Finding Marketing and Sales' Sweet Spot

Just as an Oreo's creamy center acts as the glue to two chocolate cookies, marketing and sales must work to find an approach that cements the two departments in way that supports one another to help drive the customer experience forward.

Oreo cookies symbolize the ideal symbiotic relationship, offering marketing and sales organizations a lesson in collaboration. While the two chocolate disks act as support for the creamy center, the filling, in turn, becomes the glue that holds the sandwich together. Each element has the potential to exist on its own, but when combined, these pieces create an unyielding classic that continues to withstand the test of time. Just as each part helps hold the cookie together, marketing and sales must also develop an approach that allows the departments to support one another, and the overall business, through shared goals that drive strategy and the customer experience forward.

In many cases, marketing and sales professionals are seen as adversaries, not cohorts. Though both departments exist under the umbrella of one given company, the groups are often considered separate despite their mutual desire to support and strengthen the overall business. This particular mindset has created a rift in the way professionals view their role within the organization, poisoning collaboration efforts with the toxic desire to compete.

"Traditionally, marketing was responsible for branding and generating leads, while sales was responsible for delivering the number," says Cliff Pollan, CEO and founder of Postwire. "It was easy for them to feel it was okay to operate independently from each, and they began to believe their DNA was different. Marketing was this creative bunch, while salespeople were these aggressive, pushy types. Both stereotypes were wrong, but it also led them to feel like they were from different tribes, and ones that did not mix. It became easy to hide from each other, with CEOs not holding them accountable for being partners for life."

Historically, such beliefs have made it extremely difficult for companies to align their marketing and sales departments, for they are ingrained to think that the two operate separately. But, according to an infographic by InsideView, aligned organizations achieve an average of 32 percent annual revenue growth, with gains of 36 percent in customer retention rates and 38 percent in sales win rates. Companies that remain less aligned reported an average 7 percent decline in revenue, with an average 24 percent less revenue overall as compared to their more successful counterparts, highlighting the benefits of collaboration and the need to facilitate synergies between these two disparate teams.

However, alignment may not be the easiest task, for it takes willingness on the part of both teams to look past their individual departmental goals and work toward the success of the overall brand. Marketers and salespeople must come together to establish shared goals. By determining which actions will drive success, the teams can begin to build trust, which is critical for collaboration. Executives must lead the way by modeling the proper behavior as they work to show support, identify issues, and institute group sessions that encourage communication and problem solving. No matter the department, the entire organization must rally around creating great customer experiences and boosting acquisition and retention efforts.

Pollan suggests that those at the beginning stages of marketing and sales alignment must lay the groundwork by engaging in three essential activities:

1. Walk in one another's shoes-Make each marketer spend one day doing a sales representative's job, allowing him to partner with someone on the sales team so he may actually perform some sales' duties. Do the same for sales, allowing sales reps to explore marketing's role.

2. Meet and make lists-Establish a meeting where marketing and sales can regularly discuss what would help them both do their jobs. Build that list and pay special attention to the top two priorities, as those should be the goals both teams work toward to start.

3. Speak to the shared mission-While it's paramount for the two teams to agree upon shared goals within the context of the organization, this step must be saved until later, for these teams must first establish the necessary foundation for understanding each other's individual mission.

"Individuals must have individual goals, but you must have them really feel the overarching mission of customer success," Pollan adds. Ultimately, customer experience will become the underlying element that drives each department forward and aligns all groups. Once the brand agrees to focus on the customer as its shared mission, budgeting should be easy, for the shared mission should also become the C-suite's primary focus, as well. Thus, leaders will be able to conduct constructive conversations on how to allocate money, which they must revisit every quarter to see what makes sense given the shared results.

Chuck Dulde, vice president of sales enablement and customer value at SAVO, emphasizes that companies must adopt specific success metrics that show the correlation between their investments and an improvement in business performance, as most investments by sales and marketing are in tools and technologies designed to drive a change in behavior of the target audience.

"Think of a rock thrown into a pond as the 'investment' in a sales tool, methodology, or marketing campaign," Dulde notes. "The ripples occurring closest to the rock are behavior changes, such as tool usage-how much, how often, how quickly-and as those ripples extend outward, they ultimately become the measurable performance indicators, such as conversion rates, quota attainment, and revenue. To find balance across departments, each organization must look at the overall selling system and determine which 'rocks' will be thrown into that system, what the intended impacts are, and how that will ripple out or be measured from behavior to business results."

Ultimately, all investments in the selling system will ripple out to a known set of metrics, making the focus of the company and its departments clear in terms of shared business performance goals. However, merely changing the go-to-customer plan and realigning the roles of marketing and sales across the consumer lifecycle isn't enough, for such change requires a technology supported system to make it sustainable and to maximize effectiveness. From technology-based reinforcement to basic coaching, organizations must provide each team with the resources they need when they need them if the outcome and business results are to also align with these shared goals.

Brian Kardon, CMO at Lattice, believes there needs to be a common dashboard in place, where all incoming data can be seen, offering real-time reporting that's accessible to everyone. Transparency matters greatly, and providing customer information upfront will only help keep marketing and sales on task and on the same page. Kardon also suggests leaders of marketing and sales should meet each week for an hour to review their performance. However, all must be looking at the same numbers, for when two teams are tied to the same goal, companies often see amazing progress with everyone pulling in the same direction

Yet, while shared goals and metrics will allow marketing and sales to develop the synergies that establish solid collaboration, mindset makes the ultimate difference, for it's how each department views the other that can stop progress in its tracks. Executives must lead by example, reaching across departments themselves to advocate for one another, encouraging professionals from both teams to understand that one's success effectively impacts the other and the overall organization. Much can be achieved simply by altering one's perception. Success will inevitably follow.