Driving alignment between sales and marketing has never been more critical or challenging. When the two teams collaborate effectively, marketing will see improved ROI from their campaigns and greater efficiencies in their strategic priorities. But that’s often easier said than done. Hear how one marketing executive was able to bridge this familiar divide by going undercover as a sales leader. In doing so, he discovered what sales professionals really think of marketing and how to overcome the common challenges that prevent both teams from working together more efficiently.
- The seven mistakes marketers routinely make when collaborating with sales
- Why the two sectors are often at odds, and what you can do to drive greater alignment within your organization
- How to overcome suspicions, correct misconceptions, and grow revenues through improved communication with sales
Hello, and thank you for joining this presentation today titled “7 Mistakes Marketers Make When Working with Sales Professionals”. My name is Donavan Dichter, and I’m so happy you could join me for today’s presentation.
I want to start the presentation today by sharing a quote from Elon Musk, which says, “Every person in your company is a vector, and your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.” Now, you might be asking, “What’s a vector anyway?” For you mathematical types, you’ve probably already known that, and the graph on the left makes perfect sense to you. But for the rest of us, I like to use the analogy of this elephant. Your vector is basically a measurement of two variables: speed and direction. This elephant running towards you is running very fast, that’s variable number one, and it’s running straight towards you, variable number two. If either of those variables change, then this becomes a much different situation. Now, the thing with vectors and getting them in alignment is you can see how having everybody in alignment and headed in the right direction at the same speed will advance your goals, and propel your company’s desires much faster than if they’re out of alignment.
Today, we’re going to talk about the two vectors that are in most need of this alignment that are most often out of it, and that is, of course, sales and marketing. First of all, let me say it’s nice to meet you. Once again, my name is Donavan Dichter, and I work at a company called Invista. We’re one of the world’s largest suppliers of dental products, equipment, and consumables. Basically, just about everything you might see in a dental office, My role there is as Senior Director of Marketing, where I lead a global team focused on driving demand for dental implants. If we haven’t already, please take a moment and connect with me on LinkedIn. I can be found at Donavand, that’s Donavan with two “A’s”, and I’d love to connect with you.
Okay, back to the presentation. More importantly, why would a marketing guy know anything about what it is sales people want? Well, before I joined the marketing team, I spent the better part of two decades in sales where thankfully, I still remember a thing or two. More recently, I had the opportunity to moonlight as a Sales Manager where I took a group of 10 underperforming sales professionals from dead last up to third place in just a little over 90 days. That was an amazing and also stressful experience. I made all of the mistakes that I’m about to warn you about. Fortunately, I figured it out, and we turned things around. Now, I’d like to share these learnings with you in the following steps.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in. Lesson number one is you have to sell to the sellers. Now you put in all the work to build an amazing well thought out campaign, you did your market research, you looked at the total addressable market, the total serviceable market, you got VOC. You found a need in the market that wasn’t getting addressed, and you addressed it with the advocacy of industry influencers. You may have run some of the creative by a few sales reps just to make sure you’re on the right track. Then, the campaign is launched, and you’re driving all kinds of engagement: downloads, site visits, even a little organic traction on social media. The sales qualified leads are pouring in—you couldn’t be more excited.
Then, you notice a small problem—your leads aren’t converting. In fact, they’re not even getting touched. They’re sitting in a CRM platform somewhere getting colder by the day. What’s the problem? I mean, you did everything right. You deliver the one thing you need to deliver, which is a pile of hot leads of customers who are ready to buy. What self respecting sales professional wouldn’t jump at this fish in the barrel opportunity? Unfortunately, in marketing, this happens all the time. The reason is pretty clear: We, as marketers, make the assumption the sales team is going to be just as excited as we are about our campaigns, but they’re not, and that’s because you forgot one critical step. The most important currency to a sales professional, besides what’s printed on their commission check, is time. They can only book so many meetings, have so many calls, make so many presentations in a day. The last thing they can afford to do is chase some imaginary lead that’s not going to convert.
Here’s the thing: Your leads might be as hot as mercury, but every sales rep, they’ve been in the field long enough, has been burned by a bad list of leads. What does that mean to them? It means that they walk into an office brimming with confidence only to be told that the client has no idea why they’re there. They don’t remember filling out the form, and if they did, it was just to get some info, not to buy anything. Glengarry leads, these were not, and it’s not just embarrassing, it wastes their time, and this experience is seared into the brains. For the rest of their career, they’re not going to forget how they blindly trusted marketing that one time and they were burned as a result. I’m not saying that you’re the cause of this embarrassment, but I am saying that this is a perception that you’re going to have to overcome on every campaign until you win over the trust of your sales team.
