Sales and marketing synergy is a regularly covered topic in business media. The concept is often discussed within organizations.
Over the years, sales and marketing departments at many companies have been at odds with one another. In some businesses, the relationship between marketing and sales is downright contentious. Each complains about the other behind their backs.
It’s a well-documented problem. In fact, many people have written about the need to break down “the wall” between sales and marketing. Ultimately, the two departments are on the same team.
As professions, marketing and sales tend to attract different types of people — people who operate differently and who are incentivized differently. Marketers and salespeople don’t always spend much time hanging out together at the office or outside of work.
Sales may feel that marketing is not communicating the right message in digital collateral such as PDFs. Marketing may feel that the messages they developed are not being properly communicated to buyers.
There can be financial tension between marketing and sales. Sales may disagree with the size of the marketing budget. Sales may also feel that products are priced too high.
Sometimes, the term “improve sales and marketing alignment” is applied to the idea of resolving conflicts and differences.
Alignment is defined as, “arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.” This definition seems a little narrow for the optimal end game.
Synergy means, “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
The strategy should go beyond getting marketing and sales to see eye to eye. The strategic goal should be a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
The Differences Between Marketing and Sales
To understand how to achieve sales and marketing synergy, it’s important to first identify and accept the fundamental differences between marketing and sales roles—and therefore why a wall exists in the first place.
English businessman John Edmonds asked over 300 managers and business owners whether they knew the difference between marketing and selling.
According to this video, about 90% of business owners and managers could not articulate the difference between selling and marketing.
Edmonds says, “Marketing is bending product and services supply towards the mind of the customer. Selling is bending the customer’s mind towards product and services supply.”
In addition, marketing has a much wider scope in most organizations than sales does. For product companies, the marketing department is responsible for everything from product design to production to pricing to distribution.
The activity of selling has a much narrower scope. In fact, Edmonds goes as far as to say, “selling is a small part of marketing and not the other way around.”
Ways to Achieve Sales and Marketing Synergy
So, how can true sales and marketing synergy occur?
First of all, senior management needs to have a clear idea in their own minds of the difference between marketing and sales. Management should, in turn, internally communicate these differences and explain the complete role of the respective group to members of the other.
Marketers can tell salespeople whom they’ve identified, through research, to be the ideal buyer for a given product or service.
Marketing relies on sales as the final leg in the journey from product inception to a new customer to a repeat customer. Salespeople rely on marketing to make their job as easy as possible.
Salespeople can provide valuable insights to marketers about the customer’s mind, as they’re the ones having daily conversations in the field.
Salespeople should have a way to communicate to marketing what they believe they need but are not getting.
Here’s a humorous look at how sales and marketing can be in “a strong, healthy, loving marriage.”
There must be a forum or vehicle for this type of information to be exchanged. The conversations are not going to just happen on their own. Monthly or quarterly meetings should be arranged.
These meetings should focus not only on resolving differences but on proactive sessions such as jointly strategizing on growing major accounts.
Technologies such as Slack can be leveraged for more ongoing sharing of information and feedback.
Marketing to Sales Lead Handoff
Marketing should never blindly feed salespeople all incoming leads. The marketing team should only hand off to sales those people who have expressed a need for the company’s product or service or who likely have a need.
When a website visitor’s contact information is captured, marketing can use big data sources to enrich leads and to let salespeople know which person they should ultimately be approaching within an organization that the visitor represents. The visitor may be a symptom of a product or service need within an organization, but may not be the best sales contact.
Marketing technology has opened up new avenues for sales and marketing synergy. It’s easier than ever to control the lead flow.
With closed-loop reporting, marketing can understand what sources, content and offers ultimately resulted in the highest close rate.
In fact, the data provided from integrated marketing automation and CRM systems can be a key facilitator for greater synergies across marketing and sales.
A Combined Marketing and Sales Funnel
One of the symptoms of the long-standing division between marketing and sales is the fact that each normally has its own funnel representation.
If both departments are working toward a common goal and are in regular communication, there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be a single combined funnel that represents a continuum of marketing and sales stages.
In fact, a starting point for greater sales and marketing synergy within your business could be to develop a combined visualization of the sales and marketing funnel.