Forging a Productive Partnership Between Marketing and Sales

Three sales leaders speak up on how to keep the two teams in alignment.
Written by Avery Komlofske
May 5, 2022Updated: May 5, 2022

Marketing and sales teams need each other. Without marketing, sales teams lose a major source of new leads, and without sales, no one would follow up on the results of marketing campaigns. This should make them natural partners, but teamwork is harder to facilitate than one might expect.

“Sales is always asking for more and better leads from marketing,” said Michael Bruh, VP of account success for marketing platform Conductor, “whereas marketing tends to stick to the narrative that sales doesn’t follow up fast enough — or never follows up — on leads provided, letting hot prospects fall through the cracks.”

It’s a natural response, when faced with frustration at work, to assign blame to someone else — but that instinct only exacerbates the problem. And when sales and marketing collaborate instead, the results are impressive. Sales and marketing strategy website Pipeline reported that alignment between sales and marketing leads to 36 percent better customer retention, 38 percent higher sales win rates and a 209 percent marketing revenue increase.

And if what’s happening at Zocdoc, Conductor and Frontify is any indication, that’s just a taste of the benefits of these two teams working together. Built In NYC sat down with employees from these three companies to learn what steps they’re taking to improve communication, align team goals and foster a collaborative mindset between their marketing and sales teams.

 

Neil Friedman
Senior Director of Sales

 

Zocdoc is a healthcare technology company that helps patients find doctors.

 

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

A lack of alignment on what constitutes a qualified lead is where the rubber always meets the road when there’s friction between marketing and sales teams. It’s easy to point a finger when marketing and sales are either not defining qualified leads the same way or not properly tracking what success means for a qualified lead. Defining the term — and success — can be hard, as definition varies depending on nuances of business specifics and sales cycles. While in some organizations a qualified lead might be a decision maker who is willing to take a meeting, in other situations there may be different qualifications — such as deal size or level of interest. To avoid finger pointing or fault finding, sales and marketing leaders should prioritize aligning on these metrics.

 

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

In my experience, a well-run marketing team cares about the exact same things a good sales leader should care about: How many leads are we getting, and how many of them are closing? 

It’s critical to align on what the goals are. While marketing may be focused on qualified leads goals and sales might be working on conversion rate targets, cross-functional teams ideally work together to achieve customer acquisition goals. If there’s an issue that prevents a team from getting more qualified leads, cross-functional colleagues should work together to leverage resources. As an example, maybe sales development representatives can call prospects earlier in the process to help push folks through the funnel if they are stuck.

A well-run marketing team cares about the exact same things a good sales leader should care about.”

 

How do you build a constructive relationship with marketing? 

You must create a strong feedback loop and really understand your different marketing channels and how they convert. We meet with the marketing team regularly to review how we are converting in different channels and what is and isn’t working. A pipeline full of customer relationship management leads is very different from one full of paid advertising leads; they convert differently and require different sales processes. Understanding this in conjunction with your marketing team helps to determine how strong your pipeline actually is and what sales training your team might need to improve upon conversion within certain channels.

 

 

Conductor team members in Times Square
Conductor

 

Michael Bruh
VP of Account Success

 

Conductor helps marketers create and optimize content.

 

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

Marketing and sales leaders are often not aligned on goals or ways to chart progress properly. Setting goals that both teams can rally around is essential to foster alignment. One best practice is to align both teams around revenue and derive marketing goals from revenue projections; I suggest creating sales-marketing playbooks to measure progress, so that everyone is working toward the same outcomes and operating with the same expectations.

 

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

Sales leaders often don’t realize that marketing and sales are on the same team. It may seem simple, but that’s the first step in building a collaborative relationship: working together as one team and building a feedback loop. When they work together, they can share insights that propel lead generation forward. Having an open, collaborative back-and-forth is necessary to know which campaigns and messages work and which don’t. 

Sales leaders often don’t realize that marketing and sales are on the same team.”

 

How can sales leaders build a constructive relationship with marketing?

What does marketing need from sales? Real-world insight on what resonates with prospects in the later stages of the funnel and real-time data on closed-won deals. Marketers also need to understand how sales is following up with leads to know what types of assets may be helpful. 

There are five best practices to put you on the path to true, lasting alignment. Start with your people, implement the right process, foster a culture of transparency and accountability, integrate your technologies, and materialize measurement — that is, report regularly on your results together.

 

 

Ian Jentgen
VP of Sales

 

Frontify offers a comprehensive brand management platform.

 

What are some common points of friction you’ve encountered between marketing and sales teams?

Two main areas stick out for me: converting marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads and broader attribution modeling. 

I think a number of commercial teams go through periods where the criteria around marketing qualified leads isn’t quite rigorous enough. It’s important that the criteria work for both parties. Far too often, decision criteria is made in a bit of a silo; this oftentimes leads to sales teams being inundated with marketing qualified leads that have little to no differentiation from completely cold leads. In these instances, I’ve observed real breakdowns in the entire funnel — it’s even led to a lack of trust within the teams. Having open and honest working sessions around defining the relevant criteria, determining what good looks like and applying real-time, practical examples can go a long way in reducing the friction. 

In terms of attribution modeling — effectively, where the credit goes for a lead or opportunity at creation — a lot of companies tend to rely on a first- or last-touch model. Unfortunately, this can lead to an oversimplification of the lead’s interaction with your company.

 

What should sales leaders understand about marketing teams to help build a collaborative relationship?

Sales leaders often have to balance their own short-term needs with the long-term ambitions of the marketing department. I’ve generally seen the relationship work best when the marketing team’s wider objectives are tied to a revenue goal, but sales leaders need to recognize that there could be a good reason for this not being the case.

In terms of skill sets, the best marketers I know are great at both storytelling and leveraging rich customer data in decision-making. There can be a bit of a trap set in trying to divide roles and responsibilities too much across the respective teams. Involving marketing teams at various stages in the customer journey — particularly post-sale — can go a long way in building the relationship.

Involving marketing teams at various stages in the customer journey — particularly post-sale — can go a long way in building the relationship.”

 

How can sales leaders build a constructive relationship with marketing? 

For me, a constructive relationship with marketing really starts with understanding. Sales leaders will be best served by understanding the marketing department’s goals, objectives and challenges. Dialogue and open lines of communication are crucial to success.

The second piece is ensuring that your entire team is committed to building a successful relationship — leadership working alone only goes so far. Some of the bigger friction points I’ve witnessed have started within the team at various levels, and at that point tend to build into much bigger issues. Effective communication with your own team and information-sharing as to the progress and cross-functional work being done goes a long way in terms of maintaining a productive relationship.

 

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