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Bridging the Gap between Sales and Marketing

'Mind the Gap' warning sign at a train station

It’s a conflict that goes back further than the infamous feud between Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner; from the smallest organizations to the Fortune 500, most are faced with the same familiar complaints: “sales isn’t following up on leads,” or “sales is sandbagging during forecasting”…or conversely, “marketing isn’t delivering good quality leads,” or “marketing doesn’t understand my customer.”

This misalignment between sales and marketing continues to be one of the most considerable challenges for any organization. If this sounds familiar, here are three ways to achieve better alignment and improve shared results.

1. Make room in your sandbox

It’s not unusual to have cross-functional groups attend sales calls. Most organizations will agree there is value to having a deep understanding of the customer. To that end, there is no better way than to sit in front of them and hear their needs. It is less common to have sales personnel attend marketing meetings, but equally beneficial. When you can have sales or sales leadership involved in a marketing meeting, they typically gain valuable perspective on the many levels of execution needed to tackle a program.

2. Communicate

Beneficial cross-functional communication is sometimes limited by physical proximity, scale, or leanness of the team. Set up ways for sales and marketing to communicate informally; a virtual or physical coffee chat can go a long way. You can use these chats to get feedback on product development, lead generation campaigns, sales effectiveness, or new marketing initiatives. Consistent, informal conversations build trust, and each person in the process begins to feel like they have an advocate.

3. Build a common goal

One thing you often hear within organizations is that misalignment of sales and marketing stems from being measured against different goals. Marketing staff are often bonused on metrics such as gross margin or contribution income, whereas salespeople are often rewarded for top line revenue growth. Often this can result in sales pursuing volume-oriented promotions where marketing wants to focus on market share. Building a common goal begins with creating a plan together. Some organizations have left behind sales forecasts and marketing plans to instead collaborate cross-functionally in the creation of sales and marketing playbooks. Changing the language and method for your planning process can help break down the barriers.

These three ideas are some of the best practices used by sales and marketing teams; steps that are, in themselves, pretty easy. Maybe not as easy as finger pointing and bickering, but a lot more effective! When done as a part of a strategic initiative, they can bridge the gap between sales and marketing, and perhaps even create on-ramps for innovation.

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Jenelle Peterson
About the Author - Jenelle Peterson
What do Oil and Gas, IT, Duct Tape and Dental Products have in common? Seemingly not much, but they've taught Jenelle that great marketing leads to measurable results - regardless of the industry or product. She brings an extensive background in developing strategic plans and executing marketing campaigns on both client and agency sides - from start-ups to multinational organizations.  Jenelle loves the outdoors, making bad art, and all things Sci-Fi. As if that weren't enough, she is also a board member for the Calgary Marketing Association and teaches part-time in digital marketing.

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