Apportioning blames is a common and constantly-repeated act amongst sales and marketing groups of many organizations. Bob Perkins, the Founder and Chairman of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) state “It is common to have marketing people complain that sales aren’t following up on leads and salespeople complain about the lead quality and quantity”. The organization reported in 2017 in a report titled: “Top Challenges of the Inside Sales Industry”, the category “Leads” was the topmost challenge for both leaders and sales representatives alike. “Leads” was classified as a larger concern than quota expectations by a factor of 2.5 to 1. There was an increase in this challenge over the previous years and this indicates that a lot of work, as well as changes, need to be done to solve this issue.

Does this look familiar? If it does, highlighted below are some five best practices and approaches that can enable the bridging of the gap that exists between sales and marketing that have worked successfully.

1. Take a Walk

Perkins further says that “On the top of my list of best practices is to have marketing listen to live sales calls. In and of itself, this can cure some of the ills of misalignment and the complaints that sales and marketing have about each other”. The application would be different for different companies. Perkins further counsels that “You don’t want marketing listening into more calls than the inside manager”. “But they should listen regularly”.  It might be a quarterly event such as “call week” or it could be associated with a specific marketing campaign that constantly requires monitoring and optimization. Whatever the case might be, the best practice is to take time out and sit together and use that time to not only hear the call of the prospects but also to get debriefed on what went well and what did not.

2. Open your Meetings

Invite sales to participate in regular Marketing staff meetings. This is to foster a long-lasting relationship between both teams for better handling of the leads which would then lead to more sales or income.

3. Build a Council

At times, cross-functional communication can be hampered by physical proximity, the vastness or the leanness of the team. This problem can be solved by setting up representative councils to stand in for the rest and provide the much-required input. This approach has been used severally by top-notch executives who would create sales councils of several sales reps (3-6 at most) getting them involved in 4-6 meetings per annum (sometimes over the phone as conference calls and sometimes in person at the national sales or industry convention) and matching them with key marketing leaders. Many executives use the council to generate feedback on product development and this can be extended to other topics as well such as lead generation campaign, sales effectiveness and/or new marketing initiatives.

4. Visit a Customer

The Managing Director of Canvas Research, a boutique marketing, and strategy firm based in the United States, Shelli Keagle says that “The Customer is a great equalizer”. Salespersons, marketers and the organization, in general, need to show empathy and deep understanding with the customer or consumer (or even the channel), to be able to gather their trust and loyalty. Failure to do this might be disastrous as both the sales and marketing can lose. There is a need to understand your environment, your customers’ problems, what they face daily amongst other considerations. Within the organization, an increase in the communication level between sales and marketing would lead to a corresponding increase in their combined output.

5. Scale your Approach

RakhiVoria is a senior business manager at Microsoft who has helped to build and nurture a world-class inside sales organization that operates eight different sales center locations around the world for this technology organization. In her words “We now have around 1,800 sellers in our organization. One thousand of those individuals were hired in the past year alone. Seventy percent of our team was hired externally from over 70 different companies”. This represents a massive scale and velocity for the organization in terms of manpower and possesses a great opportunity for shared listening, but at this level, it is not very trustworthy to rely on informal structures around customer visits or call observation.

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