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Eight Shortcuts to More Successful Sales & Marketing Collaboration

Posted by Matt Heinz on Feb 14, 2012 7:19:00 AM

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz has more than 12 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes; including Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, The Seattle Mariners, Market Leader and Verdiem. Matt began Heinz Marketing in 2007 to help clients focus their business on market and customer opportunities, then execute a plan to scale revenue and customer growth.

The concept of getting sales and marketing to work more closely together isn’t new. It’s been an issue, if not a focus area, for as long as sales and marketing teams have been working together (at least in theory) to drive predictable, sustainable growth for their business.

Discussions around how to make sales and marketing collaboration work have been intensifying of late, which is a good thing. And the fact that we keep talking about it—at conferences, on discussion boards, and blog posts like this—is an indication that we’re far from solving the problem (or should we say, taking advantage of the opportunity).

The fact is, there’s no secret to making the two teams work as one. And the answer is not just more meetings. Below are eight specific shortcuts to help your organization (or your clients) accelerate their path towards sales and marketing collaboration nirvana.

Common objectives

It starts with what you’re working towards. Traditionally, sales is responsible for sales and marketing is responsible for leads. That may still be operationally true, but marketing needs to be comfortable with sales and revenue as the lagging indicators of their success.

Yes, the sales team is required to achieve those goals. And the leading indicators of success, the short-term deliverables, will be leads and case studies and microsites and the like. But sales and marketing must first agree on a common set of well-defined outcomes. This is the grounding that becomes the basis for all other work, discussions, triage and execution.

Common definitions

With sales as the output, it’s important for sales and marketing to agree on definitions and standards for the critical steps and deliverables that lead to sales. For example, what qualifies as a lead? What qualifies as a short-term sales opportunity?

Your common definitions will manifest themselves in a single dashboard to measure, review and improve results. It starts with a model that predicts the sales or revenue result. How many opportunities are required to get a sale? How many leads to get an opportunity? By combining this model with common definitions of each deliverable and stage, both sales and marketing have a crystal-clear understanding of what’s required to achieve success. All other inputs, opportunities and distractions are triaged based on those goals, metrics and definitions.

Common compensation/objectives

This one is controversial, but is a natural next step if both sales and marketing have common objectives and definitions of success. Sales is most likely measured largely on their success in driving new business. Why shouldn’t marketing be similarly compensated?

If you’re nervous about taking this step, start small. Give marketing a goal in line with your objectives and definitions, then give them a percentage of the “lift” achieved above and beyond that.

For example, let’s say you expect to generate 3,000 leads per month with a $30,000/month budget. What if the marketing team can generate the same leads for less? Would you give them a percentage of the budget difference as a bonus? What about if they generated more leads for the same budget? Would you give them a percentage of resulting sales commissions as a bonus? Worth thinking about.

Executive sponsorship

If your C-suite doesn’t believe in sales and marketing working together, it will never be a priority at the functional level. If your CEO and CFO mandate certain levels of performance and outcomes based on joint goals and market approaches, you’re far more likely to get everyone in each organization to fall in line and at least figure out how to operationalize the right priorities and tactics.

Up-front planning

What if you treated the marketing planning process as if it were a proposal to a customer?

Marketing doesn’t work for sales, but in many companies the primary “customer” for marketing is in fact the sales organization. So if that’s the case, it seems appropriate that the marketing plan each year should at minimum be reviewed and “accepted” by sales leadership as sufficient to help them achieve their own 2012 growth objectives.

This doesn’t mean that sales has complete veto power over strategies and tactics. The “means” by which marketing achieves collective goals agreed to by sales and marketing together should continue to be, ultimately, up to the marketing team.

But before the marketing plan is finalized, it stands to reason that it should be presented to the sales team for review and comment.

Daily/weekly triage

Even with the best-laid plans, things will go wrong. Problems will pop up. Tests will fail, campaigns will fall flat. Assumptions will be made, loyalties questioned. And new opportunities will be identified or discovered.

For these and many reasons, it’s important to have regular, metrics-based reviews of what’s working and what’s not, as well as a forum to capture and review new ideas to determine which of them should be operationalized quickly and which should stay on the side burner (at least for now).

This process allows for an unlimited set of new ideas to be input and addressed, with a specific process to, together, determine where the focus should be moving forward.

Offline relationship-building

All work and no play, well, you know how that ended. You can’t force offline or out-of-office interaction, but you can encourage and facilitate it. Get the teams together for happy hour, do a March Madness bracket that mixes the teams together, or other activities that fit your culture that help sales and marketing leaders get to know each other outside of their professional focus areas. When you can connect about sports or music or family, it’s easier to get through the professional obstacles and sticking points as well.

Measure before and after team satisfaction

Salespeople want to make more sales. Marketing, believe it or not, wants to help salespeople make more sales. The blame-game that exists in many organization not only keeps companies from closing more business, but frustrates members of both teams. Driving effective, successful collaboration between sales and marketing will drive both sides to feel better about their contribution, the direct line it provides to revenue, and greater satisfaction in their day-to-day execution to achieve those results.


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Topics: Marketing & Sales Alignment, Sales Process, Marketing Strategy, Guest Blogs


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