Avoid Being “Shanghaied” with a Synergistic Sales and Marketing Team


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Heading down 13th Avenue in downtown Portland toward an appointment, a colleague started telling me the story about the Portland Underground also known as the “Shanghai Tunnels”. Many experts rebuff these “Shanghai Tunnels” as a myth, but if you haven’t heard the story, it’s pretty interesting.

The Portland Underground is a network of underground passages running through downtown Portland, connecting the basements of many downtown hotels and bars. They were built to ship goods and supplies from the waterfront to the business storage areas to avoid traffic on the main streets.

According to legend, these tunnels were also used by miscreants to “shanghai” unsuspecting laborers to sell them as slaves to ships at the waterfront. Apparently, there are trapdoors leading from the bars to the underground passages and these poor souls would be drugged or knocked out while enjoying their drinks, only to wake up in a prison cell awaiting slavery.

After my colleague finished the story, I turned to him and asked, “What was their marketing strategy? Free beer?”

I was kidding of course, but while listening to his story I couldn’t help but conjure the image of a villainous crimp talking to his “marketing” henchman, “Listen, I don’t care how ya do it, just get them drunks in the bar! Me an’ tha boys’l take care of the rest.” Yikes! Success means you’ve just enslaved someone, failure means you’re likely the one who will wake up in chains on a ship in the harbor. Either way, sucks to be that guy…

Maybe we’ve come along in modern times, but there’s still some serious “shanghaiing” going on in business. And there’s no denying that sometimes sales and marketing can have a tendancy to throw one another under the bus. I’ve spent my fair share of time in both capacities and I’ve heard the banter in both circles.

From the sales side: “Marketing needs to deliver more leads”, “these leads are crap!” or my favorite, “I don’t care how you do it, just get me in front of some qualified leads and I’ll close them!”

On the marketing side: “These leads are good, you just aren’t closing them”, “sales just doesn’t understand the process of marketing” or the one I’ve heard frequently since the economic downturn, “I can’t market without a budget!”

The scary thing is that all of these complaints are legit, but there are solutions to make everyone a winner. The trick to creating a synergistic marketing and sales team is to establish the following fundamentals:

View Marketing as an Investment…and Invest Wisely

Even when revenue is down, marketing needs to be treated as an investment. Just like your personal
portfolio, you need to allocate monies for marketing by measuring risk tolerance and by taking a best practice approach to investing those dollars.

Some programs will work, some won’t. But frankly, if you don’t have the proper insights to evaluate the risk in a particular program investment, then you’re just gambling and if so, you are bound to lose.

So rather than gamble marketing dollars away and instill a paralyzing fear of failure in marketing, empower marketing to make calculated decisions that will accelerate ROI.

Some of the biggest returns comes with a bit of risk but if you’ve scared the marketing execs into staying within their comfort zone, don’t expect any phenomenal results.

Listen to Sales

Sales are in the unique position of hearing directly from the “horse’s mouth” on how the market is reacting to your products and services. Filter the banter but don’t ignore the message!

Even the best salesperson in the world isn’t going to be successful selling something that isn’t a good fit for the lead. Sure, they’ll get some wins, but are they really “wins” if the solution doesn’t really match the need? That sounds more like buyer’s remorse in the making.

If the leads are “crap” and the marketing department is taking the right approach to the programs, then the target market may be in question. If the target market is right and the approach is right but the leads are still crap, you might have a product or service solution issue.

Group Hug on the Wins

Nothing is more irritating to a marketing team than when the sales team starts high-fiving, ringing bells, playing music and getting drunk because they just landed a big deal – if the marketing team wasn’t also congratulated.

It really doesn’t matter how awesome you were at closing them or how many painful objections you had to counter, if that lead or prospect was influenced at all by the work of the marketing team, it needs to be recognized. Marketing is not a support-player, they are a player. So, celebrate the wins together…and piss off the development team. Just kidding!

Make the Marketing and Sales Process Transparent

At the end of the day, claiming influence on a sale is moot unless you have solutions in place to support the claim. Luckily, sales and marketing solutions have evolved to the point in which there are a myriad of opportunities to not only improve the performance of your campaign, but also measure ROI as a result of the team’s efforts.

If your current system doesn’t easily provide transparency to marketing-vital information like: where leads are originating from, which leads are the most qualified, which nurturing programs are advancing prospects in the sales funnel and what the return on marketing investment is for your campaigns, then you may well be setting yourself up for a surprise meeting with the crimps.

And before you say it’s too complex or expensive, check out this great article by Howard Sewell: Top 5 Lead Management Excuses.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tom Meriam
Tom is a B2B and B2C sales and marketing veteran, having held senior level roles in the media and financial services industries as well as in the agency space.


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