The Insight

June 12, 2020

Bringing Sales and Marketing Together: Solving the Biggest CMO Hurdle

By iresearch
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Marketing and sales alignement

The CMO has one of the most fluid, dynamic and extensive roles within any organization. They are indeed responsible for curating and leading the marketing concepts, but they are much more than that.

In one of our recent pieces, we talked about how the CMO and CFO need to be on the same page for better and faster growth to happen. We also mentioned that the CMO has to be the bigger person in seeking out the CFO so that this bridge can be built.

However, that is not where the bridge-building activities of the CMO should end.

There is still another important department we might not have considered the last time – sales!

The Surprising Dichotomy

Marketing is a game of numbers – and these numbers are pressed till they lead to sales. No matter how complex the marketing model is, the truth is that they are doing it for more sales at the end of the day.

This is why we find it difficult to sometimes comprehend why these two departments do not see that they are supposed to be working together.

Without the sales team on the same side as their marketing counterparts, there will always be lapses in how the consumer is approached, which one of them to approach and actionable data on other fronts too. That is not something that a CMO worth their salt should tolerate, and that is why we are all here today.

If there is something that we have come to find out about the brand culture, though, it is how the status quo might be difficult to change.

This goes beyond just going over to the sales department and calling a truce/ ceasefire. Even if you were to do that, you might be met with blank stares since this team did not know that they were warring against you.

That is why you need to understand the underlying causes of the separation before you can bring both parts together for a strong alliance.

Conflict Between Sales and Marketing

One of the biggest issues causing conflict in today’s organizations stems from a confusion of identities that are equally spread across both the sales and marketing teams.

The roles in sales and marketing have come to be used interchangeably over time, so much that each department is now fighting for a unique identity. That has led to the separation of both departments with players wanting to be known for what they do while not allowing the other party to meddle in their affairs.

We would say that this is a logical response sometimes, but it does not solve the problem. Rather, it brings on more problems for everyone involved.

Organizations need to understand that the marketing team is the one that helps then create brand awareness, push out a new product and take sizeable positions in the market. However, they cannot go all the way, which is where the sales team has to step in.

These are the people who engage with the end consumer to close a sale. At the point where salespeople are being pushed to create marketing content and marketers are asked to close sales, though, things can fast get confusing.

The above problem will also spawn into a series of other problems. The first and most obvious one is a breakdown of communication between two parties that should have been in bed with one another. Even if they were not directly required to collaborate, lack of communication of any kind will be crippling to a company’s business.

Moving on from that, the fierce competition for budgeting has done a lot to drive even more wedges between the sales and marketing people.

It is believed that if one were to show dependency on the other, it might be seen as the less strategic department. It is also a no-brainer that the less strategic department will be the one to get lesser funding.

In a world where the importance of the departments can be measured by how much funding they get, you might see how sales or marketing can hold back crucial information from the other just to gain an advantage over it. Again, the company is bleeding as a whole here.

Goals are yet another factor that could come between both departments.

You will agree with us that unless intentionally planned, there is no way sales and marketing can have the same set of goals in mind. While one department is trying to get more leads than they have promised, another is working towards exceeding their daily sales quota. Unless the fine line between independent goals like this can be drawn, none of these departments will see the need to ask help from the other.

All that, and we have not mentioned the loophole for throwing blame on one party.

The marketing team can easily blame the guys in sales for not following up their leads effectively to close deals. The guys over in sales can also claim not to have received quality leads that they can even work on due to the ineffectiveness of the marketing plan.

All of these can only happen when they are isolated, so they prefer to remain so. After all, being seen as working together means each party has to take part of the blame home too. In hindsight, wouldn’t that have been the better idea, though?

Burying the Hatchet

From the conflicts alone, you can see why it is necessary to approach the sales department with a plan that can see the both of you work together, smash your KPIs and still make the company better for it.

So that we do not tend towards sentimentality when discussing issues of this magnitude, we have decided to turn to what the data about this partnership says. That way, you can make a better analysis of the cost benefits and effects of not properly integrating both teams to work together.

1. Resources Management

Data Pick: Salespeople waste 50% of their time on poor prospects

Salespeople depend on the leads that trickle down to them from the marketing department, and they pursue every one of those leads like their life depended on it.

