SMB CEO – 3 Ways to Smooth the Friction Between Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing sitting down to have a strategic meeting
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Of all the departments within a small business, perhaps no two have a more dysfunctional relationship than sales and marketing. Different surveys reveal different reasons for this, but the most common culprit is poor communication. The sales team might believe marketing should provide better leads, while marketing might think sales should do a better job closing the leads it does generate.

To the customer, however, sales and marketing are one and the same. Breaking down the departmental silos that often separate these teams is the first step to improving communication and aligning goals. As a result, sales will better understand how to appeal to leads, and marketing will understand what’s needed to convert those leads into customers further down the sales funnel.

Marketing vs. Sales: What’s the Difference?

When your sales and marketing departments aren’t aligned, potential leads are less likely to realize the value you could bring. They’re also more likely to ignore your company’s emails and social media outreach. Even marketing campaigns that generate tons of attention won’t translate into new sales when sales and marketing are misaligned.

Effective campaigns earn conversions because of the collaboration between marketing and sales. Together, these departments must devise a plan with shared goals and an agreed-upon strategy to reach those goals. Everyone in both departments should know his or her role within that strategy — and it is the CEO’s job to create a clear division in the roles in marketing and sales. That includes assigning department heads to the marketing and sales teams to facilitate cross-team collaboration.

Use these three tips to get started.

1. Let department heads assign clear responsibilities

If communication between marketing and sales is strained, then important tasks could easily get duplicated — or worse, overlooked. Certain roles can fall under sales or marketing, and without a proper strategy, team members might be confused as to who is responsible for what.

Ideally, the departments will collaborate to reach goals without worrying about who gets the credit. It reminds me of a Harry S. Truman quote: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Guide team members but allow both department heads to figure out the steps to get there. Make them responsible for assigning roles within their departments as well. Giving both heads equal authority will ease friction.

2. Hold meetings with both department heads

Having both department heads facilitate collaboration is essential for gaining buy-in. It also makes it much easier to promote the culture change that will be necessary to improve communication between the departments. You can put that improvement on full display by hosting meetings led by sales and marketing heads. The sales and marketing managers are trained to look at problems differently, so both viewpoints are necessary.

I once worked at a company where our largest client was unhappy, and the sales and marketing departments were pointing fingers at each other. We assembled a task force with members from both departments to focus on solving the issue, not figuring out why it happened or who was at fault. That mindset change, along with those joint meetings, led to a quick resolution and a happy customer.

Another way to foster a better relationship is to have the departments establish a service-level agreement, where they can define the specific goals each team is accountable for.

3. Align goals so teams win or lose together

Better communication won’t automatically smooth the tension between sales and marketing. In fact, if their goals are too disparate, they may never agree on goals or how to achieve them. For example, I was at a company where the president was unsuccessful in trying to reconcile the frustrations of both department heads. She had individual discussions and joint conversations with the sales and marketing heads, but there was still frustration and silos.

Finally, she forced the department heads to solve the issue themselves. She presented the goal and instructed them to figure out how to work together to achieve it. Failure was not an option. They were so focused on accomplishing the goal that they were forced to collaborate. In the process, they realized they had more in common than they thought.

Assign the teams big-picture goals, and have them work together to devise a plan to achieve them. Also, tie recognition and compensation to a common set of goals. When the teams plan, collaborate, and win together, you’ll soon find a group of people who are working together to produce results.

It’s not the responsibility of your customers to navigate the dysfunction between sales and marketing. Leading prospects from one end of the funnel to the other takes both teams working together.