Dear B2B Sales Team: Does Your Marketing Partner Not “Get It”?
Do you sometimes feel that your marketing partner doesn’t understand what’s going on out there? Or to put it simply, they “just don’t get it.” This post is about common pain points and suggestions to better align different mindsets and objectives that exist within marketing and sales teams.
In my previous roles as a sales rep and product manager, I too complained sometimes that my marketing partner just didn’t “get it”. Granted that my 10 years in Sales was in the dark ages before digital, a time when Marketing sat in the “ivory tower” creating traditional advertising campaigns and corporate brochures.
But even then, those of us in the field often said what is still being said today:
“These collateral and communication pieces aren’t hitting the mark. Why doesn’t the marketing team ever visit to talk to us about our needs or opinions? We don’t even know who’s in the marketing department. Don’t they know that without us the company’s revenue goals can’t be met?”
That said, Sales and Marketing integration in B2B industries is much better now—partly because it’s been forced through digital advancements that have led to changes in buyer behavior, communication opportunities and analysis. More and more marketing teams are actively focused on driving leads and supporting the sales process.
And yet I continue to hear complaints from both sides, in both large and small companies, saying “they don’t get it”. For example:
- “I don’t understand why our marketing staff is not accountable for sales results. They seem to get a nice budget year after year with no accountability for ROI.”
- “Not once has anyone on our marketing team asked to go on a sales call. How are they going to understand our process and the prospect’s needs if they don’t get out of their pretty office and get on the streets?”
- “Our marketing team seems to be in a silo; they’re only interested in doing things that make them look good.”
- “It would be nice if the web team, writers and others working on the detail of our marketing come out to the field and ask about our point-of-view. We might have some good feedback! But no, they don’t want us in their kitchen. And BTW, John S. on my team is a fantastic writer in his spare time and might be willing to contribute to a blog post now and then.”
- “Marketers don’t get Sales nor do they want to. All they care about is their Marketing Brief and the ability to look good at a meeting with senior management.”
- “I want to be more strategic but it’s hard to juggle sales calls, lead management, deal flow, customer onboarding and support, networking, social media engagement and administrative tasks. I need help. It would be great to have someone focused on data, insights about the marketplace, new research on our customers and industry trends. I would love it if part of the marketing budget were dedicated to things like this in addition to the website, email copy, collateral and webinar support.”
- “Our company has a marketing support person dedicated to collateral and communications for the sales team, but she seems to only care about how pretty something is or what the click through rates are. She’s all about her, not the end game.”
- “I sat with our marketing team for half a day at their request, but at the end they didn’t use any of my ideas. I was trying to be a team player but they didn’t hit the ball back. They’ve lost credibility with me as a result.”
On the flip side, I have heard many marketers on both the business and agency side express these pains:
- “A key part of our charter is to oversee the Brand and to be the advocate for the Customer. If the Sales team would partner with us rather than resist or constantly try to take over the marketing function, they would likely see that Marketing is more than sales sheets, PR and events and can actually help them better connect with prospects and close deals. But they need to first understand our charter, trust that we know what we’re doing, and believe that we bring skills, data and knowledge they may not have.”
- “The sales team thinks they know everything about “marketing” and consistently disrespect processes and best practices we know are needed and will work. It’s fine to have an opinion but to completely disrespect where we are coming from is just plain rude.”
- “The sales team wants to drive our entire process. They want to tell us how to do our jobs. In a nutshell they want us to be support staff for their personal wish lists.”
- “The sales team only wants to talk “ideas” for tactics, not strategy. Not only that, they expect us to treat their ideas as “orders”. We’re not thrilled about being perceived as order-takers.”
- “Our company’s sales approach seems to be in the dark ages, with no strategy or processes current with the times. Some of the reps aren’t interested in learning about industry advancements or changes, and don’t seem to understand or care about big-picture concepts that successful brands use. This makes our job harder.”
- “I’ve asked to go on sales visits or listen in on calls, but the reps are always too busy or they don’t think it’s a good idea. It would help if someone at the leadership table promoted that this is a win-win scenario.”
- “We’re told that Marketing and Sales need to work out our problems together. Whatever. It wouldn’t hurt if the leadership team built the type of culture that doesn’t separate us so much to begin with.”
If you’re in a situation where these scenarios or pains continue to exist, here are some suggestions for breaking down the barriers:
- Make a point to get under the hood to truly understand the sales experience (particularly of top performers), including their pains and their views on customer needs. Don’t just visit. Ask questions, dive deep, and demonstrate that you are actually listening and using their intel to improve marketing ideas.