Here’s how to do it. Number one, you need to get early alignment. Let the sales team know that the campaign is coming, get their feedback, fire off a teaser email to build excitement. Number two, pilot the campaign on a small scale first to get some early wins. You’re going to need them for step number three, and that is to prove the results. Host a call with the entire team, reveal those early results, bring the sales reps who participated in the pilot onto the call to explain how great the leads were. Then, show the remaining reps what they can expect once the campaign is launched fully at scale. Finally, and maybe the most important part of winning over the sales team is you need to promote the wins, promote the success, deal with sales contests, highlight the big sales, and show off all of the ongoing campaign results in a weekly tracker or some sort of email communication. I promise you, you will not only earn the trust of your sales team, but you will also see them act with a greater sense of urgency when you launch future campaigns.
That brings us to the second mistake we, as marketers, make and that is speaking in marketing jargon. Listen, it’s no secret that marketers speak our own language. It’s second nature to us, and we do it all the time. But to a sales professional, it can come across as confusing, or even a little pretentious. Let me ask you this, at any point during a call with your sales team, did you mention that you were marshaling resources around revolutionising cross channel coordination to deliver 10 gentle buyer signals in order to templatize a decisioning system that would incrementally reach constituents who may or may not be orbiting the business in search of operationalizing a value exchange for the betterment of net new logos? Look, that kind of talk may fly in your weekly department meetings, I don’t know, but around salespeople, it will be met with one collective eyeroll. Here’s the bottom line: drop the 50 cent words and speak to them in plain English, just as you would to an old friend. It’s the fastest path to relatability.
That brings us to mistake number three: telling salespeople how to sell. As marketers, we get unsolicited advice from the sales team all the time. While some of it is useful, as you know, more often than not, it can range between the blatantly obvious to the downright insulting. The thing is, we’re just as guilty of this. Here’s what I mean. Let me give you an example. You schedule a call to discuss the new strategy of reaching out to Leighton accounts. You provide the customer list. You hand them a customized promo and a hot off the press pitch book highlighting all of the new products your company has launched since they left. So far, so good. Then, you start getting talking points. Well, if the customer says that they switch to a competitor, find out which one, and offer solutions X, Y or Z. Or if they ask why your prices have gone up since they left the company, turn the conversation back to building brand value and our strong commitment to customer support.
While technically not wrong, the sales team is not going to appreciate a marketing person, even a former salesperson like myself, telling them the finer points of how to do their job. You can set the strategy, define the campaign, deliver the sales enablement tools, and a lead list, if you like, but beyond that, you just have to trust that your organization has hired the right sales professionals and has trained them well. What do you do when you come across a sales rep who just isn’t getting it or needs a little additional help? Refer them to their manager, talk to that manager about the gaps that you see, and work together to build a plan to get them up to speed. That manager and the sales professional will be much more responsive to that message than they would having it come directly from you.
Moving on to lesson number four, and that is, don’t ignore the ideas that come from the sales team. I know, I literally just finished pointing out how frustrating it can be to deal with unsolicited advice, and warned you not to do the same. But the reality is, if you have the patience to listen, there are a lot of good suggestions out there. In fact, one of my most successful campaigns came about after doing a ride along with a sales rep who started the day off, and spent most of the day actually telling me all the things that marketing was doing wrong. Did I find that offensive? Of course, I did, but I kept my mouth shut and I kept listening. Along the way, he mentioned that some of his customers had been asking about a concept relevant to our business around telemedicine. Nobody in our space was delivering any kind of solutions to this customer’s needs. I took those couple of sentences, and I built a solution that even today is still delivering high quality SQLs day after day.
If your sales team is a bit on the quieter side, set up an advisory council meeting, and talk with them on a regular basis. Just make sure you don’t go to the same well too often, they’ll go to the same reps for ideas every single time, but try to get a wide variety of feedback as often as you can. Look, I’m not saying that all of their feedback is going to turn into pure gold, but I’m also saying don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Your sales team is closer to your end user, your customers than anyone else in your organization. They’re going to have good ideas that will really help you be a better marketer, so make sure you keep your ears open, and be open, and responsive to their feedback.
That brings me to our next tip, which is you have to get out in the field. Your sales team are not the only ones who should be in front of customers. Now, if you’re not getting out from behind your desk to meet customers, you’re doing yourself and your organization a huge disservice, and it’s very easy to rationalize. As marketers, we sit in meetings. We sit in a lot of meetings, and there’s always more work to do. You probably already know that you should get more face time with your customers, but you put that activity in your Sunday pile that you’ll get to once things finally slow down, which they never do. The reality is this: there are things you just can’t learn from reading market reports or examining proxy data. The subtleties and nuances of why your customers choose you over a competitor, why they stay, or perhaps more importantly, why they leave can offer you insights you’re not going to find anywhere.
