Marketing and sales: from collaboration to cooperation

6 min read
Apr 29, 2024 1:21:11 PM
My previous position? Marketing and sales associate. The inseparable duo: the fat and the thin, Bassie and Adriaan, Batman and Robin.... two separate disciplines that to me flow together very logically, complement and reinforce each other. Yet this is not always the case.

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Why sales cannot do without marketing


What may I conclude when I type in "marketing and sales" on Google? Marketing and sales do not always work optimally together. In fact, Google even gives me a suggestion; whether I might want to enter "marketing vs. sales. Excuse me, an image of a helpless marketer going down in the ambush of sales flashes before my eyes. High time for a peace treaty.

Marketing and sales: two camps

Is your company's sales department all the way on the other side of the building? Both departments have a figurative and sometimes even literal wall between them. You as a marketer hurl your leads over the wall from your castle to sales, not knowing what happens to them next. Sales gets a shower of leads that are of little use to them, but don't bother to take a peek over the wall to see where these leads actually came from. Recognizable or not?

One of the most common annoyances between marketing and sales has just been outlined (a tad exaggerated). Sales feels that marketing does not put enough effort into bringing in good, qualified leads. In fact, sales wonders what marketing contributes at all. Marketing accuses sales of not empathizing with the persona and the buying process; sales is even said to be lazy. Research by Corporate Executive Board found that 87% of the terms marketing and sales use to describe each other are negative in nature.

Marketing and sales have been searching for the right division of roles for years. Fortunately, collaboration, openness and structuring processes within organizations is a hot topic on the management team's agenda. So it is not too late to intervene and get the cooperation between marketing and sales on the agenda.

Even if marketing and sales within your organization consists of one and the same person you will probably be able to recognize yourself in this article.

Marketing and sales alignment, why?

Why is this collaboration indispensable within any organization? First of all, the parties share an essential task, which is to ensure the company's revenue. It has been known since 2010 that companies with good collaboration between marketing and sales retain more leads and achieve more revenue growth (Miller Heiman & Northern Illinois University). Companies that have strong collaboration between marketing and sales achieve 20% revenue growth annually. Companies with poor or little collaboration between the two departments see as much as a 4% decline (Aberdeen Group).

What changes have made the need for structured collaboration and a clear division of roles increasingly pressing?

Changes in the B2B environment make marketing and sales necessarily grow closer together. New technologies and new media cry out for a different approach. This customer moves freely across the Internet, across different channels. Companies today must be of added value to stand out.

The customer is increasingly well informed and makes more conscious purchasing choices: 70% of the purchasing process today takes place online. So the customer does not need contact with a salesperson until much later, and this is slowly making the sales department realize that they need more insight into the customer's buying process. Marketing's job is to be present on relevant channels, and to lead this customer further and further through the sales funnel through lead nurturing. Research by MarketingProfs revealed that organizations with strong collaboration between marketing and sales provided 36% more customer retention.

Plenty of reasons to join forces. The traditional roles of marketing and sales are no longer tenable. Customer centricity is becoming increasingly important and this requires an understanding of who the customer is.

When do sales and marketing declare war on each other?

To know where you are going, you need to know where you are coming from. A number of factors can contribute to the gap between marketing and sales.

  • Marketing and sales function separately, creating a lack of alignment. There is little, if any, information transfer between the two parties.
  • There is no corresponding customer view, not to mention insight into the buying process the customer goes through. It is almost impossible for sales to act on leads if they have no insight into the process that took place prior to them.
  • Sales often focuses on the short term. They work with hard sales quotas ("we prefer to close that sale today") while marketing goals are often strategic in nature, therefore more long-term and therefore harder to measure. This leads to sales frustration; they cannot measure the contribution of marketing.

From collaboration to cooperation

The importance of good collaboration between marketing and sales is now crystal clear. It is time to move on to concrete steps. In this 5-step plan you will achieve marketing and sales alignment that will visibly contribute to achieving your business goals.

Before you start, the importance of the collaboration must be clear to everyone. All noses in the same direction, working together on collaboration, call it what you want. The success of a good collaboration falls or stands with this common starting point. Perhaps by now it is on the agenda at upper management. If not, start here first.

1. Speak the same language

Ever tried to understand a sign language interpreter on television with the sound turned off? No way. What marketing understands by a lead can be substantially different from how sales defines a lead. Marketing then fails to understand why sales does nothing with the leads presented. What is a prospect, a lead, a marketing-qualified lead or a sales-qualified lead? When is a lead ready to be turned over to sales? Make sure you agree on the definitions.

It is also essential at this stage to map out the buyer persona and buyer journey. Delve further into the lifecycle stages. Develop a common marketing and sales funnel that integrates the KPIs of marketing and sales. In addition to discussing these metrics, this provides an informed view of the productivity, effectiveness and efficiency of the activities of both departments.

2. Create watertight reporting

Are you familiar with the concrete contribution of your marketing efforts? Do you know what happened to your leads after they were turned over to sales? The problem probably lies in a lack of good closed-loop reporting. Good reporting:

  • Helps you measure the performance of your marketing efforts. It measures visitors, leads, customers and even conversion at each stage of the sales funnel.
  • Gives you the ability to transfer more intelligence to sales and then receive feedback.
  • Helps you understand which content contributes to conversion. Capitalize on this with lead nurturing.
  • Gives you insight into the interaction of the potential customer with your company. Sales then knows how to respond perfectly (follow up on the lead).
3. Implement a service level agreement (SLA).

A service level agreement between marketing and sales is the alignment of tasks between the two departments. What happens when a lead qualified by marketing is transferred to sales? How long does sales have to pick up this lead? Create a clear follow-up model. When a lead is not qualified by sales, how do you bring it back to marketing so it can possibly lead to business later?

4. Maintain open communication

Marketing and sales can learn an awful lot from each other. Ensure transparency and good communication between the two parties. Ideally, hold weekly meetings where important information is exchanged, campaign progress is discussed and new products and services are presented. Visit each other in the department and know what is on the other's mind.

The days of push marketing are over. Sales must increasingly become a full-fledged conversation partner for the customer. Marketing, in turn, must start creating content that adds value for the customer. Sales knows better than anyone else who that customer is; you as a marketer can draw inspiration from that.

5. Rely on data

Make the results transparent to everyone on a daily, monthly and quarterly basis. In short, express not only sales but also marketing objectives in figures. Discuss together which reports will then go to upper management.

Will marketing and sales become one?

A question many people ask. And which I will then answer with "no. The focus in sales will always be on the short term and in marketing on the long term. If marketing becomes sales, short-term objectives will dominate and that will not benefit the organization. In separate functions, each maintains its own added value.

With cooperation between marketing and sales, you achieve the real victory as an organization. So break down those enemy camps and move from collaboration to cooperation.

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