Like the line in the movie Gone With the Wind, your sales team’s reaction to marketing typically is they don’t give a damn. And it’s not their fault — it’s marketing’s fault.
The truth is salespeople would LOVE to have great marketing in their organization. In fact, they’d even nod in agreement at some of the stats that show how important it is for sales to work with marketing, such as:
87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between their two departments enables critical business growth. (LinkedIn, 2020).
And on the flip side:
60% of global respondents in a LinkedIn survey believed that misalignment between Sales and Marketing could damage financial performance. (LinkedIn, 2020)
Salespeople understand the value of marketing — but they’ll only support it when it’s effectively supporting them and their efforts. As a marketer, it’s on you to support them, and not the other way around.
Here’s why sales couldn’t care less about marketing, and solutions for how you can bridge the gap.
1. They have their feet to the fire with sales goals.
Salespeople don’t always have the luxury of the long view. They have quotas and numbers to hit, and their jobs depend on it.
You might think a task is mission-critical to your marketing efforts, but marketing metrics like links, shares and website visits don’t mean diddly unless it generates sales.
Solution: Establish a direct line between your efforts and their success.
Don’t fixate on your own numbers and goals. Instead, make their number (sales) your number. Start building from there, and work your way backward, showing why all those marketing metrics can help them get the number they need.
You have to tie in why your marketing efforts deliver on direct sales. Show them the direct line on how what you want will eventually result in a sale, and then keep them posted on progress. If you can’t connect the dots, you’ll get nowhere.
As a marketer, whenever I talk to salespeople, I always start with one simple truth: My number is your number.
2. They have a different skill set.
I once did a training class with a group of salespeople on the importance of posting their own content to LinkedIn. They looked at me in utter horror. The idea of writing something and then sharing it with all the world petrified them.
Salespeople, except for the unicorns like Chris Luecke and Jake Hall, are not comfortable being content creators. They are often great conversationalists and communicators on a one-on-one or small group basis, but not writers or video producers.
Solution: Put your skills to work to help them.
Salespeople may not think in terms of story-telling and organized communication like you do. So don’t ask them to do it. Instead, use your own unique skills to help them.
For example, salespeople have great stories and experiences with customers. Translate those tales into compelling content. Write the story for them, then let them share it.
You can also work with the sales team on their direct sales efforts. Can you improve a piece of collateral they’re using? Help them with a PowerPoint deck? Find meaningful marketplace stats to back up what they’re saying?
Sales know all the objections. They’re the first to know when markets shift and the competitive landscape introduces new challenges. The better the communication between Marketing and Sales the more responsive AND proactive the company can be to changing demands and market conditions.
3. They believe they know the customer best.
It could be argued that no one knows the customer better than the salesperson.
But even if they’ve worked with hundreds of customers for a number of years, they may not have done much to quantify true customer decision-making processes with statistical confidence.
In other words, they may not have the data to back up their belief in what the customer really wants.
Solution: Work with them to validate their assumptions.
We’re not saying what the sales team believes the customer wants is wrong. But how much more confident will they be in their approach if you can help them validate their claims?
For example, we like to test what salespeople believe are the true differentiators for a company through paid digital ads to determine click-through rates. What are people really clicking on? Over time, you can accurately gauge the true motivating factor.
And if it turns out your research reveals their assumptions are wrong, they’ll thank you as they can adjust their approach and boost their sales.
Marketing emulates and exploits the assumptions that exist in sales while also validating what resonates with current and future customers.
4. They view marketing (and management) as know-it-alls.
When you’re a salesperson, it’s you against the world. You have to be a self-motivator, you have to make those calls, and you have to go to those networking events.
And if you’re good, you make it happen and generate the numbers, often on your own.
So just imagine how infuriating it is when a marketing person comes in and tells you to change your messaging, or stop doing what you know works and instead experiment with an initiative they want to push.
It’s easy for sales to get a chip on their shoulder, and regard marketing with skepticism. So they ignore it, or even make fun of it.
Solution: Get down in the trenches with them.
Even if you produce data-driven results like we mentioned in No. 3, your sales team won’t trust you unless they respect you. That requires making them feel like they’re not always on an island — and that you are their partner riding right alongside them.
Will Healy III, the Marketing Manager at Balluff Worldwide, makes this an art form.
I realized a few months into my first job as a product manager that the customers and thus my sales crew had all my answers if I just asked, especially if I asked good questions and talked to multiple people to hear the common themes. When something flops and I look back, it’s because I didn’t tie it to one of those interviews.
Ask endless questions of the sales team. They’re right next to the customer, so take advantage of their knowledge. Even better, go on a sales call with them and use your marketing acumen to find ways to make the calls better with marketing collateral.
Getting into the trenches with them will only boost their performance, and it can lead to some great content ideas for you.
And the fact that you’re listening to them consistently and reacting to what they are saying will build trust. It will also produce amazing insights for you as a marketer, moving your content from marketing fluff to profound insights.
For marketers, ask all the questions you want. Sales is and will always be your best resource.
Whatever you do, marketers shouldn’t forget your most important role: Be the customer advocate
Marketing has a unique role within a company. You have the mechanisms to be the advocate of the customer, and you should.
Always be sharing more insights on the customers.
Always be looking for new ways to reach them.
Always be reminding everyone that the customer comes first.
Be the ultimate customer advocate — your sales team and your company will respect you for it, because they know it’s the right thing to do.
So if you give a damn about the customer, then your marketing efforts should begin with supporting the people that know them best: Your sales team.