How Sales and Marketing Can Develop a Symbiotic Relationship

“If you generate a conversation with a prospect about a great product, you should be able to sell it.”

“Marketing just creates content and emails people.”

In just two sentences, Chandler Bell, director of sales at physical threat management software provider Ontic, has summed up how sales and marketing teams can begin to drift apart. It starts with a lack of understanding, with each team not fully appreciating what the other does and how their goals overlap. This ignorance can lead to friction, with the two organizations clashing over issues of ownership and recognition. Whether it leads to an all-out power struggle or a cold war, the end result is two teams with the same overarching goal — to generate revenue — that fall short of their full potential because they fail to work together.

Of course, none of these worst-case scenarios must come to pass. Bell, a fellow sales leader at AffiniPay and a marketing leader at LoudCrowd Shared how they recognize signs of strain between the two teams, as well as the concrete steps needed to nip them in the bud and build a more collaborative relationship.

AffiniPay

Diandra Ford-Wing

Senior Director of Sales — CPACharge and ClientPay

Even companies that consider “silo” a four-letter word are not immune to power struggles. When it comes to sales and marketing, the issue often has less to do with a desire to assert dominance and more about a misunderstanding between the complementary nature of these two departments and their goals. This is why Diandra Ford-Wing, senior director of sales at payment software provider AffiniPay, Recommends that sales and marketing meet weekly to share their goals and look for opportunities to accomplish them together.

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

Sales and marketing often clash because each team tries to determine who controls what when in reality both teams have the same goal: to maximize revenue. Another source of contention is that each team feels theirs is the most important goal and that their work is what moves the needle. In actuality, it takes both teams working together to reach the company’s goals.

It would behoove both teams to recognize that the relationship between sales and marketing should be symbiotic. Instead of trying to assert power over each other, both teams should work together more cohesively, then divide and conquer.

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

The No. 1 thing sales leaders should understand is that marketing plays a vital role in promoting the business and ultimately its mission. Marketing is essentially the face of the company and everything they do is to represent the business in the best possible way. It’s easy to forget this as we consider sales to be on the front lines, and many feel sales should take the lead with customers.

Sales really is a team sport, and it takes multiple people doing a variety of things to make a sales organization successful. Marketing plays a key role in sales’ success, and if it weren’t for their efforts leads would not end up on the other line of the phone. It takes creativity to pique the interest of a potential customer, and this is the very thing that marketing provides — and does a tremendous job of.

Working together to hash out each other’s plans can help alleviate misunderstandings.”

What advice do you have for sales leaders on how to build a constructive relationship with marketing?

It’s paramount to work collaboratively and take the time to learn each other’s goals and priorities. We often get so caught up in our work that we do not take the time to understand the other side, and working together to hash out each other’s plans can help alleviate misunderstandings. Weekly cross-functional meetings or huddles are the key to success and help promote better working relationships between teams and departments.

Chandler Bell

Group Director of Sales

Companies use Ontic’s software to keep their employees and physical assets safe from threats. Chandler Bell, group director of sales, said the company is currently implementing an account-based strategy, which entails everything sales and marketing working closely together to target a specific set of high-value accounts. Here are Bell’s tips for how to successfully implement this from the sales side.

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

Misalignment and lack of recognition. Misalignment can center around goals, say when one group hits theirs and the other doesn’t, but it can also be around priorities. For example, sales needs something right now but marketing doesn’t consider it that critical and plans to get to it in two months. The other point is a lack of recognition between groups, specifically how hard each others’ jobs are.

You have to build trust and recognize each others’ skills and acumen. We can no longer operate in those old silos, which is why Ontic is transitioning to an “account-based everything” strategy. We’re one team with one common goal. You have to overcommunicate, strategize and execute under one umbrella. You also have to communicate on each function’s terms using their language, so alignment and recognition are critical.

