However, sometimes it can feel like an invisible wall exists between the two departments. But for those who manage to smash through that wall, the stats speak for themselves – organisations with good alignment between their sales and marketing teams achieve 20 percent revenue growth on average annually. By contrast, companies with poor alignment can see revenues decline by 4 percent. (Hubspot)
And the benefits don’t end there. As well as growing revenue, a close working relationship can help shorten the sales cycle, help reduce market-entry costs and see the cost of sales go down. Which all means it is a little wonder that team alignment is now high on the agenda for many B2Bs.
The problem is getting to that place – where teams are fully in sync and unified in their efforts – is not always easy to achieve. One of the biggest obstacles that can often get in the way of this perfect partnership is communication.
So what can you do to get teams working towards a common goal and understanding each other’s roles in achieving it? And how can you go about bridging the gap and overcoming the different communication styles that can exist between the two teams?
It all starts by recognising what may be causing friction in the first place.
Key obstacles to effective communication:
- Undervaluing each other – Teams may undervalue or fail to recognise and understand the other’s contribution
- Being in competition – It is common for the two teams to be highly competitive
- Working out of sync – The two departments may be completely out of sync and not aligned in their thinking
- Finding fault easily – When things go wrong there is the risk of finger pointing and it all becoming a blame game
- Being flooded with ego – Equally, when things go right there can suddenly be a lot of ego strutting about
- Money issues and jealousy – Budgets can be a huge source of friction, with competition and conflict over who gets what and why
Nature of the different roles – Clashes can also happen because of the very nature of the different roles, with marketing being more data oriented and sales more people orientated
What can you do?
Now you have started to recognise what may be getting in the way, the next step is to get the two teams together to discuss, define and agree on the core aspects of the sales process.
Here are 5 key steps you can take to better unify your teams and start improving your effectiveness:
1) Align teams around a common goal
Both teams need to be aligned around a mutual goal and know they are working to achieve the same thing. Bring both teams together to talk about this and help build understanding for each other’s role in reaching it. Where possible, encourage teams to share an office and make sure all information and databases are shared. The idea is to foster a culture where the two departments see that they are two parts of the same overall team, working towards the same goal, just using their individual specialisms to achieve it.
2) Build understanding
Take part in activities that will help each team to understand the other. For example, have sales take part in editorial meetings and help with content planning. This way they will know what marketing is working and what will be happening. They will also be available to offer their unique insights and ideas about what may help support them in their role to close more deals, and to share what customers are asking them so marketing can spot any content gaps. In reverse, have marketing observe sales calls, or even shadow a sales rep, so they see and understand what their responsibilities are and where the marketing function can be most useful. Then when it comes to events have both teams involved in the planning.
3) Develop channels of communication
Clear, open and regular communication is what is going to make the whole thing work or fail in the end. Success will rely on forming a strong relationship between the two departments and that means talking, sharing and reaching a positive, productive place. Begin by making sure communication and feedback sessions happen regularly. Set up and follow a fixed meeting schedule and be mindful in those meetings to always keep them focused on the outcomes you are aiming for. Have one big full team meet up to kick it all off with, so everyone in both teams is aware of the culture shift and involved. Also, appoint a liaison person who works closely with both teams and facilitates communication and information flow.
4) Plot out your processes
When both teams sit down together, one of the best things you can do is to go through and map out the entire customer journey. This should include all processes from start to finish. You should decide who will talk to whom, about what and when. Consider putting Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place so everyone is aware of what is agreed and what is expected. By having both teams involved and sharing their individual insights, the sales process can be refined and strengthened across all stages. Remember to include time to analyse, refine and improve on all processes, to ensure you continue to fully optimise your chances of success.
Leads are a key ingredient in the sales process and again, having both teams come together to discuss and agree on all aspects of lead generation and handling can be transformational. The type of information to discuss may include: Agreement on how many leads you are aiming to generate, for how many conversions. Defining together what the criteria is that will be used to qualify a lead. Decide who will do what with the leads to move them along the pipeline. Also, decide when leads should be handed over from marketing to sales. And don’t forget your existing customers and agreeing what and who should manage them, and also what you’re going to do with leads who are never going to convert, but could be great brand ambassadors.
The hardest part of all is finding ways, on both sides, to support the integration of a new way of working and to aid a potentially huge shift in thinking. Ultimately, success in bridging the gap between sales and marketing will come down to opening up and maintaining strong channels of communication, getting teams aligned and united in working together towards a common goal and having the strongest sales process possible – one that is continually refined and improved on and which is based on generating the best leads, nurturing them along effectively and then handing them over to sales at the right time.