What does meeting with customers face to face have to do with working more closely with your sales team? Well, really everything. The sales team knows if their marketing leaders aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and meet face to face with the same constituents that they see every day, you’re going to earn their trust and respect. It doesn’t matter if you’re a junior marketing associate or if you’re the CMO, you need to be meeting with your customers regularly. Now, I get that that can be tough in the era of pandemics, but in some ways, it’s easier because with Zoom, there’s far fewer logistics to work out. When the time is right, and you’re able to do so, make sure you’re spending time co traveling with your sales team, not only to get to know them better, but also just to win their trust and let them see that their marketers are real people just like them.
Okay, onto tip number six, and that is, it’s about outcomes, not output. It’s only natural to take pride in your work, and think that everybody else will be just as excited as you are. But for sales, it’s not about how many sales enablement tools you give them or what new technology platform you’ve just signed up for, or the number of influencers you’re able to get to speak on behalf of your brand, it’s about what all of those things will do for them. You have to remember that sales professionals live in existence that depends on hitting a number month after month, and there are no style points for this. While they might appreciate all the really cool things you’re providing them with, don’t forget why you’re giving them these tools to begin with. At the end of the day, everybody wants sales to grow. You play a very critical role in this, but the strategies you employ are the means, they are not the ends themselves.
You probably already know this, because with any marketing spend, you probably have to spend a little time with your CFO or somebody else who’s making the money decisions, and justify what it is you want to do with revenue forecast or some other type of metric. If you’re doing that work already, just do it again, but do it on a smaller scale. Bring it down to the field level, the individual rep level. Take your projections, and tell your sales team how many new customers you believe this activity will help them get. What kind of revenue growth can they expect to receive from this particular effort? What’s the lifetime value of this activity?
I made this mistake earlier this year. In fact, we invested in a new technology that makes it just completely easy for our sales team to share the social media content that the marketing team was creating with their audience of customers. Expanding our social reach was a strategic priority for us as we’re just trying to get more and more in contact with our customers. We found this platform that was really cool, and even offered some gamification, offered contests and badges to the reps who shared the most content. We introduced this platform to them all of the sales team on a call, expecting them to be just as excited as we were. Sadly, it didn’t go as planned. The engagement was low. We actually had to have several follow up calls to remind them to sign up and participate.
In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious what went wrong here. I hadn’t properly communicated the value of this platform or the value of even engaging their customers on social media. Therefore, they saw it as a waste of time and ignored it. Had I shared a stat with them that said something like, sales professionals who are active on social media have been shown to be 50% more likely to hit president’s club year after year, then, of course, they would have jumped on it. Actually, I think that is a real stat somebody can fact check me, but anyway, lesson learned and learn from my mistake here. You have to make sure that you’re showing your reps exactly what they can expect from each activity that you are putting in front of them. It’s about outcomes, not output.
This brings us to our seventh and final tip of the day, and that is you need to align your KPIs. At the end of the day, reporting to a sales team about all the SQLs you’ve gathered is just as meaningless to them as if they are reporting to you how many appointments they have booked for the upcoming week. If neither of these things translate into revenue, then what’s the point? The question is, how do you align your KPIs and all your other measurables? Well, the answer is good old fashioned collaboration. You need to set up time to meet regularly, preferably weekly with your sales team, at least some of them. Find out if you’re getting the right customers in the room, if you’re delivering the right kind of leads that they need, and if those leads are converting, and what can change. Then, make sure that you’re on the same page in terms of what kind of revenue you both need to drive, and check back regularly to make sure you’re staying on track.
I want to finish that thought by providing you this quote from the great David Ogilvy who says, “It’s not about counting the people you reach, it’s about reaching the people you count.” When you approach the sales team with this mentality, I think you’re going to be far more effective at communicating to them, and getting your KPIs, and all of your goals aligned and on the same page. In other words, your vectors will be aligned.
Okay, marketers, you’ve stuck with me long enough, and I appreciate it. Now, it’s your turn. I’d like you to tell me what mistakes sales professionals make when they work with marketing. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, and we’ll continue the conversation there. Hopefully, this leads to having a follow-up presentation on that topic very soon.
That is it for today’s presentation. I want to thank you for listening. I hope you found it helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please do connect with me on LinkedIn, and not only tell me what you thought of it, but maybe any ideas you have for better collaboration between sales and marketing. In the meantime, thanks again for watching, and take care.
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