Sales is from Mars, Marketing’s from Venus: Five Factors to Close the Gap

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Sometimes two things that should have a natural affinity seem so far apart that all the technology and willpower in the world can’t pull them together. If you’re in sales, you may feel this way about your marketing team’s awareness of what you actually need from them. If you’re in marketing, you may feel this way about what sales actually does with the results you produce.

It’s a classic conundrum, and in many organizations sales and marketing might as well be speaking separate languages. Here at Act-On, our team has actually achieved marketing and sales alignment. Much of that is due to technology–we eat our own dog food, as the saying goes, and the Act-On Software marketing automation platform serves us well. The rest of it has to do with people and process.

As Senior Director of Sales, I interact with my marketing department every day. I have weekly one-on-ones with several members of the marketing team and emphasize making the time as productive and meaningful as possible. Sales has sales quotas; marketing has lead quotas. We rely on each other to exceed these goals. We do in fact work as one team with very open lines of communication. (Might I point out that our sales and marketing team has never missed our number? Alignment is a big factor in our success.)

I know that in many other companies there’s a crippling gulf between marketing and sales. From a sales point of view, here’s a short list of five key points for marketing to keep in mind as you both work to close that gap.

Five Factors for Better Sales and Marketing Alignment

  1. Utilize sales and marketing metrics. 

    Do you know how many leads sales will need to reach their quota? Do you know how many leads are needed each month and quarter to feed the sales organization with enough conversations to fill the pipeline and exceed quota? To truly understand what’s required, marketing needs to understand the numbers from the bottom up. How many leads agree to a conversation/demo? How many conversations convert to opportunities? How many opportunities convert to sales? As your sales team’s quota increases, the lead goal has to increase with it. Regular meetings with your sales leadership will help you stay connected to the numbers needed to reach the revenue goals.
  2. Work together with sales to identify sales-qualified leads.

    Marketing wants sales to be responsive to all leads. Sales needs to know which of the leads to call first. Sales has a constant internal battle to reduce time spent on bad leads, be responsive to good leads, and manage our time to make sure that we’re connecting with the right people at the right time. Together, marketing and sales can manage this challenge with the right plan, marketing automation software, and ongoing communication.
  3. Learn to embrace sales-oriented messaging. 

    Marketing wants email messages to be branded and perfectly constructed. Sales reps believe that shorter messages, shorn of marketing luster, will often get a better response. Your strategy should include both. Regular marketing-generated email messages should be part of a greater lead nurturing campaign built to communicate brand quality and thought leadership. Sales-generated messages usually have a call to action in the first sentence, and are focused on getting the recipient to do something. Marketing can get more involved by providing email templates in whatever CRM sales uses, and collaborate with the sales team on well-written (but short and sweet) messages.
  4. Know what inside information prospects tell sales. 

    Get your sales reps to invite you for a ride-a-long. If you and your marketing team join live sales calls from time to time, you’ll better understand the challenges your target market is trying to address. Your sales team has valuable customer information; they’re in touch with the current needs of your prospects and customers. They can also provide valuable real-world feedback on marketing campaign quality. Schedule a standing meeting with your sales team to cover these issues, and watch how much you accomplish together.
  5. Maintain a sense of urgency.
    Sales can’t afford to have campaign timelines slip. The quantity and quality of leads is important, but the timing of when those leads get in the hands of the sales team is crucial. Marketing should have a calendar that they share with sales, preferably a quarterly campaign schedule, that includes lead estimate forecasts.

Pay attention to these five factors, and you’re practically guaranteed to improve sales and marketing alignment. The key is to use technology and process to establish stronger communication between the teams—your results can be incredible.

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  • Atri

    I think the effective use of metrics is finally breaking down these barriers between marketing and sales and each group is better able to understand the needs of the other

    Maybe we are entering the “Age of Aquarius…”

  • http://www.alexanderproudfoot.com Tom Johnson

    I think a great (and necessary) exercise to get both groups on the same page is to draft buyer personae for every type of customer (by industry, service, other vertical or product offering). When both groups know who they are talking to, what the customer sounds like, where they live, what their pain points are, etc… then there is common ground by which both teams can attack the situation leveraging the tools and resources available to each team which include marketing automation as a common way to distribute and analyze campaigns.

