I’ve written about it before, and I’ll write about it again. It’s a popular discussion among us Marketers, not to mention a source of frustration. Every time I reach out to my network of respected marketers, looking for inspiration on what to write about, it’s almost the first thing they mention. It’s so bad I often conclude my request with “…and, no, I do not want to write about the challenges between Sales and Marketing. I’ve done it too many times and people are going to start thinking I don’t like Sales.”

The truth of the matter is that I have incredible respect for sales professionals. It’s a tough career. In fact, let’s be blunt. Sales are a bitch. I’ve been a sales professional myself. I’ve also been a sales executive. I’ve owned that monthly / quarterly / annual quota and it is stressful. I’ve reported to the Board of Directors on why we’re behind on our numbers (often because the numbers were too high to begin with) and I’ve coached my team on how to sell better and more efficiently. I’ve studied Huthwaite spin selling, Miller Heiman strategic selling, Sandler selling, consultative selling, target account selling…the list goes on. So with this as my back story, I can credibly say that sometimes, for a certain percentage of sales professionals, Marketing not only knows Sales is dropping the ball, Marketing can tell you where. And, the biggest irony of it all is that, if Sales simply dropped any associated ego, insecurity, or pride, they’d actually make a lot more money by avoiding the following mistakes.

Marketing knows marketing better.

Too many times I’ve seen sales professionals either completely ignore marketing awareness and demand generation campaigns, or undermine them. Why? Because they think they know better. They disagree with what Marketing is doing. They claim Marketing doesn’t understand the customer or the value proposition or the sales cycle. And because Marketing doesn’t understand what the sales professional understand, the sales professional ignores them because Marketing is just a bunch of morons. Many will go so far as to bad-mouth marketing to whoever will listen which just creates divide within an organization.

Let me use a personal example. My family has generations of success in horticulture. We’ve owned farms, green houses, vegetable outlets, florist retailers, landscaping companies, etc. My father, his father, my cousins…every single one of them has an über-green thumb. I don’t. Not even close. Worse yet…I don’t even care or want to have that gift. I have zero interest. But, like all things in life, if you’re around it enough you do pick up a nugget or two of knowledge. So, with that background, let’s talk about my neighbor Donna. She’s about 80 years old. Her husband recently passed away. She’s an awesome person. My whole family loves Donna. And, like my dad, she is an incredible gardener. My yard, and my gardens, look dull and boring compared to her amazing display of landscaping and floral wizardry. Bluntly, it’s embarrassing being her neighbor because of her God-given gifts. Okay, imagine if you will, with my knowledge of horticulture gained by shear osmosis of being around it growing up, even though I’ve not actually had any personal experience or success with landscaping and gardening, I were to go up to her and tell her that she’s doing it all wrong. What if I bad-mouthed her to my neighbors? What if I pulled out her plantings when she wasn’t looking because, after all, I think I know better?

I think you see where I’m going with this; so let me cut to the chase. Most sales professionals don’t have the same marketing experience as marketing professionals. Marketing is around Sales and Sales is around Marketing but that doesn’t mean one can do the other’s job or that they understand the big picture and where one or two tactics fit in the overall strategy and marketing plan.

Advice #1

Sales professionals – don’t assume you know better then Marketing when it comes to marketing. Instead, have an open, honest, approachable dialog and try to understand the big picture. Support them, just as you’d want to be supported. And, if you don’t agree, simply share your opinion and then be a team player. If you’re right, and the marketer is wrong, the situation will correct itself in short order by either a staff upgrade or some wisdom gained by the marketer on the job.

The time to respond is now.

For most companies, new sales leads are the Holy Grail of marketing success. It’s tough, as a sales professional, getting enough leads on your own to meet your sales targets. So when Marketing brings you a lead to pursue, you need to do the following:

  • Do not assume it’s junk
  • Do not get upset if it’s not ready to close immediately
  • Do not ignore it because you talked to them six months ago
  • Do review all of the previous touch points Marketing had with the lead and what the prospect reacted to in terms of the marketing outreach and content pieces
  • Do not hide behind a single, solitary email follow-up with the lead
  • Do call the lead immediately
  • Do continue to call and engage until you connect with the lead and can qualify it further.
  • Do return the lead to marketing for additional nurturing if it is not fully qualified
  • Do update your CRM system with clean contact information and opportunity notes for further engagement and outreach efforts
  • Do give Marketing feedback on how successful the lead was, or wasn’t, so that they can refine their programs and processes continually

My biggest beef here, and I see it with so many of my clients, is the lack of a timely lead follow-up, or the lack of future follow-up, if they are unable to immediately engage the prospect or unable to immediately qualify the lead as a sales opportunity.

Let me share a secret. Marketing doesn’t enjoy sending unqualified leads to Sales. It bothers us. It hurts our credibility. It offends our professional pride. Marketing wants to send amazing leads to Sales. And, when Marketing has success, the last thing they want Sales to do is drop the ball with the follow-up and qualification.

Advice #2

Follow up promptly on any lead provided by Marketing. Continue to engage the lead or return the lead to the nurture pool. Provide Marketing with constructive feedback so that they can improve things moving forward. Help us help you, and then let’s go for drinks and celebrate our shared success.

All things in due time.

I’ve met two kinds of organizations in my career. There are those who are very discriminating with a lead’s quality. They have a company-wide agreed upon lead definition. They nurture and develop leads. They engage them slowly and build a relationship over time. And then, when the time is right, they reach out and take the lead to the next step with a live conversation and qualification. I call those organizations “Best in class”. Then, there are the other kinds of organizations who take any hint of a lead, or an inquiry, regardless of their qualification or lead fit, and immediately want to call them and sell them something. I call those organizations “Desperate”.