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

Sales should understand marketing’s goals. We make requests of marketing a lot, and sometimes we get a “no” and need to understand why. For example, are they committed to other things? Metrics blur across departments when an organization embraces account-based everything, and it’s no longer just about what goals your group can hit. You have to develop unified goals and metrics to evaluate the success of the overall initiative. You need a special breed of marketing team to cut through the noise, and you need to know when to tap into their skills.

For example, our sales reps were bringing in an executive to host a roundtable and took ownership over content, planning and invitations. At the same time, marketing had new branding and a report coming out, and we realized we could get our executive to other speaking engagements to maximize their trip and spread more awareness. Because we brought marketing into the fold, we have an elevated brand experience including swag, slides from our latest research report and an even better game plan for the roundtable.

What advice do you have for sales leaders on how to build a constructive relationship with marketing?

Recognition and trust are key. Everyone talks about the hustling salesperson, but at Ontic marketing is one of the first teams in and one of the last to leave, and you don’t always see credit for the end result. They bring order to chaos, making sense of all the different work streams, channels and data. And they know how to use those streams to inform, develop and execute a go-to-market strategy.

One of the things that makes Ontic unique is our core values: do good above all, raise the bar, lead with empathy, walk the walk and keep moving. One way to ensure these values ​​are part of our culture is by discussing them at our weekly all-hands and giving outs to co-workers who ladder up to our values.

Beyond that, regular, purposeful meetings with clear agendas and documented next steps are important, as is creating alignment on metrics that matter across sales and marketing so that it’s not just all about leads. Work to create a safe environment for constructive feedback, too.

LoudCrowd team photo on a pickleball court
LoudCrowd

Lacey Miller

Head of Marketing

Sometimes the most challenging problems have the simplest answers. For example, Lacey Miller, head of marketing at user-generated content marketing company LoudCrowd, told Built In that sales and marketing can build a more collaborative relationship by setting goals together. While this sounds intuitive, Miller’s examples of putting this into practice prove that such an approach requires leaders who recognize the strengths in each other’s teams and can see the business value in working closely together.

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

The greatest friction happens when one team does something “for” the other without collaboration. When you’re affecting sales, you’re talking about people’s ability to make money. Almost everything about the workday for sales is different from that of marketing. Where our sales colleagues are on high alert and exhausting their social skills all day, marketing can live heads down in ad copy or event planning without talking to any other teams.

A big point of consistent friction is how each team celebrates wins. Without organizational truly aligned goals, it can be off-putting to see one team celebrate something that detracts from the other. It’s important that sales and marketing view their goals as symbiotic.

From prospect conversations to market temperature checks, teams can learn from each other.”

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

Marketing is born out of creativity, and constant innovation is required to keep producing consistent results. The same can be said for sales. The similarities in creative and strategic thinking have led to the rise of the revenue team, with sales and marketing under one leader. As marketing has become more data-driven, we realized we were going in the same direction as sales, which makes collaboration even more important in setting and hitting business goals. Working in tandem also leads to a feedback loop. From prospect conversations to market temperature checks, teams can learn from each other.

Above all, everyone needs to understand the marketing funnel also includes the “dark funnel,” or touch points that cannot be tracked. Whether it’s word of mouth, a random podcast mention or a LinkedIn connection, attribution is a true beast. Every time sales finds and gives kudos for the untrackable, a marketer gets their wings.

What advice do you have for sales leaders on how to build a constructive relationship with marketing?

Build in check-ins with each team when creating content or planning events. But most importantly, set goals as one revenue-driven team. For example, when marketing is planning their conference schedule, ask sales if their prospects will be there or if the leads there will be valuable. Marketing understands the target persona better than anyone, so reviewing that information with sales can lead to a truly collaborative event and better leads.

It’s the same with content. When planning external collateral, marketing needs to engage sales at kick-off and include check-ins with the team. This ensures collateral is built on actual conversations with prospects mixed in with what marketing sees in the market. It also allows marketing to “teach sales” something. Always take the opportunity to bring sales and marketing together with the goal to learn something more about the product or services being offered.

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