Sales and Marketing: It’s Time to Stop Pointing Fingers

Mark Huber

Sales and marketing have always been a bit of an odd couple – think Tom and Jerry.

Sales people tend to have Type A personalities and we marketers tend to be Type B. Obviously a generalization, but you know what I’m saying. We communicate differently. We tackle challenges with a different approach. We’re compensated differently.

Despite the contrasts, sales and marketing rely on each other to do their jobs, making the relationship both transactional AND emotional. But acting on emotion in a business setting is not a good response.

In most cases, sales and marketing teams want to be aligned but getting aligned is the challenge.

Ninety percent of sales and marketing professionals surveyed for a 2020 LinkedIn/Forrester report agree that when initiatives are aligned the customer experience is positively impacted. However, the same percentage — 90% — say they’re misaligned across strategy, content, process, and culture. Additional LinkedIn research shows that businesses with strong sales and marketing alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals, 58% more effective at retaining customers, and drive 208% more revenue as a result of their efforts.

What exactly is holding us back from this success, and how do we transcend our differences?

Enough with all the finger-pointing

With today’s expectations for 2X+ annual growth, it’s difficult for sales teams to meet their goals through pure outbound methods (cold calls and emails, industry events). As a result, sales relies more on inbound leads generated by marketing from content, email, and social media marketing, as well as advertising.

At the same time, marketers have taken on deeper revenue goals and are relying on salespeople to aggressively pursue leads.

This set-up unfortunately makes it easy to point fingers when the revenue needle isn’t moving. Each side will scramble to confirm their biases. Sales will point to the small percentage of low-quality leads from marketing, while marketing points to the poor follow-up on marketing leads by the sales team.

Both sides are now cherry-picking situations that make each other look bad. Ugh.

This type of low-level finger-pointing is fairly common, but you need to avoid it like the plague. If it’s happening in your organization, you’ve already lost the plot. Sales and marketing are no longer even collaborating and now it’s time for an all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Don’t wait for a downturn to make repairs

A good way to avoid descending into passive-aggressive finger-pointing is to resolve sales and marketing conflicts when things are going well within the company. When people are on the same team, cheering and celebrating.

I’ll admit, it’s unnatural to tackle a problem when it doesn’t even feel like there’s a problem. When the company is crushing it, sales and marketing must be aligned, right? Well … not really. The relationship may feel good while everyone is high-fiving at a company offsite, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is good.

Those record revenues may just be the result of a humming economy. Whatever the reason, the good times are the exact time for sales and marketing to come up with a sustainability plan. To have the hard conversations. To make it last.

Both sides are hitting goals and the relationship is not under a microscope. THIS is the time to figure out which parts of the sales/marketing strategy are sub-optimal and fix them.

It will be 10-times harder to do this when the company takes a bad turn because of the additional stress. And you’ll quickly find yourself two years behind on critical business goals that were ignored.

For instance, that low bar you placed on MQLs (marketing qualified leads) that you got away with in good times now shines as a big problem as the company struggles. Come up with an MQL-adjustment plan now even if the business doesn’t depend on it now.

Also, when things are going well, teams don’t have to have difficult conversations and never learn how to communicate during stressful times. Set the bar higher and force some of those difficult conversations during good times so that you know how to work together if things go south.

Meet consistently, bring in a third party if necessary

With so much at stake, every organization must do what it takes to keep sales and marketing collaborating effectively.

If the sales/marketing relationship is so frayed that it can’t be rectified internally, it may require a third party. You could bring in an external consultancy that has worked in both sales and marketing and understands how to pinpoint common conflicts and resolve them.

Metadata customers get a special dose of the sales and marketing relationship medicine with they start working with us. In our initial strategy intake meeting, we ask the director of marketing and a director from sales to attend so we can have the hard conversations about lead scoring, handoff strategies, the metrics we should all be monitoring, and the accounts and prospects we should be targeting.

These customer sales and marketing meetings have uncovered some big problems that were relatively simple to fix. For example, cracking open a lead scoring model and getting everyone to agree that a lead who filled out a form for a “Top 10 Tips” whitepaper probably isn’t ready for a demo is not hard. The conversation just needs to be had, not avoided.

Sales and marketing have been an odd couple long enough. We have it in us to be a power couple. When we join forces, the payoff in terms of revenue and customer satisfaction is too huge to ignore.

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