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If you’ve ever reminded your sales and marketing employees that you’re “all on the same team here,” you’re not alone. This sort of thing happens all the time. It’s easy for team members to zero in on a specific task and lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s why they need you to create collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.
Left unaddressed, the tunnel vision that all too often accompanies the completion of skill-specific tasks can lead to open conflict between team members. And that’s the best-case scenario! At least the various grievances are being aired. A far more damaging scenario unfolds when team members grumble silently to themselves and resentments invisibly pile up.
In today’s highly competitive business landscape, it’s essential for sales and marketing teams to work together seamlessly to drive growth and achieve business goals. However, achieving effective collaboration between these two departments can be a challenge. Misalignment, lack of communication, and different priorities often hinder their ability to work as a cohesive unit.
But fear not! In this article, we’ll explore five proven strategies to improve collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. By implementing these strategies, you’ll foster better communication, align goals, and ultimately drive better results for your organization.
How to Improve Collaboration Between Your Sales and Marketing Teams
As a manager, you can hire a sales consultant that can bridge the gap or you can tackle things on your own. Part of your job is to figure out which side of that equation you tend to unconsciously favor — most of us have a bias one way or the other — and take steps to counter it in your approach to building a well-oiled machine. Listed below are eight tips that can help.
1. Foster Open Communication and Alignment
Improving team communication between marketing and sales is critical for successful collaboration. Both teams should have a deep understanding of each other’s processes and goals. By working together, they can create a unified approach that maximizes their effectiveness.
To foster open communication and alignment, consider implementing the following practices:
a. Locate and eliminate any communication gaps.
This is first with good reason. Finding and fixing the communication gaps between marketing and sales simply cannot be overemphasized. Assuming you’ve hired the right people for the job, they can probably overcome any challenge that comes their way as long as they aren’t siloed. As the old military adage goes, “Everything’s fine as long as I can hear the troops complaining.”
Physically locate your sales and marketing team in the same general vicinity. Stagger office assignments in that space so your people can’t help but interact with and overhear one another. Set up and encourage the use of a Sales/Marketing collaboration channel on Slack or another messaging platform. Encourage transparency across all departments, not just sales and marketing.
b. Regular Meetings and Check-Ins
Schedule regular meetings between marketing and sales teams to discuss ongoing campaigns, strategies, and challenges. These meetings provide an opportunity for teams to share insights, exchange feedback, and align their efforts.
c. Shared Documentation and Tools
Provide access to shared documentation and tools that facilitate collaboration. This could include a shared CRM system, project management tools, and communication platforms. By having a centralized hub for information and resources, both teams can easily access and update relevant data.
c. Joint Goal-Setting
Encourage marketing and sales teams to set joint goals that align with the overall business objectives. This shared sense of purpose fosters collaboration and ensures that both teams are working towards a common goal.
2. Commit to providing the data your teams need.
Asking your marketing and sales teams to develop winning strategies without providing reliable data isn’t that different from demanding they make bricks without straw. Kick your next campaign off with empirical data culled from website analytics, sales figures, and a few educated-guess projections for the coming quarter.
If your sales and marketing people don’t know where they’ve been, it’s exponentially harder for them to chart a course for where to go next. Ask both teams to create a prioritized Top 10 List for the specific data they need to make informed decisions. With any luck, those two lists will have sufficient overlap to make for a nice Venn diagram. If not, consider scheduling a casual combined team lunch to hone the combined list of 20 down to an agreed-upon Top 10.
3. Share Insights to Identify Stronger Leads
Identifying the best leads requires a combination of insights from both marketing and sales. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, these teams can refine their lead generation and qualification processes to focus on high-quality leads.
Here are some strategies to facilitate this collaboration:
a. Defining Lead Types
Marketing and sales teams should agree on the definitions of Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales-Accepted Leads (SALs), and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs). This ensures a clear understanding of lead qualification criteria and helps both teams tailor their efforts accordingly.
b. Collaborative Lead Scoring
Develop a lead scoring system that incorporates inputs from both marketing and sales. Marketing can provide insights into lead behavior, engagement, and demographics, while sales can contribute their knowledge of leads that are likely to convert based on past experiences.
c. Continuous Feedback Loop
Establish a feedback loop between marketing and sales to share insights on lead quality and conversion rates. Regularly review and refine lead qualification criteria based on the feedback received. This iterative process ensures continuous improvement and alignment between the two teams.
4. Enrich Leads with Additional Information
To improve the effectiveness of sales efforts, it’s essential to provide sales teams with comprehensive lead profiles that include additional information beyond contact details.
Consider the following strategies to enrich leads with relevant information:
a. Automated Lead Research
Utilize tools like ConvertFlow, which automatically researches captured emails to create detailed lead profiles. These profiles include lead activity tracking, providing insights into lead interests and preferences.
b. Data Enrichment Tools
Leverage data enrichment tools like Clearbit to gather additional data on leads, such as technology usage or company funding. This information can help sales teams tailor their communication and improve lead conversion rates.
c. CRM Integration
Integrate lead enrichment tools with your CRM system to ensure that sales teams have access to up-to-date and comprehensive lead information. This integration streamlines the sales process and enables personalized and targeted communication.
5. Develop customer personas.
Many business owners skip this step to save time but blowing this step off will ultimately hinder your success. Developing data-driven customer personas for your business will help both sales and marketing to step back from ingrained presuppositions.
Personas also help your team members present contradictory opinions and ask questions in ways that depersonalize the conversation. Instead of your leading sales rep saying, “that won’t work” to your marketing team, the objection can be stated in a more non-confrontational manner. “How would our persona named Larry respond to this campaign?”
