5 tips for putting an end to the Sales<>Marketing finger pointing


Why so much tension?! The “accepted” Sales and Marketing dynamic

Most of my career has been in Sales, Marketing, or talking to people who work in either sales or marketing. My years of experience have taught me something not-all-that-profound: salespeople and marketers love to blame one another. The critiques usually sound something like this:

Marketing: Our salespeople are always calling me, asking for a bunch of things that they NEED to close a deal. Usually they need it in the next 30 minutes, because that’s when their meeting starts. And calling it “asking” is being way too generous. They practically demand it, and if I push back at all, they bulldoze me. Most of them are intolerable jerks.

Sales: Our marketing team is never there when I need them. I try not to bother them, but when a great opportunity comes up, I want to make sure that I’ve got everything I need to win the business. If I CAN get a hold of them, it feels like I’m pulling teeth when I ask for something. I just don’t get it. They’re either useless or lazy…and to be honest, I’m not really sure which one it is.

“The Way It Is” doesn’t have to be that way

For some reason, many people accept this dynamic as “The Way It Is”. It’s certainly the easy way out. Tell yourself that sales and marketing are like oil and water, they just don’t mix well together, and be done with it.

If this seems a bit silly to you, that’s because it is. But the good news is that it’s really not all that hard to change this dynamic for the better. It’s unlikely that the culture is toxic. It’s just as unlikely that everyone in one department personally dislikes everyone in the other department, and vice-versa. What IS likely is that there is a lack of structure and processes around how the people in these two departments interact.

Fix the way information requests flow between the two departments, create better guidelines on who to communicate with and why, and you’re already halfway home to eliminating this unnecessary tension.

There are a ton of ways to do this, and again, many of them are not all that hard. Here are 5 tips to bridge the gap between these two groups:

  1. Establish a digital library dedicated to housing your sales assets

The idea of creating a library for your marketing collateral isn’t sexy, but if done properly, it will make a huge difference in how your sales and marketing teams operate. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want people to use it (without getting frustrated):

  • It should be separate from your company’s document repository. Don’t just create a new folder in your shared drive or cloud storage solution titled “Sales Literature”. Things will get buried or misplaced, and mixing critical assets with everything else increases the chances of user error.
  • Organize the information against multiple sets of criteria such as: topic, date created, produced by, type of asset, and so on. This gives people a context-centric way to locate information, which is more in line with how the human brain actually works. If this suggestion sounds like a lot of manual work, consider using a technology, like Shelf, that will automate a lot of this categorization for you.
Shelf’s flter options
  • Create different user roles and access permissions within the technology. This way, you can grant the sales team access to the contents of the library, but do so without fear that they’ll accidentally move, delete, or otherwise compromise the integrity of the library.

A well-built library will do wonders for streamlining the workflow of the folks who support the sales team (e.g. Sales/Marketing Ops). They’ll be able to address each request faster. The assets they provide will be more comprehensive and more tailored to each specific opportunity. It will create resiliency in the role for times when someone is on vacation or if there is employee turnover. And best of all, it creates the conditions for self-service (by the sales team) in the future.

2. Schedule periodic asset review sessions

Maintaining a living, breathing library of sales assets can get tricky. There’s a lot to consider when you start drilling down into the lifecycle of a piece of content, so let’s keep it simple. The goal of these review sessions is to make sure that your existing assets are properly categorized and fully utilized. The best assets have a variety of uses, but it’s not always possible to understand the full value of an asset the moment it’s completed and published.

To accomplish this, take the advice of Murph Krajewski, the VP of Marketing at Sharpen. “Organize your [folders] based on where research is used, but Tag based on what the research contains.” For example, the marketing department may have written a case study geared towards IT Managers nine months ago. The asset was well-received, but has been largely lost due to the sands of time. A periodic review unearthed an opportunity to use the same case study when: 1) engaging with Customer Success departments, when talking with organizations that use Dropbox. The asset stays in its original location, but it’s tagged with “Customer Success” and “Dropbox” so it can be worked into additional sales conversations.

And just like that, you’ve re-purposed an asset and extended its shelf life. Do you think Marketing will appreciate that?!

3. Track and review all incoming inquiries and questions

It needs to be someone’s responsibility to diligently track each information request and its outcome. The most obvious value-add of this activity is that it will identify the gaps in the organization’s marketing materials. This feedback can then be delivered to marketing so it can be added to their content backlog. It will also make it easier to see which materials are getting the most use, and which materials are not seeing the light of day. This feedback can also be shared with marketing to help ensure that they are creating pieces that add clear value in the context of a sales conversation.

4. Allow sales to connect “what’s working” to specific pieces of marketing collateral

The next tip is to give salespeople that ability to explain how/when they’re using these assets, and comment on what is working and what isn’t.

Deciding which pieces of content to use for a sales opportunity is a tactical decision, and for this reason it’s important to allow the feet-on-the-ground sales force to drive this conversation. Peer-to-peer success stories are among the most relevant and impactful conversations that take place within an organization. If you don’t connect those learnings to the assets themselves, you’re missing an opportunity to improve the entire sales organization’s close rate AND help Marketing decide what materials to create in the future.

5. Encourage a shift to a self-service mindset

In Step #1, I mentioned that a well-built library of sales assets will allow salespeople to find what they need in a self-service manner. But this isn’t Field of Dreams; the “if we build it, they will come” approach is a little naive. With that said, good salespeople are proactive self-starters who aggressively seek outcomes and achieve results. They’re predisposed to being self-sufficient.

Which might cause you to ask, “If that’s the case, then why is there tension between Sales and Marketing in the first place?” And the answer is because they are driven by, and judged on, results. So if they don’t believe that they can find The Best materials for a particular opportunity, they’ll ask for help. For this reason, you can expect the shift to self-service to be a gradual process.

If you can demonstrate to the sales team that the library is a source that they can trust and use effectively on their own, they will adopt it. It won’t happen overnight, but once the sales team recognizes that self-service is the most efficient route to the content they need, behavior will change. This, in turn, allows the Sales/Marketing Ops function to scale because you don’t need to keep growing its staff at anywhere near the rate that revenue and sales headcount is growing.

Teams in sync, departments in harmony

If you try out even just a couple of these tips, I promise that the relationship between Sales and Marketing will improve in your organization. Sure, there will be disagreements — there always are — but Sales will stop looking at Marketing as the reason why they couldn’t close that deal, and Marketing will stop looking at Sales as the reason why they have to work over the weekend to finish their deliverables. The conversations will shift from “here’s what I need NOW” to “here’s what we would love to have next quarter to make the most of our upcoming sales campaign.” By adding structure and processes, the conversations get away from firefights on tactics and towards long-term strategy improvements.

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