While our company’s marketing team
to be doing all the right things before I joined last year, it lacked collaboration with the sales team.
I’ve worn the combined sales and marketing hat at several companies, but Knowlagent is the first company I’ve been at where I’m leading only the marketing effort and have a counterpart managing the sales teams.
Since I’ve come on board, we’ve worked hard to create an atmosphere of teamwork and success that enables me to share more than theories and blithe comments on creating a cohesive team whose ultimate achievements are interdependent on each other.
While sales and marketing teams have two different functions, the lines are certainly blurred (now more than ever) where marketing stops and sales starts. Regardless, our end goals are the same:
Get, Keep and Grow
There are several factors I think that are necessary in creating a collaborative environment where sales and marketing not only co-exist but also provide measurable results that matter.
Coming from a sales background, I know what the sales teams need from their marketing organization to deliver on their initiatives, and I know what the marketing team needs from their sales folks in order to provide the right tools for them to do their jobs. This is the first important factor in creating a collaborative sales and marketing team: gain an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Next you need to ensure that the two teams are communicating on a regular basis. In former jobs as vice president of sales and marketing, I frequently went on sales calls, which provided me with firsthand experience of the issues the customer was facing, as well as the specific challenges thrown at the sales force in terms of communicating our messages and illustrating the value of our solution. By being front and center with the sales target, I could ensure integration with our marketing efforts.
Operating only as the marketing lead, I have found it much more difficult to attend many sales calls and oversee our marketing efforts as well. So I no longer had the direct line to the customer or the sales force as I did in previous jobs. I needed to establish that same valuable communication with both parties in other ways.
To guarantee that we stayed current with our prospects’ needs and had consistent communications with our sales team, I did two things: I designated a marketing team member who would serve as our sales team liaison and attend every sales meeting and one-on-one account review possible. And I launched and led a series of focus group sessions that help marketing stay on top of issues that matter through direct dialog with our customers.
Our goal for both of these initiatives was to shorten the average sales cycle for our sales team. And that has worked. Because we are better engaged with the sales team, we work together to find new ideas to reach the customer and further our goal of closing the sale quicker.
But the initiatives have born even more fruit, one of which was our ability to launch the company’s first customer conference (Catalyst, held in May 2005). While Knowlagent had explored this concept before, it never really got off the ground. The difference this time was that our marketing and sales teams shared the vision and joined forces to pull it off. Our sales team was instrumental in developing the session content, lining up session speakers and getting the actual attendees to the conference.
And the conference itself had an impact. We realized a shortened sales cycle for one prospect and incremental business with three existing customers. In a company our size where the average sales cycle is one and a half years and a sale equates to revenue of more than $1 million, this constitutes tremendous success.
The focus groups also have their advantages. Namely, they are uncovering previously unknown areas of pain for sales ammunition within accounts, while the marketing team is getting valuable information straight from the source.
If you are serious about being a team, consider that both groups must define and deliver on set expectations. Once this is achieved and an initial level of trust is established, working together will seem like second nature—as it should.
Our CEO, Rusty Gordon, attributes much of our company’s success to the fact that we never forget about our customer. Every solution we create and every tool we enhance are all for the betterment of our customers’ business. Our marketing team takes that same approach to heart, and we never forget that our department’s first customer is our sales team.