3 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Sales (No Couples Therapy Required)
Sales and marketing go hand in hand, each team listening to and supporting the other to achieve success — or at least that’s the blissful vision toward which businesses aspire. The reality? As with any other relationship, it’s complicated.
We’ve worked with marketing teams that have a rock-solid relationship with sales, but unfortunately, they’re the exception. Most businesses fall somewhere on the continuum between needing a little help with minor communication issues and sliding rapidly toward divorce.
The good news is that no matter how good or bad your marketing team’s relationship with sales is right now, you can make it better with the help of these three strategies.
Strategy #1: Start Small
Don’t worry: You don’t have to overhaul your entire relationship with sales in one fell swoop. Instead, start as one of our clients did by taking a single small step.
Our client, a leading provider of technology solutions, came to us for help with their quarterly sales playbook. They’d been producing the playbook for years, and it seemed … fine. The problem was that nobody knew whether it was giving sales the content they needed, in a format that worked for them.
Instead of trying to tackle the big-picture relationship, we encouraged the marketing team to open a dialogue with sales focused solely on the playbook — a far less daunting endeavor. What did sales like about the playbook? How could it be better? The questions mattered, but the fact that the questions were being asked mattered more.
Our client now produces a quarterly playbook that everyone agrees is giving sales exactly what they want and need. Sales feels heard, and there’s more trust in the relationship. Plus, the client can apply the positive momentum from that one small step into the next project, and the one after that.
Strategy #2: Build a Team of Advocates
It’s easy to say that the cure for communication issues is to have more conversations. The reality — especially for large, dispersed teams — is that asking even one question can lead to a tidal wave of feedbacks and suggestions.
Fortunately, there’s a much more efficient way to collect feedback and spread best practices: building a team of advocates.
To form your team, ask salespeople you trust from different regions and departments to come on board. For them, it’s a great opportunity to take on a leadership role and make sure their voice gets heard. They’ll help you spread information and initiatives across the organization, and they’ll gather valuable input from local teams on both broad and specific issues, such as whether sales would rather receive slide decks or videos.
When you act on feedback from your advocates, your decisions gain added credibility. Local sales teams feel heard and valued, which translates into loyalty. And when you have to make difficult or complex changes, your advocates have your back and can help you refine your strategies over time.
Strategy #3: Go on Sales Calls
Going out on sales calls is a tried-and-true strategy to find out how sales operates and which sales enablement tools are most likely to help them be more effective. The challenge is in finding (or making) the time — and not just in your first months on the job.
Instead of checking the box for having gone on a sales call, make it a regular practice. Get out in the field and talk to sales about what’s working and what’s not. Ask them specific questions:
- How and where are you accessing sales materials?
- Which sales enablement tools are meeting your needs, and which aren’t? Why?
- How often are you creating your own materials? Why?
- If you could wave a magic wand, what content and tools would you want at your fingertips?
Regularly sharing a few hours or a day of a salesperson’s work will help you get to know them and the pressures they’re under. It’s one of the best ways to understand their job — and how you can do yours better.
When a relationship is on the rocks, it’s tempting to throw up your hands. Wires will always get crossed, right? Sales is from Mars and marketing is from Venus — we’re just different and there’s no way to change that.
Don’t give in to that kind of thinking!
Remember that you can take small steps, build a team of advocates, and go out on sales calls. These strategies don’t require a big investment of time or money. They only require that you reach out and listen to what sales has to say. In the process of making them feel listened to and understood, you can be sure you will be too.
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