting the sales team involved in both the design and delivery of the webinar led to a very positive reaction and a stronger working relationship with marketing.

In summary

This webinar highlighted some very practical steps that you take in your organization to ensure that sales and marketing are working more closely and collaboratively, towards a shared goal.

We discussed the role of data and content in providing insight into your customers, as well as adapting your sales and marketing approach to target specific concerns or pain points. Ultimately, organizations need a reason to change and there is no better reason than staying relevant to your customers, in the face of disruption and competition.

Greater collaboration between marketing and sales will be the catalyst for effective commercial performance of your organization.


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