Sales and marketing are as intertwined as bread and butter, rhythm and blues or Bonnie and Clyde. They’re uttered in the same breath, yet, people within these two functions often don’t see eye to eye–particularly in struggling B2B communications service providers. Sales wonders why marketing doesn’t deliver more qualified leads while marketing wonders why sales squander the bounty set before them. Sales want better tools and air cover while marketing secretly wonders why their company can’t seem to hire better salespeople. Neither seems to think the other is pulling in their weight and both eye each other with suspicion.
When this adversarial dynamic sets-in, neither team reaches its potential–and company results suffer. While silo mentality is by no means unique to these two functions, I must say it is particularly odd to see two natural allies mistrust each other, rather than partner to win. You could blame human nature, CYA attitudes or corporate culture. Better yet, don’t blame anybody. Get to the root cause and fix it!
There’s a reason the two disciplines are separate. Each requires complementary skills and both are necessary–and, yes, there is (and should be) some overlap. Marketing builds a brand, strategically positions the company’s offering, generates awareness, engages prospects throughout the buyer’s journey and equips sales with differentiated value-based messaging. Sales internalizes and personalizes this message, builds rapport and trust with prospects, teases-out their pain points, positions the right solution for each and, of course, closes deals. Both are natural allies and need each other in order to be highly successful. It should be noted, mediocre performance necessitates no such allegiance. So, if mediocrity is acceptable, maybe don’t read the rest of this blog.
There is no “Easy Button”
Successful service providers know there is no magic sales button. Marketing can’t win deals for sales and a brute-force sales approach won’t compensate for poor marketing (or, worse, poor product-market fit). There is, however, a better way. It starts with respect, involves listening and results in a highly successful partnership.
- Respect. Picture yourself performing your colleague’s job. Not the caricature (sales golfing or marketing goofing off), an actual day in the life. We gravitate towards roles for which we are suited and tend to imagine because we’re good at what we do that we could do “their” job better than them. We need to be realistic and stop telling ourselves that dangerous lie. Few marketing people have the mental toughness and perseverance needed to succeed in sales. Similarly, few sales folks have the consistent creativity and systematic planning modern marketing demands.
- Listen. I was tempted to use the word “dialogue”, but the talking part of the dialogue is easy. Listening is hard. Listening to your customers is important, but listening to your colleagues is also critical. Sales and marketing must engage and hold a regular communications cadence. I’m not talking about attending the same customer meetings (although that’s always helpful). There is no better way to gain insights on how to help each other than to hold a regularly scheduled meeting with your counterparts with the stated objective of reviewing mutual challenges and agreeing on a shared set of priorities.
- Partner. Marketers and salespeople have a shared goal: improving a company’s financial performance. This goal may take different forms. It may be a sales quota or a marketing-influenced sales number. Ultimately, the way to meet both teams’ goals is to work together. Both functions should treat each other as the equal partner they are; share in their successes and over-communicate. Share ideas and be frank with each other. There’s nothing more damaging to the long-term success of this partnership than paying someone lip service (presumably to be nice) while letting them continue to bark up the wrong tree.
Marketing is not a “check the box” activity companies a certain size must do. It is not a dark science that mysteriously delivers prospects ready to sign an order. Thoughtful marketers can, however, partner with sales to generate awareness, establish credibility, build interest and equip them with the content and generate leads. By partnering with sales, marketing can help improve their effectiveness and, together, accelerate growth.
Marketing a challenge?
There’s no secret formula or right approach. You could, of course, hire a Madison avenue marketing agency who, for a steep price, can superficially learn your business so they can churn-out the content and tactics you think might work. Better yet, talk to someone who knows your business and is willing to ask the right questions, listen and tailor a plan to build on your strengths and address your market. The Ronin team has over twenty-five years of experience building and deploying network services, and transforming organizations into recognized market leaders. Give us a call and let’s see how we can help you.
– JP González, VP OF STRATEGIC MARKETING