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How to Improve the Relationship Between Marketing and Sales Teams

by Ayaz Nanji  |  
February 8, 2016

Most marketers and salespeople say their departments generally get along well but that there are a few key areas of the relationship that could be improved, according to recent research from InsideView and Demand Gen Report.

The report was based on data from a survey of 995 sales and marketing professionals based in the United States, most of whom work for B2B companies.

Some 77% of marketers surveyed say they have a good relationship with their sales team, and 58% of salespeople surveyed say they have a good relationship with their marketing team.

However, some pockets of conflict and misunderstanding continue to exist between Marketing and Sales.

For example, nearly two-thirds (65%) of salespeople think marketers spend most of their time on branding/events rather than directly increasing the lead pipeline, and 26% of marketers think salespeople are a bunch of mavericks.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents say a lack of communication is one of the biggest issues that prevents marketing and sales teams from fully aligning; 42% say their company's processes for encouraging the teams to work together are broken/flawed.

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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Dave Vranicar Mon Feb 8, 2016 via web

    Thanks for sharing this interesting research, Ayaz.

    I think the title of your blog is a little misleading, though. Nowhere do you provide recommendations or ideas for how to improve the often broken relationship between Sales and Marketing.

    By implication, I suppose, Marketing should do more of what Sales wants. And Sales should do more of what Marketing wants. But that doesn't get to the core issue that Sales and Marketing want things that the other probably shouldn't be doing.

    If Sales doesn't call on more marketing-generated leads, it's often because most of the leads are a waste of time. This is evidenced in Sales' desire for higher-quality leads. Marketing shouldn't be asking Sales to waste more time in pursuit of bad leads.

    If salespeople have low expectations marketing, it's often because salespeople don't understand everything effective marketing could do for them. They don't understand it because they've rarely seen it. They've rarely seen it because so few marketers understand anything about selling.

    This is especially true in B2B markets. And it's even more true for high-consideration, complex sales.

    Sales and Marketing seem to be on different planets. Yet they're supposed to be members of the same team, pursuing the same goals. It's OK that members of the same team play different positions and have different skills. That's how you build a good team.

    But it's shocking that Sales and Marketing so often seem to be playing at different games, with different rules. No wonder they don't respect each other.

    It's interesting that more marketers think they have a good relationship with sales than vice versa. That tells me marketers doesn't even realize how little respect they get from Sales.

    Here are some things I think Marketing can and must do to improve the situation:

    1. Become the expert on your customers. Learn more about them and their buying process. Don't cede this expertise to Sales. Interview customers and prospects by phone. To learn how to do this, read Kristin Zhivago's excellent book "Roadmap to Revenue."

    2. Participate in sales calls with your salespeople. (Promise to be quiet and listen during these calls, so that your salespeople don't get freaked out by your request to join them.)

    3. Learn something about selling. Learn specifically about the kind of selling your company does. For example, if your company engages in complex B2B sales, don't waste time reading books by Brian Tracy and the like. Learn about complex sales. Read authors like Jeff Thull, Keith Eades, Neil Rackham, Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, and Mike Bosworth.

    4. Stop generating bad leads your salespeople don't want to call. Come up with a mutually accepted, objective definition of a well-qualified lead.

    5. Don't let Sales cast you as the "arts and crafts" people. Get and stay close to revenue. Stop talking about branding--ever--in front of salespeople. Show Sales what you can do to make them successful. Sit down and ask salespeople and sales leaders about the most challenging parts of their work. Listen and learn.

    This list would be a great start.

  • by Sara Mon Feb 8, 2016 via web

    I agree with Dave. The information and research presented here is very interesting, but it's nearly useless for those of us who work in Marketing and/or Sales and/or must bridge the gap between the departments. The title is very misleading, as well, and appears designed solely to garner clicks, which is disappointing. I appreciate Dave Vranicar's feedback, because it was exactly what I was looking for when I originally clicked on this article.

  • by Megan M Tue Feb 9, 2016 via web

    Per the previous commenters points, the initial research report does in fact include a thorough list of suggestions for how to drive an aligned relationship between sales and marketing. The report can be viewed here:

  • by Vitali Sat Feb 20, 2016 via web

    Mr. Dave, you have given a very useful comment.

    Mr. Ayaz, thank you for the article

  • by Ian M Fri Mar 11, 2016 via iphone

    100% agree with Dave and not at all surprised at article. In B2B complex sales solving this is key to success for marketing. Other practices I've deployed are: - Publish weekly scorecard of sales rep lead follow up and get it discussed in sales meeting agendas. They respond to a bit of peer competition. Have an agreed lead profile and qualification criteria etc. But listen very carefully so as to improve lead quality. And be very carefully as this can easily backfire - Refer to lead gen as helping build their sales pipeline. This is part of their job - Find out their qualification process and try and make the final marketing qualified lead stage equal to their initial sales qualification stage. - Document good examples of good leads that indisputably created a happy salesman (generally through helping make their targets). Readily remind sales (and Finance) of value of these specific (name customer, value, rep, time and lead source) good leads and you are continually striving to create more good ones (and less bad ones) - Attend sales meetings and listen to show you're on their team.Then offer to help sales save time with something you know you can reliably deliver well to build trust. Then offer to run a marketing program to meet their sales objective to become indispensable. - Treat comms with sales as importantly as comms with the market or customers. Get inside their heads and don't waste their time. Make dealing with you as easy and convenient as possible. Trivial example: don't attach things to emails - it's one extra click and it's an excuse why something may not happen - Run short 'sales enablement training' focusing on intell they haven't got so as to add value ie market trends from good analyst houses, top down competitive intell across a category (even at website level), curated news and actionable conclusions from customer news, competitor news etc. Also an update on what marketing tools they can use to sell - Send curated industry news and customer activity alerts out to sales, use google alerts and if possible triggers from marketing system - Maybe most importantly create informal relationships. Socialise with them, they're mostly fun! Sales tend to be coin-driven and only pay lip service to processes unless it genuinely helps them get rich. But B2B complex sale selling is hard and 90% of marketers do not understand why. Try and get in their heads

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