3 ways to improve the relationship between sales and marketing teams

Improve sales and marketing relationships with these tactics that boost pipeline and build stronger, more effective teams
Why sales and marketing therapy is important
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It’s no secret that sales and marketing should work together like a well-oiled machine to guide leads and opportunities across the finish line.

But getting your sales and marketing teams on the same side is often challenging because both teams may be used to working in silos, leading to conflicts that impact your bottom line. 

In this article, we’ve compiled insights from a ton of industry experts such as Justin Keller, VP of Revenue Marketing at Drift, Kevin Vanes, VP of Sales at Terminus, and some key players from ThoughtSpot — Kevin Vanes, VP of Sales; Kristin Agnelli, Senior Global Director of Sales Development; Megan Boone, Senior Director of Revenue— to break down the barriers between your sales and marketing teams and help get them on the same page.

Editor's note: These tips were originally shared on the UserGems podcast, "The First 100 Days." The article has been edited for clarity.

Why is it important for sales and marketing to work together?

3 reasons why sales and marketing should work together

Getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page helps drive better results for both your employees and your organization. Here’s why you should add sales and marketing alignment to the top of your to-do list.

1. It delivers a better customer experience

In the not-so-distant past, marketing teams looked at pipeline generation as a numbers game. They would focus on getting as many leads as possible through advertising campaigns and pass them on to their sales counterparts. 

Then, the sales team would work on pushing these leads further down the pipeline to convert them into customers.

But this approach won’t work now because lead volume doesn’t equate to more conversions. 

Today, the only way to increase conversion rates is to ensure that you get a holistic view of the buyer’s journey and deliver a more optimized and personalized customer experience.

This is possible only when sales and marketing teams come together to create the right content and message to provide value and ultimately close more deals.

2. It increases conversion rates

The key to improving conversion rates is to get sales and marketing teams to sit down together and strategically fashion a few key buyer personas. 

By aligning on the buyer persona, marketing teams can create content that’s aligned with the buyer journey, while sales teams can better engage with prospects and win more deals.

Also, it makes your organization’s business model more efficient as it reduces unnecessary advertising spend. And improves resource efficiency by ensuring the sales team only goes after the most promising leads.

3. It improves sales and marketing productivity

When the relationship between sales and marketing teams is strong, both teams are more productive because they don’t have to worry about any interdepartmental friction, confusion, or miscommunication.

Here’s what a healthy workflow between sales and marketing teams might look like:

  • Sales and marketing teams come together to execute awareness campaigns and figure out what kind of customers engage with your content. 
  • Both teams take all the data from the previous step to identify similar companies and ideal customer profiles (ICPs). 
  • Sales reps are assigned specific accounts to target while the marketing team creates content to engage key decision makers. 

This process helps your sales and marketing teams to target the right leads at the right times and reduces time wasted chasing after contacts who aren’t likely to convert. And, the more they work together, the faster and easier this process will be, boosting productivity and driving pipeline generation.

What causes conflicts between sales and marketing teams?

Ideally, marketing and sales teams should work well together without experiencing any conflict. After all, they share a common objective to increase revenue. 

Unfortunately, that’s now always the case. Here are 5 of the main reasons there may be friction between your sales and marketing teams.

5 causes of conflict in sales and marketing

1. They have different mindsets

Since sales and marketing roles require different skill sets and mindsets, there are bound to be difficulties in understanding each other, especially when it comes to customer needs. 

For instance, marketing professionals are frequently thorough, analytical, and goal-oriented. Alternatively, salespeople enjoy being at the forefront of client interactions and are frequently good connection builders. 

Workplace culture-wise, their perspectives are often at odds — sales teams think that marketing is too far from the customer, while marketing thinks that salespeople are too laid back and focused on the short-term goal.  

These disparities and differences between sales and marketing teams can cause major misunderstandings and conflicts, making it hard to reach a consensus on goals, pricing, strategy, and more.

2. They're competing for the same pool of funds

Sales and marketing teams prioritize different activities to achieve an organization’s revenue goals.

For instance, the sales team invests in training and incentives to increase productivity and close rates, while marketing focuses on high-quality social media campaigns and the creation of brand assets to improve awareness and supply a steady stream of leads to the sales team.

Since there’s typically a limited budget, the funds get split among the teams and cause feelings of jealousy and rivalry. This means that sales and marketing teams end up clashing instead of working together to achieve revenue targets.

3. There's a lack of communication

Most companies don't go beyond maintaining low-level communication between sales and marketing teams. This leads to both teams falling victim to the blame game when goals aren’t met. 

For example, a sales team might blame the marketing team for not providing good marketing content, while the marketing team might blame the sales team for not engaging leads properly, thus sabotaging their campaign.  

Conflicts also happen when sales and marketing teams don't share and disseminate information because they’re using different tools. This makes it harder for them to easily access and exchange valuable insights across departments, meaning both teams are missing out. 

Another way a conflict due to miscommunication manifests is when both teams try to implement changes without getting buy-in from the other. Megan Boone, Senior Director of Revenue at ThoughtSpot, shares an example:

“[Before Kristin, Senior Global Director of Sales Development joined] I'll say I came in hot. You know, I wrote this document with all the problems that I saw and what I wanted to do.”

Naturally, it wasn’t well-received because she didn’t mention what was wrong with the existing process and why they were changing it. 

Since then, Megan has always made it a point to get everyone to pitch their opinions and get buy-in from the other team to ensure everyone’s on the same page. 

