I promised in a previous Marketing Maven article, “How to Win Friends and Influence Marketers,” that I would write for the other side.  I have some practical advice on how marketers can better work with their sales organization.

Let’s acknowledge some of the typical complaints Marketing has to say about Sales:

  • Sales doesn’t like the leads we give them. 
  • They don’t use the tools/collateral/information we provide for them. 
  • Sales keeps asking the same questions over and over. 

First advice I would give any marketer is to remember who is responsible for your pay check. That would be Sales.  The “build it and they will come philosophy” doesn’t really work except in the movie Field of Dreams.  Even companies with healthy ecommerce online catalog sales often have a sales force.

The second thing to remember if you are on the marketing side of the fence is that Sales’ job is to close deals.  An effective sales person maximizes their time and energy around activities that lead to sales.  Knowing this is the key to working more effectively with your sales organization.  So the next time a sales person asks you for the answer to a question you’ve answered before, remember that they are efficiently using their time – as asking you is faster than committing the answer to memory or trying to search for it in a sea of documents.

If you are asking sales to do something, it should contribute to their end goal – to create a new customer or increase sales to an existing customer.  The more removed that activity is from the end goal, the easier and more hassle free it should be to sales. 

Let’s take a typical example.  Marketing’s goal is to get Sales to follow up with leads, as follow-up leads to conversion.  Often, Marketing asks Sales to record follow-up activities with leads in a CRM system.  To Sales, this may seem like more work that won’t do anything to increase that customer’s likelihood to buy.  In short, it’s an investment of time that won’t pay off to Sales.  There are some things that Marketing can do to increase cooperation with recording follow-up activities.  Make sure that recording the activity is easy to do and requires as little time as possible.  Focus on educating sales on the successful conversion rates of leads. 

Much can be said about the whole area of sales lead generation and quality.  If you have problems with your sales force following up on leads you might want to nurture those leads first or get a third party involved in further qualifying them so Sales is only spending time on the ones that are truly ready to buy. 

Establish credibility with your sales force for an effective working relationship.  The best way to establish credibility is to know your customers – without this knowledge, you can’t possibly generate an effective marketing strategy.   Understand the customers’ needs and buying cycle.  You can accomplish this through meeting with customers at trade shows, accompanying sales on calls, sitting in on customer service calls, and conducting market research.  Demonstrating to your sales organization that you understand their customers goes along way in gaining respect.

Sales is an internal customer of any marketing organization, so apply the same marketing skills you use with communicating to outside customers to your own sales organization.  Position marketing programs with a “what’s in it for sales?” benefit. 

Seek input from Sales regularly on such topics as challenges they are facing, what sales tools are working, and major objections from customers.  If you are introducing a new piece of equipment to your product line, talk to Sales to hear how they would position it relative to the existing product line.  You don’t want Sales writing your copy or setting prices, but you do want their input.  They will be much more likely to get behind initiatives where they were able to participate.   

Lastly, be sensitive to timing.  Rolling out a new product in the last month of the quarter is likely to get no attention from Sales. 

In summary, a few things you can as a marketer to gain more cooperation from Sales:

  • Communicate the value Marketing brings in terms of how this will help Sales be more successful (not how it will make Marketing look good)
  • Minimize administrative tasks for Sales – their efforts should be focused on creating customers
  • Treat Sales as you would an external customer
  • Be sensitive to month-end/ quarter-end cycles
  • Demonstrate that you understand the customer
  • Seek input and feedback regularly from Sales

There are many more things that can be said on how Marketing can create a better relationship with Sales and more effective marketing.  Share your thoughts.

One comment

  1. You offer a nice perspective that reflects many of today’s realities. However, let’s consider that the true role of sales, especially in a value selling environment, is that of creating the conditions such that a sale is inevitable. Taking this axiom, sales and marketing become one team working to create the necessary tools that remove barriers and enable the sale to occur.

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