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How to Develop a Mutually Beneficial Relationship With Sales

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Marketing and sales teams function best when in sync, but too often the two are opposed. If that's how it is at your company, here are six ways to change the unhealthy paradigm.

1. Don't rely on emails

Sales reps are accustomed to in-person communication and phone calls. You need to work with them. Just sending off emails and waiting for your colleagues to get back to you will not bring you success.

If you have a choice between typing out a request or calling or walking over to the person, make the push to call or walk over. Every time. In the long run, doing so will make your work relationships with salespeople stronger.

2. Assume people won't get back to you


If you no longer keep tabs on an item after sending out a request to Sales, relying primarily on your colleague's response to keep a to-do on your radar, chances are you have a lot of tasks left hanging, unfinished.

Give your colleagues deadlines by which you need information they have, but keep yourself accountable in making sure you get that information. Set yourself a reminder to check back if you don't hear from them. Worst case: you jokingly get a reputation as a nag, but people will respect you for your sense of accountability.

Keep it light: Preface subsequent requests with a light apology for the nagging, but... you need the info, after all.

3. Understand that if your subject matter experts are telling you 'I don't have time,' they may not see the value

Yes, their workdays probably are busy, but if they can see the objective and potential ROI that are driving your efforts and requests, they will be much more likely to schedule time to give you their attention and the content you've requested of them.

If there's a friction-filled relationship—with Marketing on one side, pushing, pushing, pushing for content, and Sales on the other, with their hands up—then chances are the experts who can create materials for content marketing might not see the value in what you are asking for.

Consider starting a conversation with the sales team about what you are working toward as a marketing department. You might address inbound marketing efforts—why you need blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, etc., how they all link together, and how they will ultimately help Sales with first contact with a prospect, nurturing the prospect, and turning customers into loyalists.

Also include in that conversation a question to Sales: How can we better serve you? They may not know the answer, exactly, but at the least they won't feel excluded.

4. Get tough skin

You have to view people's criticism of your work in a trying-to help way, not a tearing-it-down way. It's easy to take people's resistance to helping contribute content and then eagerness to point out mistakes, for example, as being unhelpful and overly critical. You need to make a conscious effort to turn that around, to see it in a positive way. Getting upset and shutting the door on Sales merely creates bitterness. Move forward; maintain productivity.

Function at a human level, and work around any issues by showing a genuine interest in each person. And actually have interest. See people for what they can help you do better, not the ways they may be holding you back.

If someone criticizes your work, use it to your advantage; ask them to help you proof that piece of collateral next time, for example. Or if you think the changes they've suggested are unwarranted, explain to them that you're following the marketing department's style guide, for instance.

You can respectfully push back, but use that moment of interest/engagement from them and harness it in a way to move Marketing's efforts forward. Find out something that they are an expert in and have them help you with content on that. They'll want to—I promise.

If you're the sensitive type, make an effort to see that you are all working toward a common goal—to better the company and grow. Instead of getting defensive, explain your goal, make sure it's clear that you're in this together, and ask how you can improve. People are always eager to contribute to that question, and it really will help you to tighten your department's systems and do better next time.

5. Have a 'say yes' attitude—to a degree

Keep yourself in the mentality that you are there to help people, but do keep boundaries. There's a line between being resourceful/helpful and being a pushover.

Put yourself out there in various situations and be helpful, but make sure you ask the same of your sales group. Use a lighthearted approach: "Hey, remember when I booked that event for you even though you were way overdue with details? I need you to help me out now."

Most times, they will; if they don't, be firm, assertive, and confident that you are going to start saying "no" if the situation warrants it.

6. Acclimate yourself to tight deadlines, and be flexible

Working closely with Sales often means finding yourself in a fast-paced environment. If you get frazzled, acknowledge it, feel it, and slow it down. Make a conscious effort to realize that this is a manageable, temporary situation, and that you will get through it.

Stressing causes brain freeze, which can result in roadblocks unless you are able to harness the stress to become quickly and actively productive. With practice, you will learn to use tight deadlines to keep you on your feet.

* * *

These six tips are not cure-alls to a stressed relationship between you and Sales. Every company is different, but the common denominator between this and other best-practice advice is that it encourages and helps you make a conscious effort to improve.

Maybe you won't immediately act on all these recommendations, but hopefully you will have them top-of-mind when you next find yourself in a challenging scenario with Sales.


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Elise Musumano is a marketing specialist at ChoiceStream, a provider of real-time programmatic media buying solutions for brands and advertisers.

LinkedIn: Elise Musumano

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  • by Katie B Fri May 30, 2014 via web

    "past-faced environment" What is that? And I disagree with #5 to some extent. You have to be willing to be a partner with Sales, but if you do nearly every RAM (random act of marketing) they come up with then you'll spend most of your time reacting to their immediate wants, and never make progress on the more strategic initiatives that will bring them better, more qualified leads in the long run. Do what you can but establish clear boundaries over what you will and won't do and how much advance notice they need to provide you with. If you don't, I promise it'll end badly.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Fri May 30, 2014 via web

    Hi, Katie. That should've been "fast-paced," not "past-faced." It's now been corrected. Thanks for catching the mistake!

  • by ChrisSColyer Sat May 31, 2014 via iphone

    Great article - certainly resonates with my experience. No.5 is the tricky one, being helpful enough to not be seen as a barrier/opponent, but keeping enough control to achieve your plans. Can be a real balancing act.

  • by LindyDT Mon Jun 2, 2014 via web

    I like it, Elise - every point is valid as I've come to find out over the past 30+ years...;-)). Another tip: show them where they can benefit, which can be as simple as posting a calendar with marketing events and publications coming up. And about point 5: yes it's balancing, but learn how to negotiate and get your point across. If your arguments are valid, other than "because I say so/it's not in the plan/don't have time, money,resources", they will probably work with you to get things done.

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