4. They don't have any shared responsibilities

Given the horizontal relationship between sales and marketing teams, there are bound to be responsibility-based conflicts. 

For example, consider leads obtained from e-books and webinars. They’ve opted in to receive your content but aren't ready to make a purchase. 

So, the question arises: who's responsible for nurturing and converting them into sales-qualified opportunities (SQOs)?

If you can’t answer this question, you’re laying the foundation for sales and marketing conflict. 

Sales will get tired of chasing down leads that are unresponsive. Then marketing will get frustrated when their leads (which might appear to be great, in terms of job titles) aren’t engaged.

5. They don't have the same goals

Both sales and marketing teams have one common objective in mind: to increase the organization's revenue. But the individual goals each team has to meet that objective can vary. When those goals aren’t set and defined in tandem, your sales and marketing relationships can get rocky. 

Sales teams typically focus on generating revenue and meeting quotas, while marketing teams focus on creating awareness and generating leads. This can lead to tension between the two groups because they are not working towards the same objectives.

For example, the marketing team may choose click-through rate as their key performance indicator (KPI) and focus on getting more clicks, even if it doesn’t directly translate to revenue.  

When those clicks don’t turn into conversions, it can leave the marketing team feeling frustrated because they may think the sales team isn’t doing enough to close the sale.

3 ways to improve sales and marketing relationships

Just because your sales and marketing teams experience conflict doesn't mean you can't get them on the same page and working together. Here are three expert-sourced tips for aligning your sales and marketing teams to boost growth, increase productivity, and build a healthier work environment.

1. Encourage healthy conflict and vulnerability

Sitting down to discuss where your teams need to improve and bring about change isn't easy. However, these conversations are crucial to preventing and solving most sales and marketing conflicts.

Kristin and Megan, Directors of Sales and Revenue at ThoughtSpot, host these difficult conversations in a light-hearted manner over a weekly "Tiger Team Meeting", which encourages healthy conflict and vulnerability. 

"Healthy conflict is welcome. This is something that, and I'll like to give Megan all kinds of credit here that we've actually never talked about, but she's, she's really good at owning what she's great at and where we're still working on things. 

“So, it creates an environment where everybody feels vulnerable enough to share that, too. We can say we're really good at this. We're really bad at this. Let's talk about these things in a cross-functional way, and that's how we're getting better," says Kristin. 

When sales and marketing leaders are vulnerable and address issues upfront, and with honesty, your team members will feel more comfortable doing the same. 

This helps you really dial down on what's working and what’s not. From there, you can discuss what you're going to do to solve the problem, including how to eliminate any existing conflicts and set responsibilities.

2. Use the right tech stack

Investing in a tech stack and democratizing access to data helps sales and marketing teams do their job effectively and build alignment and trust as everyone knows what goals they’re working towards, according to Megan. 

Here are some of the best tools for improving sales and marketing relationships:

  • Communication tools: Marketing and sales need to communicate clearly and often to build a successful relationship. Use a tool like Slack to share campaign information. Ensure that important updates and brand assets don’t slip through the cracks by creating a  channel for each customer. 
  • Pipeline generation tools: Prospecting and pipeline generation is arguably one of the most important steps in converting an account as it’s responsible for building the sales pipeline and filling it with high-qualified buyers. With the right pipeline generation tools, sales reps can automate this step and focus on building relationships instead of wasting time manually searching for contact information. For example, UserGems enables revenue teams to reach out when customers change jobs by tracking your previous customers, contacts from customer accounts, and users for job movements. It helps your sales reps find people who already know and trust your organization, which equates to a shorter sales cycle and less pipeline anxiety
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool: CRM tools track every interaction an account has with your organization and keeps customer details updated. This eliminates data silos enabling sales and marketing teams to get on the same page instead of creating conflicts due to a lack of communication. For example, Account-based marketing CRMs like Salesforce connect every part of your business and give sales and marketing teams a unified view of data.

3. Build trust within your team

According to Justin, VP of Revenue Marketing at Drift, one of the biggest challenges in an ABM program is "understanding what everyone's doing. To look at where to be when they're going to get the ball passed to them. How to look at data, and how to communicate. That's the really hard stuff."

For instance, your marketing team may believe that events are their best lead generation tool, while the sales team may find that the leads from marketing aren't qualified enough. 

If the revenue targets or monthly quotas aren't met, sales may blame their marketing counterparts, souring the sales and marketing relationships within the organization.  

One way to address this is to sign Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that set clear expectations around what sales and marketing teams are responsible for. However, sustaining these agreements over six months becomes difficult. 

The best way to solve this conflict between sales and marketing and avoid playing blame games is by "knowing that everyone is doing everything they can," says Justin. 

“Kevin and I, we're lucky to have it. We did trust each other and knew each other were smart and had the company's best interests at heart. So we were able to kind of short circuit really difficult conversations and be like, look, we're in this together," he adds. 

In short, it boils down to building trust within your team, holding each other accountable, and getting to the root of the problem without getting personal. 

Building coordinated sales and marketing teams

Fostering a strong sales and marketing relationship within your organization starts with creating an environment conducive to giving and receiving honest feedback. 

Start by setting up meetings where everyone involved with account-based revenue is in attendance. Ensure that each team knows and understands what the other is up to and what their goals are. Encourage discussions about whether either team needs help and how they can work together to meet quotas and grow revenue. 

And, just as important, invest in automated pipeline generation tools like UserGems to generate qualified pipeline by tracking buyer job changes and surfacing relevant buyer group members.

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