Creating A Successful Sales And Marketing Partnership

It’s more than urban legend that sales and marketing alignment is critical for improved revenue production, margin increases, company growth, customer centricity, and even competitive advantage. Yet, as we all know, the sales and marketing relationship required to achieve these significant gains does not exist in most companies. Rather, we typically see the two sides ignore each other to a relationship fraught with constant friction, misunderstandings, and mistrust. Given the upside potential, how can we change this status quo?

Two Drivers of a New Relationship

The two drivers of redefining the sales and marketing relationship include the constant evolution of technology and the resulting change in buyer behavior. We live in a digital world, and a large majority of our interactions are now occurring digitally. For example, shopping habits have radically shifted.

While our consumer behaviors have shifted in our tech infused world, so have the behaviors of prospects and customers. A Google search begins their easy journey to find out anything they need to know to solve a problem. They don’t engage with a live person until they are 70-75% through their buying journey. In this scenario, sales is excluded from early engagement with a prospect or customer. In contrast, marketing is heavily engaged (or should be) in digital conversations, thanks to a plethora of new technologies.

Characteristics of the New Partnership

A common characteristic of an optimized sales and marketing relationship is they work in partnership, or more precisely, a revenue partnership. To help you reframe your thoughts on the sales and marketing relationship, let’s stop calling it a “relationship” and begin calling it a “revenue partnership.”  A relationship can be anything from casual to committed while a partnership is committed.

The second characteristic of the revenue partnership is marketing adopts revenue marketing principles and focus. While there are many elements to revenue marketing, I will highlight those most relevant to the partnership including financial accountability, shared financial goals, mirror organizations, and education.

Revenue marketing is a re-imagination of the marketing function. Based on customer and technology evolution, a revenue marketing organization is directly responsible for driving revenue and growth. They have developed the right technical structure to support revenue marketing principles. A Revenue marketing organization carries a quota and is compensated on quota achievement. Finally, a revenue marketing organization has more than just alignment with sales — they have a partnership with shared responsibilities for revenue production and growth. The strength of the sales and marketing revenue partnership is also the number one predictor of revenue marketing success.

Partnership Barriers

The value of an optimized sales and marketing revenue partnership is well established. Yet, for all the value, it is challenging to create this type of relationship. The most common barriers I see include marketing’s lack of knowledge on all things sales and a lack of executive knowledge and alignment.

I was recently on a call with a client and we were talking about lead management and how sales people were not following up on the leads in a timely manner. In this company, the lead goes to an inside sales team who qualifies the lead and then sends it on to sales. My first question to this marketing team was “How is the inside sales team compensated?” I got crickets. My next question was “Is the marketing team meeting quota?” I got more crickets. What I discovered in this line of questioning is that this particular marketing team did not know the sales basics in their own company. They did not know the sales numbers, where they were on quota, what goals they had, etc. In addition, this marketing team did not attend sales meetings, pipeline meetings, or strategy meetings.

In contrast, I worked with another company in which marketing was fully baked into the sales process. If you talked to the VP of marketing, he sounded like a VP of sales. He could rattle off the state of the pipeline, closed business, and where sales was against plan at any time. The net of these two scenarios is that marketing needs to be educated in all things sales and they need to be an active participant in all elements of sales. Why? Because marketing owns 70% of the buyer journey.

The second barrier to an optimized sales and marketing relationship is legacy thinking on the executive team. There exists a very strong unconscious bias against marketing being any kind of revenue driver. I’ve seen it at every level of an organization. This kind of legacy thinking views marketing as the pens and mugs department, the event department, and the biggest cost center in the company.

Just like marketers need education to understand sales, executives need to be educated on the new world we live in and how it can change and is changing the business. With the new tools available to marketing and the changes in buyer behavior, marketing is well positioned to create a revenue partnership with sales. The number one job of every executive is to optimize shareholder value. If the executive team does not understand the secret weapon they have in a sales and marketing revenue partnership, they will be challenged to remain competitive in our digital economy.

Next Steps

Building a sales and marketing revenue partnership involves many elements. Here are three steps to get you started, no matter the health of your current relationship or partnership.

1. First, get marketing educated on all things sales. Have them attend sales training and all sales meetings and events. Have them sit with the sales team. Have them do a 6-week rotation in sales. You can’t partner if you don’t know what your partner does.

2. Second, ensure marketing has the right technical architecture and integrations for attribution and contribution. The average number of systems owned by marketing is around 20. What is key is to have the right systems and to have them integrated.

3. Educate yourself on a new way to create revenue in the digital economy. If anyone doesn’t get it, they need to be fired.

With perseverance and a little time, you can build a good partnership between marketing and sales. The current state of our world demands that we look at marketing and sales with new eyes. No longer can sales and marketing function as separate, siloed entities. They must come together in partnership in order to improve revenue production, increase margins, grow the company, increase customer centricity, and gain competitive advantage in today’s digital world.