We can all agree how strange it is that sales and marketing always seem to be at odds. We’re all on the same team. We all want the same things. But, alas, most of us can easily see that there is a clear divide between the two groups, and in some organizations, that divide is more like a canyon.
But here’s the honest truth. Sales success = marketing’s success, but marketing’s success doesn’t necessarily = sales success. Sales is graded on simple metrics and they come in funny shapes – $ € £ ¥ – very simple. The more of them the better.
Unfortunately marketing operates much further up the funnel. Although we want funny shaped characters too, we also want crazy things like brand awareness and process management and CTRs… very strange desires indeed.
How can two organizations who seem to be speaking different languages work together for a common goal?
Treat sales like a customer, not a colleague
As marketers, we often think about our customers as the company’s customers – which is correct. You shouldn’t stop doing that.
However, that’s also true for IT and HR and AP. But IT’s customers are also everyone in the building using a laptop. And if those laptops all turn off, the customers complain. Accounts Payable’s customers are everyone trying to pay vendors. If the outsourced graphic designer stops working because AP can’t write a check, any marketing manager would (understandably) lose their mind.
Marketing is no different. Sales is marketing’s customer.
So how do you treat sales like a customer?
Deliver the product they want – ie. Qualified leads
A laptop is fantastic, but if IT gives you one without an operating system, there’s not much you can do with it. Leads make everyone happy, except when they’re crap and they waste sales’ time.
Anatomy of a qualified lead:
- Complete contact information: name, title, email, company
- Qualifying information: “This person requested a _____”
- Agreement on what constitutes a qualified lead
I stopped gating my online content because sales and I agreed that downloading a sales sheet does not make you a qualified lead. In your organization, that may not be the case. Sit down and talk about it.
This goes double for lead scoring. Sales leadership should be involved in determining what scoring methodology you’re using. Then when you hit the magic number, sales is bought in and everyone’s happy.
Consistently remind them of the service you deliver to them
Good B2B sales reps do something called a QBR or “Quarterly Business Review”.
PRO TIP: If you’ve never attended a QBR before, call your local sales reps and ask if you can be a fly on the wall for their next one – in the name of learning.
In a QBR, sales outlines what they delivered to the customer the previous quarter, how they dealt with issues, and what value they helped drive. It’s a way to remind the customer – who has a million much more important things to think about – what you mean to their business.
Marketing can do the same thing.
Once a quarter I call a 1-hour meeting with sales leadership and walk through my quarterly marketing plan. I keep my audience in mind and focus on the details sales will care most about. I start off with lead-to-opportunity conversions from the previous quarter and then outline what I’ve got planned for them in the current quarter. Some things are brand awareness or customer satisfaction related – which don’t directly drive the pipeline. But sales isn’t stupid. Explain to them exactly how this ultimately makes their life easier and they will smile.
Shut up and listen
The QBR may start with a presentation, but it ends with a discussion. Once a good rep has explained what they’ve done for the customer, they stop talking.
As marketers, especially amazingly extroverted dynamos like myself, this part can be difficult. Once a quarter, sit down with sales leadership and let them tell you want they want/need. The entire purpose of the call will be to listen and take notes. Over time they will become comfortable enough to simply call you up if they actually need something.
“But Hannah, they are constantly asking me for crap they could just do themselves.”
Good point. You are not a PowerPoint monkey and you don’t need to book conference rooms for them.
However if leadership says they really need a new overview PowerPoint for XYZ reason, do that. If you don’t have one and you keep getting asinine “I need a PowerPoint” calls, that’s an indication that you need to make one.
“But Hannah, I have a sales team full of idiots that wouldn’t know a good lead if it bit them in the…”
I get it. I’ve been there.
You’re the expert. Act like it. This is exactly how sales feels about their customers too.
“But Hannah, I don’t have the budget to do what they’re asking for.”
Ask them to pitch in. If they really want it, the budget will show up.
I promise you if you do these three things with a customer service attitude, sales will love you and you’ll find it a lot easier to get things done. If not, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you’re running into. I’m all ears.