Think your company is the only one experiencing communication issues between sales and marketing teams? Think again. Companies of all sizes often experience tension between these two functions, with each side working toward separate goals although ultimately they’re trying to do the same thing: sell. Eric Bensley, vice president of Small Business Essentials at Salesforce, explains why this trust breakdown occurs and the problems it creates, and offers advice on how to fix the situation.
Let’s start at the beginning. What causes marketing and sales to grow apart in the first place?
Usually very small companies don’t have this problem because the two functions often sit together. It’s easier to see that sales and marketing really are the same thing. One of my first jobs was in marketing, working for the president of a research company. There were no trust issues there because we were one small team. Trust often starts to erode when you divide the sales and marketing functions. Marketing is trying to sell one to many, while sales is trying to sell one to one. When the two are separated, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that they’re both trying to sell.
Growing apart doesn’t happen overnight. How can teams recognize when it’s starting?
In a company’s early stages, sales and marketing typically have a lot of meetings. As a company grows and the functions split, sometimes those meetings don’t happen. There’s less structured communication between the two groups, and the more time they spend apart, the harder it is to build trust between them. For example, if two months go by and there hasn’t been a meeting, one side won’t understand the history behind why decisions were made, and may question a lot of things and make wrong assumptions.
Goals start to separate, too. If you look at a traditional customer funnel, marketing takes the top—metrics like awareness and leads—while sales focuses on the bottom, driving opportunities and ultimately sales. Not only is that notion dated, but it creates a lack of alignment. A lot of companies separate sales and marketing metrics in a very discreet way. When that happens, you’ll have quarters where marketing teams are excited because they hit their lead goal, and yet sales didn’t hit their sales target—so you have one team celebrating while one team feels like they lost.
How do you prevent a total trust breakdown?
The bottom line is, communication often breaks down as companies grow. One of the ways you can improve it is simply by having people interact more on a day-to-day basis—whether it’s regular meetings or off-hours bonding opportunities.
Many companies—including us at Salesforce—also try to address the trust breakdown by adopting metrics that you could visualize as a Venn diagram across the funnel, as opposed to a clean break between where marketing stops and sales starts. That’s foundational to trust, because it’s easier to trust someone who has the same goals as you do.
Why is this trust vital for a company to thrive?
If you buy the assumption that sales and marketing are trying to do the same thing, which is sell, then you can sell a lot more. You can get more out of your team. A secondary benefit is that your company becomes a better place to work. It’s more fun when people aren’t being passive aggressive, or questioning others on broad emails. Culturally, it’s much better when two teams work together.
If sales and marketing functions are already operating on two separate tracks, how can you begin to bring them back together?
It has to start from the top, with the head of sales and marketing making teamwork a priority and driving the process forward. You can certainly create better collaboration and alignment at lower levels, but it won’t have the same impact. There’s an old saying that trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair. It’s important to remember when you’re talking about trust that there’s no quick fix; it’s something that you need to continually work on.
How do shared metrics play into the process of rebuilding trust?
It’s not just having shared metrics that’s important; you have to create them together. Marketing needs to think about metrics that tie down the funnel to sales. If you’re a marketer, your metrics shouldn’t end at how many opportunities you’ve handed over to sales; they should end when the process is finished. You should be looking at how much marketing has contributed to deals that are won. If marketing is creating a lot of opportunities but sales isn’t closing that business, marketing isn’t doing their job.
Having structured meetings about this—whether that’s weekly, biweekly, monthly—is really important. Without structure, communication only happens in crisis mode. Being transparent is also key. It’s harder to put into a process, but it’s meaningful. At Salesforce, we ask our sales leaders for feedback on what we’re doing as marketers. We don’t wait for them to tell us when something is wrong; instead, both sales and marketing should be talking about how to fix things before they become an issue.
How can technology like Salesforce help this process of rebuilding trust?
The foundation of this is really outside of technology. If you’re not creating metrics together and sharing them openly, technology won’t fix that problem—but if you’re working to fix it, technology can be a great enabler. For instance, if you create shared goals, Salesforce can provide transparency. Sales and marketing teams often have different views of data. Salesforce creates a seamless process that shows everything from when someone becomes a lead to when they become a customer and when they renew. Companies such as Bespoke Collection, Torani and YETI are managing sales and marketing on Salesforce today to keep their teams aligned.
How else can Salesforce help sales and marketing teams align?
If you’re looking at a goal such as lead conversion rate, Salesforce lets you create shared dashboards that both teams can view. Then, when you get in the same room for your weekly meeting, you’re not looking at two separate data sources. You’ve agreed on metrics and have visibility into those, so the conversation can focus on how to improve them.
Another way to ensure trust is to map the process for handing off customers. Many organizations are challenged by having information in different systems for marketing and sales. That makes it hard for sales to plan for what’s coming. Creating that entire flow in Salesforce gives everyone an idea of how the process is going to work, and you can automate it through rules within the product that allow your team to spend time on higher priority leads.
On that note, one thing that is helping to fix lead scoring is AI. Within Salesforce, we now have Einstein, an AI platform that “learns” based on how a lead flows from an opportunity to an account. It looks at the entire funnel, and optimizes and scores leads based on what is most likely to convert. The system can learn and change processes on the fly, versus a manual lead scoring process with criteria that never changes.