Business Marketing & Sales: Fixing a Dysfunctional Relationship

HomeImprovCupcakesLast time we reviewed the telltale signs when business marketing and sales departments don’t play nice. How do we fix a dysfunctional relationship that may be spinning out of control? Glad you asked. Since I’m in the business marketing function, that’s my point of view. Here are 6 ideas on how to repair a strained relationship:

1. Work on Communication

I’ve found that the key to any relationship is a commitment from both sides to improve communication. I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s tenant: first seek to understand, then to be understood.

It’s important that participants come into the meetings with the attitude of collaboration rather than finger pointing. By seeking to understand things like the various metrics that are important to both side, conversations and actions can get more targeted.

So how do you go about it? I suggest meetings between marketing and sales at regular intervals. To kick things off, ask open-ended questions like:

  • What do you need in order to be successful?
  • What data can I provide?
  • What operational changes do you suggest?

As you establish a rhythm for your business marketing and sales meeting, decide on specific action items to be completed in between meetings. Use an appropriate format to communicate who is responsible for those action items, deadlines, and dependencies.

2. Business Marketing & Sales Management Involvement

If you’re in a mid- to large-scale enterprise, you’ll have several levels of management involved in business marketing and sales. Because the hand-off between business marketing and sales is so critical, directors should be focused on:

  1. Sales – Is there enough bandwidth to follow-up on the business marketing leads already generated?
  2. Is there a clear procedure to follow-up? Are there territories or industry verticals that can improve efficiency?
  3. What is the trend for marketing generated leads versus sales generated leads? What influences conversion rate?
  4. Is the CRM accurately measuring key metrics and providing dashboards?
  5. What’s most urgent for business marketing to work on to help sales meet quarterly goals? annual goals?
  6. What additional tools are needed to meet those goals?
  7. Lastly, are the goals realistic in the given time frame?

3. Decision Makers Need to Meet

SpiritLevelIt is critically important to have the people responsible for decision making for business marketing and sales actually speak with each other. For example, they need to agree on metrics and their definitions (e.g., sales qualified lead vs. marketing qualified lead).

Without this agreement, an equilibrium can’t be attained. That results in lost opportunities. And that’s just a waste of precious resources.

4. Necessary Bandwidth

Now that goals have been established, directors have ironed out who gets what and when, this is when the interaction between marketing and sales get critical. Marketing runs lead generation campaigns and passes them on. Inside sales staff then fields and qualifies those new leads. If sales doesn’t have the bandwidth to process those leads, they just sit there growing stale. I’ve found that mapping out the way to use internal (and external) resources is the critical piece to marketing operational efficiency.

5. Budget & Resources for Automation & CRM Software

Sometimes the glue between business marketing and sales is software, namely marketing automation (e.g., Marketo, Eloqua) and CRM. The two systems need to talk to each other.

Integration of these software systems is not a one-shot budgetary expense. Like effective communication, it’s an ongoing process. The data held within these programs is complex. Both business marketing and sales needs to really understand it and be able to “connect the dots.” The software can be expensive — to integrate and support — so management needs to acknowledge it and invest appropriately.

6. Antidote to Silos: Meetings & Space

A functional relationship between marketing and sales starts with sharing of information and collaborative decision making. If the corporate culture is structured with information silos, then it’s no surprise there’s dysfunction.

Typically marketing and sales departments are located relatively close together. Even if they share physical space, there are additional strategies to improve communication and inter-and intra-departmental efficiency. For example:

  • Is the marketing department invited to sales meetings?
  • Is marketing listening to actual sales conversations?
  • Is sales involved in lead generation campaign planning?
  • Does sales have the ability to review list segment criteria?
  • Has marketing addressed the most difficult/pressing objections?

Using one or all six of these ideas can definitely improve how business marketing and sales interact. Did I miss anything? What would you add?

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