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.
How to Improve Collaboration Between Your Sales and Marketing Teams
As a manager, you know your business needs marketing and sales to work hand-in-hand. 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. Locate and eliminate any communication gaps.
This is No. 1 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.
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. 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?”
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
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