Marketing and Sales - are they room-mates from hell?

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9th December 2015, 8 minute read

A guest post by Debra Andrews, B2B Marketing Strategist and President of our partner agency in the US, Marketri 

Monica and Rachel; Laverne and Shirley; Mork and Mindy. Television’s top roommates make cohabitation look super fun and easy. That’s not necessarily the case when it comes to business departments having to live, grow, and thrive together.

Take, for example, the living arrangement between B2B sales and marketing. It is typically a pretty informal relationship with professionals on both sides having the best intentions to help one another succeed. Sales believes that marketing is going to generate warm leads for them and also provide rocking collateral that will help them to seal the deal. Marketing thinks that sales will provide them with fresh, original ideas for content that will hit the mark because the information is based on knowledge gained from face-to-face interaction with customers and prospects.

Marketing also anticipates that sales will aggressively pursue opportunities born from marketing’s carefully crafted campaigns. Both teams want to live in harmony and toast many, many new customers, revenue growth and a high return on investment. Who needs anything formal when “roomies” are aligned on the end goals, right?

Wrong! Within six months of signing the lease, marketing is distressed by the foul smell coming from its rotting warm leads. Sales is ready to sweep up on what it considers to be hot leads (much better than those lukewarm marketing-generated ones) and is beyond frustrated that marketing hasn’t provided the collateral needed to solidify shiny new customers. Both teams have quickly lost respect for one another and, feeling unsatisfied, have decided to just do their own thing. Everyone loses in this “roommate from hell” scenario.

  • Sales will be left to source and nurture leads from the top of the funnel to the bottom.
  • Marketing will struggle to put together campaigns that resonate with target customers.
  • Sales will struggle to score in the red zone without compelling collateral and presentations.
  • Marketing’s leads will be wasted without aggressive follow-up.
  • The company will fail to show a strong return on investment from sales and marketing.

The reality is that B2B companies need marketing and sales to act more like “besties” and less like Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison to realise aggressive growth goals.  One way to help ensure sales and marketing can live together more comfortably is to create a formal SLA (service level agreement) between the two teams.  HubSpot’s blog post, How to Create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Better Sales & Marketing Alignment, gives some solid advice on this subject.  While an SLA is a winning idea, better alignment between sales and marketing often comes down to something much more simple: communication and consideration of each other’s priorities.

Occasionally, it’s necessary for the CEO / executive team to step in and remind both functional areas just how important harmony is to the company.  Here are some additional thoughts on how to create a more satisfying and productive living arrangement between B2B marketing and B2B sales:

Thoughts for the CEO / Executive Team:

Executive teams need to begin to view sales and marketing as one “growth” department.  B2B buyers are now in charge of their buying process.  They will block unwanted, self-serving company messages and seek out information that helps them to solve business challenges and seize opportunities. This dynamic has created a very blurry line between sales and marketing.  Marketing has moved well beyond just creating brand awareness to actually generating warm leads at the top of the sales funnel primarily through Inbound Marketing.  Sales’ job is to take the lead hand-off from marketing and score the touchdown. 

For more information on the blending of sales and marketing, read From Marketing Vs. Sales to Marketing + Sales. The collaboration between sales and marketing is essential during the establishment of annual growth goals and plans.  The executive team needs to insist upon it and strongly encourage joint sales and marketing calls and meetings.  Instead of separate annual plans, how about one “Growth Plan” with contributions from both sales and marketing?  I haven’t seen it done to date, but believe it would push a B2B organisation towards greater sales and marketing alignment.

Thoughts for Sales:

This is going to be tough for sales to accept but here it is: Sales is not more important than marketing. I know, I’m biased as a marketer but it happens to be a fact. And in reality, sales teams need marketing now more than ever. Let’s face it, no one – or very few people in the right minds – likes cold calling or would agree that it’s a productive use of an experienced salesperson’s time. By aligning sales activities with marketing efforts, sales may never have to “dial for dollars” in a cold and/or random fashion again. Here’s a perfect example: A senior sales professional attends a trade show and collect 20 new business cards from casual conversations while waiting in the coffee line.

He or she can hand them off to the marketing team to be loaded into the database and into an automated digital workflow to get warmed up. Once a contact expresses interest – maybe by downloading a guide and/or signing up for a webinar – then the sales professional can follow up knowing that a contact is at least interested in a particular topic. After following up on that contact and other warm leads from the trade show, the salesperson should let the marketing team know whether the contacts passed to sales were indeed ripe for a sales touch or still pretty cold and in need of further nurturing. Marketers can use that feedback to adjust how they score leads and when to hand them off to sales in the future.

Thoughts for Marketing:

I’ve heard from sales professionals that the marketing team prioritises their activities without considering what’s most important to the sales team. Good roommates consider each other’s feelings and make compromises, right? Marketers need to listen closely to the sales team and what their needs are and even reach out and ask from time-to-time.

As a marketing professional, I’m guilty of prioritising a multi-touch marketing campaign over creating sales enablement collateral, including sales presentations and project case studies. The marketing team needs to find a way to do both and ask for additional resources if time doesn’t permit. The ultimate goal is to score new business and if the marketing team creates collateral to facilitate that, there’s no time better spent.

Let’s face it – living together can be hard as people have different goals, styles, ways of communicating and more. In the business world, B2B sales and B2B marketing cannot be at odds or ignore one another completely. The ultimate goal is growth and, either through a formal agreement like an SLA, or just better communication and consideration, both teams can have their turn with the remote, share condiments, and maybe even hang out together on a Saturday night.

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