6. Make sure everyone is working toward the same goal.
This one seems so obvious that a lot of managers miss it completely. They just assume that everyone shares a common goal of increased sales. Sometimes, for example, the marketing team “doesn’t get the memo” as it works to create a campaign worthy of contending during industry award season. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to create work that gets recognized by peers, this nonetheless points to a problematic shift in priorities.
Your company’s goal may very well be winning awards, and that’s fine, too. The point here is to develop and relentlessly repeat the overall goal of any campaign. Keep the goal simple enough for easy memorization but clear enough to eliminate the possibility of any confusion. For the duration of any focused effort, use your cross-departmental goal as the lens through which every comment, suggestion, statistic, and course correction is evaluated.
7. Emphasize quality over quantity.
Hopefully, by now, savvy marketers have come to realize that hammering prospective clients with email after email, day after day, is often a losing strategy in the long run. Sure, every effort yields at least something positive. More often than not, this return on investment — however small — can tempt marketers to think that “more is better.” Maybe not. At some point, often sooner than expected, the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in.
Your sales team probably has some good insights into “how much is too much.” Of course, your marketing folks may not appreciate hearing what they have to say in terms of anecdotal evidence. Managers need to pay attention when anyone starts to raise concerns about the quantity and value of email campaigns and other customer touchpoints. Stay open to the possibility that “less is more.” Your goal should be to deliver the right message at the right time and increase overall engagement, not artificially puff up email delivery/open numbers.
8. Align Marketing Efforts with the Sales Funnel
To ensure a seamless transition of leads from marketing to sales, it’s crucial to align marketing efforts with the sales funnel. By establishing clear guidelines and boundaries, both teams can effectively support the lead nurturing process.
Consider the following strategies for alignment:
a. Lead Handoff Process
Define a clear process for handing off leads from marketing to sales. This process should include criteria for lead qualification, lead status updates, and communication protocols. Regularly review and refine the handoff process to address any bottlenecks or issues.
b. Mid-Funnel Marketing Content
Create mid-funnel marketing content that supports the lead nurturing process. This content should address the needs and pain points of leads who are not yet ready to make a purchasing decision. By providing valuable information and resources, marketing can help educate and nurture leads until they are sales-ready.
c. Closed-Loop Reporting
Implement a closed-loop reporting system that aligns sales data with marketing efforts. By tracking key metrics, such as lead source, conversion rates, and revenue generated, both teams can gain insights into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
9. Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
To ensure long-term collaboration and alignment between sales and marketing, it’s beneficial to create a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This document outlines the expectations, responsibilities, and goals for both teams.
Here are some key elements to include in an SLA:
a. Buyer Personas
Clearly define buyer personas to ensure that both teams have a shared understanding of target customers. This includes demographics, pain points, motivations, and buying behaviors.
b. Lead Definitions
Agree on definitions for MQLs, SALs, and SQLs to establish consistent lead qualification criteria. This ensures that both teams are aligned on what constitutes a qualified lead.
c. Reporting and Analytics
Define the key metrics and reporting requirements for both sales and marketing. This includes agreed-upon reporting intervals, data points to be tracked, and the tools and systems used for reporting.
d. Lead Handoff Process
Document the lead handoff process, including the criteria for transitioning leads from marketing to sales. This ensures a smooth transfer of leads and sets clear expectations for both teams.
e. Review and Revision
Regularly review and revise the SLA to reflect changes in business goals, market conditions, or internal processes. This ensures that the SLA remains relevant and effective over time.
By implementing these strategies and establishing an SLA, you can foster a culture of collaboration and alignment between your sales and marketing teams. This collaborative approach will not only improve internal efficiency but also drive better results and growth for your organization.
Remember, effective collaboration is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and communication. By continuously nurturing this collaborative mindset, you’ll create a strong foundation for success in today’s competitive business environment.
10. Keep everyone equally accountable.
Remember the “unconscious bias” issue mentioned above? Accountability is the No. 1 place where the rubber meets the road. Whether your combined efforts succeed beyond your wildest dreams or fail miserably, everyone should be able to say with confidence that they were treated fairly.
Thankfully, team collaboration software packages have taken much of the primary burden off managers in terms of goal-setting, deadlines, and individual employee performance. When working together on a campaign, transparency will be your best friend. Make sure everyone can dig down into the details and see all of the moving pieces as the larger project rolls along.
11. Share results and feedback across all departments.
In keeping with the suggested spirit of transparency, share a carefully curated list of results and feedback with everyone…not just your marketing and sales teams. You can provide some noteworthy information in a quickly digestible format. Perhaps you restrict yourself to just a handful of nuggets and insights gleaned. Look to strike a balance between providing meaningful data and not overwhelming your employees.
This exercise often proves useful for senior staff as well as the new hire. By forcing yourself to distill down what your teams have learned into a bite-size report, you are developing your executive summary but sharing it with everyone. Not only are your team members more likely to remember the outcomes of various campaigns, but so are you.
12. Keep things positive.
Not every collaboration effort between your sales and marketing teams make is going to be an unbridled success. No one realistically expects that outcome. It’s important to set a positive tone at all times, but the ability to do so when the news isn’t all that great separates decent managers from great ones. Even if the only positive thing you can pull from campaign results falls into the junk drawer of Hard Lessons We’ve Learned, you can authentically express gratitude for the effort everyone made.
In the not-too-distant past, many companies operated with a mindset that kept the sales team isolated from marketing for fear of friction. After all, marketing people and sales types were “different animals.” True enough, but the days of being able to keep everyone in their respective silo are over. Our new, largely online economy absolutely requires the construction of multiple bridges between these two departments. As you work to make this happen, pay attention to the wheels that start to squeak and pieces that don’t seem to fit with each other. Each one represents another opportunity to surface underlying issues that keep your two teams apart.