History is littered with love-hate relationships: England and France, Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, to name a few.
I'd like to add sales and marketing to the list of friend-enemies.
The sales-marketing "frenemy" relationship is ingrained in many organizations, and there's plenty of blame to go around on both sides. Marketing is notorious for providing questionable leads to the sales organization, while sales reps are known to hastily dismiss leads from marketing, often without placing a single phone call.
This finger-pointing doesn't help move the organization forward, and can actually sabotage a company's bottom line.
Having worked in many sales organizations, I can confidently say that the folks in both marketing and sales mean well. However, most organizations suffer from a lack of alignment that makes for an adversarial relationship.
Can't We All Just Get Along?
Marketing automation solutions can help force alignment by making both parties accountable to each other.
This starts at the executive level with goals. Sales and marketing goals must be specific and measurable, such as "10 opportunities in Q1 with a pipeline value of $100,000." Most marketing automation systems will allow the delineation and measurement of specific goals.
Once goals are set, execute a campaign to a targeted group to assess the readiness of marketing-generated leads. The program should include typical tactics, such as email nurturing, webinars and collateral. Score the leads to determine if they are ready to be passed to the CRM system and assigned to a sales rep.
The marketing automation system should interface directly with the CRM system. This is where most gaps exist between marketing and sales. Once leads are qualified, they should move to the CRM system or prospecting software to ensure that sales reps are following up.
Since each sales rep does things differently, it's helpful to have a solution that automates and choreographs outbound sales tactics, so each lead is followed up on using the same cadence and the same amount of effort. For example, one sales rep may make one phone call and give up, another rep may only send email, and a third may make five or more calls before stopping.
Coordinating all sales efforts with defined steps makes sales reps accountable and helps sales and marketing managers better understand the health of the list, which sales and marketing tactics produce the best results, and what training might be needed to overcome obstacles.
Of course, all of this requires executive commitment to make it work. Alignment cannot happen with software alone; it requires people to use the software and to be held accountable for their results. After all, sales reps can (and do) work outside the system unless they are measured on what happens within the software. Likewise, marketing needs to deliver good campaigns and workable lists. Executives must be committed to communicating expectations and educating marketing and sales staff on why the process is important to reaching the defined goals.
One beautiful thing that happens when sales and marketing work in concert and are held accountable: everyone in the process gets recognized for their contribution to the campaign's success. While sales reps ultimately make the sale, marketing's contribution can be traced back to the campaign that nurtured the lead in the first place.
Who knows: maybe marketing and sales can be friends yet.
Bill Johnson is president and CEO of Indianapolis-based outbound sales automation and information platform Salesvue. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BillJohnsonIndy or on LinkedIn.