    Can’t we all just get along?

  • http://www.invigraleads.com Stacy Gentile

    To the list, calibration could be added. Make a list of what works and what didn’t. Very few organizations have knowledge that survives turnover. Most organizations find themselves in this continual process of learning things again and again that they already learned 3 people ago. If you can build up some sales and marketing intellectual capital, you can use it to calibrate tomorrows potential decisions. Easiest way to start is to build a wall of winners and losers (projects not people) be nice.

  • http://www.frostjohnson.com Beth

    It’s helpful to remember that “nothing happens in a company until someone makes a sale”, and that all worthwhile marketing efforts lead to that.

  • Chris Hardeman

    Exactly! We’re both stronger when we work together. I think we can get along, however like every successful, long-term relationship, it takes some work.

  • Chris Hardeman

    Stacy, I completely agree with your point about calibration! Having the right tools in place to benchmark your progress (successes and failures) is an important part of knowing how to move forward as an organization.

  • Chris Hardeman

    Beth – I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s important to remember that even though our efforts are different, sales and marketing share the same end goal.

  • http://www,haadvantage.com Carter Perez

    Equally important is the relationship between the head of marketing and sales. If these two individuals don’t have a solid working relationship and common interlocked goals then it will be challenging at best to unite Venus and Mars.

  • http://www.rubgrp.com Irish

    What would be nice is to have a monthly webinaire lead by an SME with a topic, send out problem to registars ahead of time and during session discuss various ways to solve the issue at hand. Many of us don’t have time to seek through emails, tweats or google searches to sort out the answer…

    • http:/act-on.com Act-On Software News

      Thanks for the feedback, Irish. What kind of topics would you like to discuss or hear more about?

  • http://www.iGrafx.com Guedo Fanony

    I think that there is often a lack of good communication between sales and marketing. Everyone needs to remember that they are on the same side and should be working together to help each other. If sales has input for marketing, it should be welcomed, and same for the other way around. Once you can build that relationship where you end up collaborating and trying new things, thats when greatness happens.

  • Chris Hardeman

    Agreed, Carter! Bringing sales and marketing together is definitely a full team effort. It has to be part of the culture that is encouraged and supported top-down!

  • Chris Hardeman

    Guedo, you’re completely right. Open lines of communication are key. I’d love to hear what are you doing at your organization to help foster collaboration and allow great things to happen?

  • Nuala

    In our organisation sales & marketing have 5 minute huddles every morning, and weekly team meetings. This has dramatically improved our relationship and alignment.

  • http://Quarterlygoalforthewholecompany Chris Kiersch

    I believe that the only thing an individual has control over is “cause”, and most people focus on “affect”, which there is little to no control over. So if the company has a company wide goal, with numbers posted, and everyone gets a reward if that quarterly goal is met a “theme” i.e. One By A Nose. Then everyone goes to the racetrack or something like that. Then the results and the metrics are all out in the open and everyone can get on the same path going in the some direction. I believe “tools” software, special phones, faster computers, are a commodity, it’s all in the art of the implementation, and what happens when people are not so concerned with who gets the credit. And yes having access to the best tools, is a huge advantage. Without attitude, motivation and commitment, your just on s slow death march. So, Get Your ActOn;) Cheers, Chris

  • Jeremy Greenberg

    I really like the idea of bringing sales and marketing together through technology. Sometimes it seems easier said than done, but important to always utilize all the tools that Act-On and other services have to offer. Definitely opening lines of communication between sales and marketers is the key to helping the customer.

  • Stacey

    Communication is key.

  • Tim

    I think it is incredibly important for sales and marketing to speak the same language and use the same terminology. For example, what is a qualified lead? I also think joint meetings, regularly are important. Sometimes, just hearing the other side give their reasoning for opinions, often can lead to a different approach that is better for the ultimate goal. We recently took a joint approach to tradeshow planning and I honestly believe our strategy is better because of the input we received from sales.

  • Chris Hardeman

    Chris – thank you for the insight! You’re spot on. Attitude, motivation and commitment are all so important. I like your entire post and especially agree with your comments regarding the benefits of goals and metrics being out in the open. I always see an uptick in activity and results/goal attainment when this is in practice. Here’s to a ton of success and avoiding that death march! Cheers, Chris