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The Solution to Conflict Between Marketing and Sales? A Clearly Defined Process

Business.com / Insurance / Last Modified: April 26, 2018
Image credit: Tashatuvango/Shutterstock

Marketing and sales teams can sometimes be at odds; their daily work is often far from perfectly aligned. But a successful company cannot operate without one or the other, and it may profit more when sales and marketing work well together.

Marketing and sales teams can sometimes be at odds with one another; their daily work is often far from perfectly aligned. But a successful company cannot operate without one or the other – and may profit more when sales and marketing work well together. A study found that companies with aligned marketing and sales teams saw a 38 percent higher sales win rate and 36 percent higher retention rate.

How do you make sure sales and marketing are working together rather than butting heads? Creating a clearly defined process is the best place to start.

When it comes down to it, sales and marketing have the same goal: to convert leads into loyal customers. Their work merely focuses on different touchpoints of a customer's journey. Marketing messaging is an essential part of pulling leads down the funnel towards a conversion orchestrated by the sales team. The sales team can then communicate successes, and marketing can use that feedback to draw more future customers. When you see marketing and sales as a cycle, you start to understand why it's so important that the two teams work together and why companies with aligned teams perform so much better.

Alignment depends on communication

Both sales and marketing depend on effective communication as a means to success. These same skills are an essential ingredient in guiding your teams through conflict and toward alignment.

All relationships should be built on a foundation of clear expectations. A sales team needs to be upfront about the conversion type and customer they're trying to reach so the marketing team can create campaigns that target those customers. Sales teams should also provide marketing with data about which leads convert the fastest and which medium or offer was most effective. Once that knowledge is passed on, marketing can replicate those successful tactics in future campaigns.

Likewise, it's crucial for sales to be kept in the loop when marketing is pushing a new campaign. Leads are hooked and introduced through marketing offers, and it only makes sense that sales staff are able to directly reference them during their follow-ups. The marketing team should build and share a detailed calendaroutlining their campaign plans. This schedule should go beyond just date and time – it should also include a few key talking points for each marketing campaign as well as a relevant data point that may resonate with a lead. If your company uses a customer relationship management system (CRM), the sales team can draw a line between a lead and the offer that pulled them in, which is valuable information to have as the lead is further engaged.

The merits of meetings

Communicating expectations should start with a meeting or two, rather than an exchange of emails. You're more likely to build a meaningful relationship over a cup of coffee than through a Slack channel. Marketing and sales teams need to mix, mingle and meet.

Big-picture monthly or quarterly meetings between the heads of sales and marketing offer one way to discuss the strategies that have proved successful for lead generation. Weekly sales meetings attended by marketers are an excellent way for the marketing team to get a sense of ongoing sales efforts and tailor their marketing campaigns to help their counterparts achieve those goals. Sales teams can also be invited to suggest the marketing content that would best help them that week. No matter the meeting, ensure you document discussions for future reference.

The hard part about software

In-person meetings are important, but they aren't enough to align your sales and marketing teams in their day-to-day work; the two teams must also get on the same page through the tools they use to do their jobs. Ineffective software can be one of the most significant barriers to effective communication and data sharing. Teams working on different platforms are naturally less likely to collaborate. It's essential for your company to unite the two sides by using a solution that integrates both sales and marketing.

Modern marketing automation software is helping to bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams by providing a tool that's tailored to both teams' efforts. Although it has "marketing" in the name, this is not a one-sided solution: marketing automation software spans the entire cycle from lead generation to lead conversion, and it integrates with CRM systems to support marketing and sales equally. With an advanced marketing automation solution, marketing and sales staff can access the information they need, track their workflows, and keep each other updated all through a single tool.

By effectively using technology together, sales and marketing can easily share data such as contact touches, lead status updates, and revenue numbers.

Streamline the lead hand-off

One of the top places to improve the marketing and sales relationship comes down to how efficiently a lead transitions between one team and another.

There are ways that the marketing team can go above and beyond in simplifying the lives of their sales colleagues. The first step should involve both teams identifying and agreeing on the life cycle stages in their lead funnel. The two most important stages to align on are the marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and sales-qualified lead (SQL) stages. Definitions can vary, but at RelationEdge, we define a marketing-qualified lead as a lead identified by marketing as ready to pass on to sales, and a sales-qualified lead as an MQL that sales has manually reviewed and agreed on the qualification. Though these definitions may seem simple, having alignment from both teams on what MQLs and SQLs look like for your company is crucial.

Don't rest on your laurels once your definitions have been set. In your regular meetings between marketing and sales, revisit your MQL and SQL definitions and see if they're working for both teams. You may need to revise your definitions to help both teams out.

From funnel to feedback loop

A solution to the age-old conflict between marketing and sales won't come overnight. Even after a set of conversations and thoroughly testing your process, there will still be changes to make. Be ready to review and reiterate on your marketing and sales collaboration constantly. This should happen on a consistent basis, and each team should come with the data the other needs to improve their contribution.

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