Here’s the thing. How would you react if you smiled at somebody you found attractive and they immediately stalked you and talked to you about getting married? Would you be spooked? Typically, a person wants to get to know somebody slowly. They want to be wooed. They want to establish a relationship and build mutual trust. However, if you don’t want to get married immediately and you convey that, would you be sad if they instantly left you and never returned or contacted you? You might be relieved. Or, you might be disappointed because you genuinely found them attractive and you could see yourself marrying them someday; you just don’t want to marry them right now. This example may sound silly but this is exactly what happens when a desperate sales professional wants to follow up on every inquiry immediately. Marketing’s job is to qualify them slowly, establish your firm’s credibility and trustworthiness, and convince them that you’re the right firm to commit to.

Advice #3

Allow marketing to nurture the leads. In the end, the leads they pass you will be much more qualified, and your time will be better spent qualifying and closing real opportunities instead of wasted with prospects who would never be a good fit for you. When those leads aren’t ready, return them to Marketing for further qualification and nurturing. Whatever you do, don’t demand leads that aren’t ready, and don’t drop leads that could eventually be ready. Let Marketing do that for you.

Wow them with content, not with charm.

Here is an interesting fact that many sales professionals never seem to take the time to learn, and it’s sad because their life could be so much better if they did. Marketing has invested a lot of time and effort into documenting the buyer’s journey for a typical sales cycle, along with the various personas for each person who influences a sales cycle. They’ve mapped hot buttons, language, messaging, demographics and psychographics for each stage in the journey, for each persona. And then, they’ve made rich content including webinars, case studies, white papers, info graphics, videos, blogs, etc., that are intentionally meant to engage your prospects relative to who they are and where they are in the journey. It’s crazy impressive. We didn’t do any of this when I first started in the marketing field. Honestly, it blows my mind how far our profession has come.

Now, some sales professionals simply do not understand or appreciate the science behind this process. Even more interesting, some sales professionals do not believe marketing understands the personas or the buyer’s journey and firmly believe they understand it better. Because they understand it better, they chose to ignore all of the content that Marketing has created to move the prospect through the sales cycle. Instead, they rely upon their charm and their gut feelings. Often they will utilize some content that they have personally created but which completely differs from the corporate brand and message. Or, they’ll use nothing at all. Here’s the thing…this approach only serves to confuse the prospect. You have to remember, most prospects have done all of their own exhaustive research before they ever talk to a live person. The reason they choose to talk to a live person is because they liked what they read. They liked the content. The liked the benefit statements. They liked the value proposition. They’re already at the middle-of-the-funnel in their journey. Now, when they suddenly get a different message or benefit statement or value proposition from the sales professional, their primary takeaway is that your company is confusing and they can no longer trust you to fix their problem. You represent risk, and because you represent risk they walk away.

Advice #4

Work with the content that Marketing provides. Be consistent with your messaging and your brand. Use the content to close the deal. Stop trying to be an alpha dog. If you don’t like the content, or you disagree with the messaging and brand, or you think they do not understand the buyer’s journey or the personas, then work with Marketing and the key stakeholders to correct the misunderstandings. Again, Marketing just wants to make cool stuff. If you can help them be successful, they’ll love you for it and gladly welcome your input.

We just don’t talk anymore.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some sales savants over the years. They’re amazing. I watch them in awe. The way they can tell a story, and get a prospect to open up and reveal their issues, is legendary. They learn so much it blows me away. They quickly identify competitor shortcomings, combined with our positives and negatives, and then they use that information to help the prospect connect the dots about what solution is right for them and which solution represents the least amount of risk to them. The prospects immediately trust them and that changes the tone of the entire conversation. I can learn so much from these sales professionals.

And that’s the problem.

Too often, these people who I respect so much, neglect to share their knowledge with Marketing. Instead, they protect it just like Samson protected his hair. They hoard it so that they remain the superstars in the organization. When this happens, everybody loses, including themselves. You see, that sales professional will eventually need something that complements whatever they’ve told the prospect. It might be a presentation, or a case study, or an info graphic, but whatever it is they desperately need third-party validation of what they’ve advised the prospect. That prospect may need to educate someone within their organization who is an influencer in the sales cycle, or they may need it to help build a business case for the economic investment required to purchase your goods. That’s when Marketing is going to let them down. They won’t have it because the sales professional did not share the feedback. As a result marketing did not have a chance to incorporate it into their content and campaigns.

Advice #5

For sales and marketing to function like a well-oiled revenue machine, the two sides need to continually and consistently communicate any knowledge learned with one another. Sharing needs to be viewed as a critical aspect and attribute of each person in the organization. It needs to be cultural.

A rose by any other name…

Throughout this discussion I’ve talked nonstop about a few bad habits practiced by a small percentage of certain sales professionals. The truth is, I could have as easily said Customer Service or Operations or a myriad of other critical roles that exist within your organization. My talking points could also be construed as if Marketing is without fault and that each marketing department is practicing best-in-class processes. We all know that’s definitely not the case, and that many Marketers will frustrate sales professionals non-stop due to their shortcomings. For those marketers, allow me to apologize on their behalf and to ask you to please practice patience and mentorship with them. They need your expertise and life lessons.

What you should take away from this discourse is that the aforementioned five issues are dramatically impacting the success of the organization. All of these issues can be easily remedied hence my final advice is to be proactive and aggressive about implementing a culture of cooperation and knowledge sharing and respect within your company. The journey may be painful but the end result will surpass your wildest expectations.

Join the conversation.

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Share your wisdom.

I’ve only covered off five lessons learned here. If you could add to the discussion, what advice would you offer based on your experience? Tell us in the comments below.