As a CMO, you have been in marketing long enough to know that not everyone in the market can become a lead for you. You have also come to find out, from experience, that not all leads will convert to customers for you.

Thus, you can help the sales team manage their time and resource better by sifting through the leads generated in your marketing campaign and sending only the most capable ones through.

This does not mean that the other leads should be discarded. They can, instead, be funneled into other marketing cones where they will be nurtured to the stage where they will become clients too.

No matter what you do with the other leads, though, sales are achieving a high close rate, they are happy with you, and the company is happy with you all.

2. Converting Better

Data Pick: A detailed buyer’s journey converts 95% of customers

When you leave the salespeople to go out to the customers on their own, you might be setting the company up for failure. Even if you have done the initial lead generation, you still need to work with the sales team to close that sale.

This way, your team can also achieve a lower rate of lead turnover.

After all, the fact that the leads are not converting to sales might not be that your company is not offering the kind of solutions which they need. It might simply be for the fact that they have met another brand that did not just throw them to the sales team and left them there.

That is why you should always be there to support the sales team with your marketing materials to ease the buyer through until the final purchase process.

As a bonus, we might as well let you know that companies that have a tightly-knit sales and marketing close deals 67% faster than their counterparts who don’t. Think about those numbers for a minute.

3. Bridging Skill Gaps

Data Pick: Some 65% of sales reps don’t know what to send prospects

Even if they are not ready to admit this to your face, the sales team needs you more than you know.

Without you, they are not able to do their jobs effectively. They are just getting the prospects from you but are not sure of the kind of content to send to these clients. That is not their fault, though, since they have simply been trained to execute another form of operation instead.

This buttresses the point above, telling you that you need to step in. To further motivate you, you would also be helping yourself.

If your marketing spends generates 250 leads and only 25 were converted by sales, that is a meager 10% conversion ratio that you have to defend to the CEO. Let’s say you worked with the sales guys and were able to convert 175 of these leads, and the numbers start getting juicy.

Best believe that it would be easier to ask for more marketing spends with that 70% conversion ratio on your books.

Building the Bridge

By explaining the conflict – and why there should have not been one in the first place – we believe you must have had the conviction to build the bridge already. Interestingly, it doesn’t take much to repair the relationship between your marketing team and the sales guys on the next floor.

Here are some of the proven methods that have worked for companies in the past that we believe will work for your brand too:

  • Create common goals – if both teams have KPIs that align with one another, they will be dedicated to helping one another achieve those goals. This is better than having different goals to chase, creating no room for the collaboration that is so needed here.
  • Hire right – let your hiring manager know what you are looking for. Speak with the sales team too and let them know why the right hire is important for effective collaboration and communication. Look for those that have worked in both sales and marketing before, or are interested in doing so. These kinds of hires will boost a culture of transparency between both teams as they have a firsthand experience of the challenges in both departments.
  • Boost relationships – don’t let the sales and marketing teams have just a business relationship. Of course, this is a work environment but that does not mean all elements of personality be taken out of things. Make sure the team members on both sides see themselves as more than just means to achieve a target, but people that they should root for too. Remember, a win for sales will be a win for marketing too, and vice versa.
  • Share data – one of the biggest ways to collaborate is to share your data. Sales can help the marketing team know what kind of players are finally converting so that the former can focus its efforts well. Marketing can also let sales in on how it chooses the target market/ describes the buyer persona. Sharing data this way helps both teams come up with reasonable modes of approach for the leads that they both come across.
  • Define roles – this was saved for last. No matter what you do, don’t let the roles of one department overlap into that of others. While it is fine for marketing guys to want to understand how sales work, they should not do it with an intent to take over. The same should be done on the other business end of things. This will ensure all the good work you have been trying to do does not come undone at the end of the day.

Merged, Not Aligned

The best CMOs understand that marketing goes beyond what they can control within their teams. Every other team in the company that can have an impact on marketing at all needs to be brought under the canopy if success is to be largely registered.

Thus, it is the place of the seasoned CMO to identify such external factors – like the CFO and sales teams – so that they can aptly work on how they will be merged with their interests.

Yes, merged, not aligned. Alignment only gets you so far. Mergers, on the other hand, takes your strategies the whole nine yards.

Do any of these trends jump out?
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