Building the Bridge Between Sales and Marketing

Written by Simon Jack (guest contributor)

There’s a great divide in the workplace. It’s persisted for generations. Many people choose to sit on one side or the other. Few people realise it even exists.

On one side there is Sales. On the other there is Marketing.

It’s almost the premise of an epic Shakespearean tragedy - two proud houses divided over their shared desire: to win over their beloved customer.

If you need catching up on any of the backstory, this is how events have typically unfolded to date…

It’s a tale of the creative ones vs the convincing ones. They have different goals and points of focus. They work on different time horizons and patience levels. They are rewarded on different metrics, things like # of sales vs # of followers. It’s no surprise it’s hard for each department to connect the dots between one another.

It also doesn’t help that sales and marketing have traditionally been very separate units within a company. Initiatives and tactics are largely devised in isolation of each other. They may be working towards the same end goal but together, they are really not all that in tune. This allows perceptions, skepticism and misconceptions to creep in, prompting questions like, “What is it they are actually doing?”

Many that have recognised the divide have tried to bridge it. It’s not easy. Often it ends up with a bit of a shaky rope bridge. It’s an uncharted crossing with risk of alienation for anyone that falls down. No, a far more robust bridge is required. We’re talking full on suspension bridge. Rigid support all the way.

Ok, enough with the bridge metaphors. The problem lies in the very nature of perceptions and attitudes as a result of the two business functions having been separated for so long.

But let’s deal with a glaring question first. We’re well into the 21st Century now, surely technology holds the answer? Technology can be developed to bridge all sorts of issues. Why not simply use a platform so people can communicate centrally and make sharing of information far easier and more transparent? A good CRM has got to do the trick right?

Sure, these tech solutions exist but there’s one whopping problem with them: technology has evolved rapidly, we haven’t.

Whilst technology may solve a problem in theory, it is of little use when we are set in our ways. It’s like giving a cockney cabbie advanced elocution lessons. It ain’t ever gonna ‘appen guvnor. The intervention is only as good as the ability and desire to use it correctly.

Just throw tech at a problem and you get a more high tech way of playing out the same old situation. It can even magnify existing issues by making bad habits easier to perform.

Technology doesn’t pick sides. It adapts to the will of its master.

So what is the answer?

It starts with the right behaviours. Both sides are out to win over the customer. If it becomes a contest about who’s better, who’s more useful and who’s right or wrong then things can soon descend into a comedy of errors. However, when two Romeos are working together, how can Juliet possibly resist?!

Here are the steps to factor in when building the bridge:

  1. Awareness and understanding.

This is the biggy. The customer decision making process is based on a whole mix of rational and emotional factors that take place with varying degrees of subconscious and conscious awareness. The majority of buying decisions are made well before a customer even utters a word to a sales person. And yet, sales teams are often are not fed enough awareness of (or don’t pay enough attention to) the preceding marketing-driven activity. With the right awareness and attitudes, Sales can find a whole new level of appreciation for their Marketing brethren.

Similarly, Marketing often don’t have a complete understanding of what Sales are looking for in a potential lead. This sparks frustration and complaints about time wasting. But with a shared understanding, Marketing can be far more confident when a potential customer is ready to be passed across to Sales.

With everyone aware of ongoing activities and needs, no-one feels like activities are a waste of time. Everybody wins together.

  1. Two-way communication and feedback.

Awareness and understanding is a great first step, but everyone has got to act on it in order to bridge the gap and achieve greater success together.

Sales have their proverbial ear on the ground when it comes to hearing about customer needs directly. This is prime, juicy info that needs feeding into Marketing. Sales are also going to pick up direct feedback of the campaigns that got prospects talking to them. Another very juicy nugget. Hold on a minute- that sounds like Sales are a key part of the Marketing puzzle. Well who says they are not? Which leads straight into step 3…

  1. Put the customer first, not the job function.

Actions and behaviours are not shaped by a list of tasks on a job description. By giving people a sense of belief and permission to make a real difference, they will.

Whether someone is in Sales or Marketing, they have a clear purpose in being a part of a customer’s joined up decision making process. It’s about bigger picture thinking and not merely reacting to what is immediately in front of your eyes at any given time. They are part of an integrated system, not a tightly-worded job description on a page.

  1. Have a consistent process.

Without a clear, logical process in place, people naturally revert to their own way of doing things. No matter how effective, this creates inconsistencies and fuels the lack of transparency that just widens the gap.

Instead, behaviour-based processes can be embedded into a process. All of a sudden, your CRM, communications or task management systems are the loyal sidekicks serving up reminders of tasks and best practices rather than relying on the various memories of those in the team.

Process enables technology to work to the potential it has, not become a mere servant to bad habits. Technology is the means of reinforcing progressive behaviours and habits. Process is the way of tying everything together in one direction. Oh sweet harmony.

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So if you find yourself or team in a divide, always remember to build the pillars of behaviours first, then make the crossing smooth with technology.

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