- Carve out time and budget to support top performers in meaningful ways. For example: (1) help them with industry research, data and buyer personas that enable them to be more strategic; (2) make sure they feel confident with the tools and communications available for their outreach efforts; (3) proactively make them aware of decisions or projects that will affect them so that they can provide feedback, ask questions or raise concerns.
- Go on sales calls with top performers or set up some type of system to get the download on how calls typically go, so that you have a database of “real” intelligence. This is particularly important if you don’t have budget to develop in-depth research.
- Take the time to build an education loop to help your sales partners understand why you want to do some of the things you do. I was once on a sales team where the leadership team brought in a guru from a big agency to help us understand brand strategy, and it was a real eye-opener. Now granted, this was back when Marketing really just meant “Advertising”, but still, we left that discussion much more open-minded about what the marketing department was trying to do.
- While you’re at it, go visit the customer support team – listen in on some calls and get their insight about how customers really “feel” about the company.
- Realize that a large part of your marketing team’s charter is to oversee the Brand as a whole and to be the voice of the Customer. Respect that there are marketing best practices and methodologies proven to work that you may not understand or know that much about. Ask questions; try to genuinely understand; try to appreciate and to learn.
- Respect your marketing partner’s point of view and let them drive the process to integrate sales support and marketing. See how it goes before pushing back or telling them what to do.
- Recognize when you have a marketing partner that is doing their best to include you in their process and get your insight. Help them help you.
- Don’t expect your marketing partners to execute every piece of feedback you give for tactics and messaging—respect that they will weave it in based on: how it fits within the overall strategy (that hopefully everyone has already agreed to); their knowledge of customer needs; their own skills and best practices.
- If you feel the urge to push through an “order” for a marketing tactic, consider the marketing function as you would other functions such as Legal or Finance. You don’t give “orders” to those groups do you? If you feel something critical is missing from the marketing plan, raise your concerns and make your case respectfully.
Sales and Marketing leaders:
- Coordinate monthly workshops to discuss marketing initiatives, setting egos aside and not caring whose the “smartest” person in the room. Make it an open forum to simply review the status of key initiatives, share ideas and discuss questions from both marketing and sales perspectives.
- Come up with a list of best practices from both traditional marketing and sales perspectives and develop training forums that allow each mindset to “sell” the other on why their philosophies are good for business. Include a “Did You Know” element where both teams share trivia on competencies that they feel can enlighten others.
- Help ensure the marketing team has budget and resources to give the sales team direct support that will help them be strategic in their approach, to move prospects through the funnel or deepen relationships with clients, while at the same time ensuring everyone is crystal clear on the strategy.
- Present progress and results to senior management and board members together – your efforts should be one story don’t you think?
All this said, the root of the problem for teams still struggling with Sales and Marketing alignment and partnership often lies in the fact that the company hires separate leaders, treating them as separate functions from the get go. So, here are some additional suggestions for the Executive team:
- Proactively bring these two mindsets together from the beginning. Organize strategic working sessions with both Marketing and Sales hats on and set a foundation early for shared accountability, a diligent focus on the customer and outcomes, and mutual respect.
- Confirm the “role” marketing activities should play in driving business and identify investments and integration points early so that there is one integrated plan instead of one for Marketing and one for Sales.
- Make it clear where accountability lies and when various functions or people are responsible for “leading” vs. “partnering/supporting”.
- Be the voice of integration; make it a requirement from top to bottom, whether people are working in the ideation stage, on decisions about significant technology investments or when putting pen to paper to write sales copy.
- Compensate and reward for integration and shared accountability. Perhaps do some research and modeling to decide how the needle may move with vs. without industry best practices applied.
- If you have a large organization with multiple locations, budget for marketers to travel to field offices and for those on the front lines to visit the headquarters. Also invest in insight-gathering tools and processes as well as group collaboration and sharing. Many tools are available to align Sales and Marketing mindsets, but it still takes an investment and a culture that says “This is important to our customer’s success!”.
This is obviously not an all-encompassing list of complaints or suggestions, and is not meant to be a sweeping stereotypical view of how Sales and Marketing teams behave.
The point is: In B2B it is all about the customer and sales results, and yet the personality traits, skills and motivations are often completely different for those responsible or involved in the activities that move prospects to action. More companies should recognize as well as embrace this reality, and adopt philosophies in the business planning stage to ensure that Sales and Marketing as well as every other department in the company are united, with a diligent eye on the customer and business outcomes.
Also check out…
- Yet Another Post on B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment
- How To Organize a B2B Marketing Department
- Process — A “Four Letter” Word to Many. When is it Needed for the B2B Marketing Function and How Much is Too Much?