Tips on Bridging the Sales and Marketing Divide

Photo credit:  BC Gov

Photo credit: BC Gov

I didn’t even have time to pack a bag for my red-eye to Cleveland. Hours earlier I received a frantic call from one of our sales reps who was vacationing in Mykonos or Costa Rica or some other tropical place. The executive at one of his accounts would meet with us one last time to reconsider his decision to buy one of our competitors products – tomorrow. The rep couldn't attend – so I needed to. I wrote slides during the entire plane flight, I pitched the executive, we won the business. A couple weeks later the rep sent me a Starbucks gift card. “Jerk” I muttered.

I sourced a few leads at a random event once. I was so angry that no reps followed up with the leads that I called the sales VP and told him if his reps wouldn’t close those deals, I would. I was lying of course. They weren’t even good leads. And I’m bad at sales. I was the jerk.

The unfortunate reality is, that if not properly tended, the gap between sales and marketing can quickly look a lot like the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula. Both sides stand at attention staring each other down across the void between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs). Here are a few tips I have learned (the hard way) on how to bridge the sales and marketing divide.

Get your face in the place – 
Legendary sales executive David Rudnitsky routinely barked this mantra instructing his reps to physically visit their customers. It's also sage advice for marketers. I started spending a half day a week “hoteling” on the sales floor. Did it kill my productivity? Yes. In the short term. But the discussions I overheard, calls I hopped on, and feedback I received saved me from wasting hours on misinformed content and programs.

Create feedback loops – 
The best reps are too busy selling to give you unsolicited feedback on your marketing. That’s why you need to ask for it, often. Build a feedback loop into all your programs wherever possible. Fortunately, tools like Showpad for content and GetFeedback for surveys make this easier than ever.

Help reps help you – 
Most reps prefer concrete targets to abstract ones. Don’t we all? Instead of saying “help me invite prospects to our upcoming marketing event” say “each of you are responsible for filling x seats by y date.” Give them the tools, create a simple leaderboard, and the work is done. 

Get out of the building –
Join sales in the field. It turns out that prospects like hearing from people who aren’t being paid to close the deal (at least not directly). Plus, nothing will give you more empathy for sales (and humility about your content) than joining them in action.

Give sales the credit –
Most of the time they deserve it. Their job is hard. Marketing is the point guard and sales is the power forward to use a basketball analogy. Our job is to lob the ball close to the rim so sales can slam it home. If you want credit, be a sales person. If you want to create, be a marketer.

Don’t set up zero-sum dashboards –
What gets measured gets managed. So don’t set up any "sales vs. marketing" reports in your CEO dashboard. Focusing on pipeline by channel generally leads to more productive conversations.

What things have you done to keep sales and marketing in sync?