After I graduated from college, I went straight into a sales position in the software industry. Within seven years I was a regional sales manager in the Northwest (U.S.) with a team of sales professionals covering California, Oregon and Washington.
My sales team and I were often frustrated by the misalignment between the messaging and promotional programs that came from our marketing department. There was a disconnect between the real world experience of the sales team stemming from customer presentations, as well as feedback from customers about what they liked and didn't like about our software products.
I was located in the headquarters office and became the defacto spokesperson for our 50 person sales team, voicing concerns and ideas to the product marketing managers. They were eager to listen to our suggestions in order to improve sales results.
Eventually, I was asked to take a new role in the company. They created a new position called Director of Field Marketing, reporting both to the VP of Sales and the VP of Marketing. On the surface, that might sound nightmarish, but it was wonderful because it finally enabled us to build a bridge between marketing and sales. We produced messaging and promotional support that addressed the needs of the outside sales team. Looking back on my corporate career, it was the most rewarding job I ever had.
This experience was before the digital age as we know it today, but, as I reflect on it, I see at least three ways that any B2B organization can build their own bridge between marketing and sales.
In my story, my employer listened to the feedback we provided from the sales team. Rather than ignore it, they took action, and the action they took was bold. They created a new position and took a chance on me in this role. So, perhaps your marketing department needs some sales blood in it? It's a strong statement to move people from sales into marketing, and it can send a strong message about the commitment to bridging any divide between marketing and sales.
Role playing is a tactic that can create great empathy. A great example is provided by the reality TV show Undercover Boss, in which the CEO of a mid to large company goes under cover to play the role of a low level employee to understand the inner workings of the company.
Many companies have marketing staff tag along on sales calls and presentations, and, while that's a good thing, it's even better if a marketing person accepts a full time assignment in sales for a period of one year or more. The experience gained will be invaluable when she returns to a marketing position.
Similarly, assign sales people into marketing roles for six months to a year so that they gain understanding of the full spectrum of the marketing function ranging from awareness to consideration to action and all the elements of marketing programs that comprise the entire buyer's journey.
Maximize LinkedIn Together
Bringing this topic full circle to current day circumstances, in most sales organizations much of the sales process occurs over a phone, email and social media. While in person sales calls still occur, the dynamic of them has changed quite a bit since my early days.
I like to see every person in the marketing department connect with every person on the sales team on LinkedIn. Chances are that some already have, but it's likely not 100% across both departments.
I'd like to see an agreement - sort of like a service level agreement - that commits to each person from both marketing and sales posting status updates not less than once each week and sharing relevant content that feeds into the buyer's journey. Imagine the power of everyone in marketing and sales sharing relevant content on LinkedIn.
I'd like to see what happens when everyone in marketing and sales explores mutual connections. It's possible to see new introductions made that can result in new business.
I'd like to see what happens when everyone in marketing and sales explore mutual groups. Rather than everyone belonging to the groups they decide to join, a collaboration would occur by agreeing on the most productive groups both teams should engage in.
By creating this behavior change in a B2B organization, the marketing and sales people will gain two things at a minimum.
- A better understanding of each other's roles, which can lead to more productive collaboration and better business outcomes.
- A more genuine human connection between the two groups that can strengthen bonds between them. This will result in an understanding that, rather than being adversarial, they're actually on the same team with the same goals. That understanding can inspire a greater commitment and ability to getting things done together.