How to achieve true sales and marketing integration.

Sales and marketing have always had challenges integrating and collaborating cohesively. Although they coexist, many times, they have different perspectives on the customer experience and the management of leads. Sales expert Janice Mars of SalesLatitude and marketing operations specialist Frank Donny of Marseli share their insights on how sales and marketing teams can build better relationships and achieve long-lasting results. Janice and Frank have worked together in the field to solve many of the sales and marketing integration challenges companies face.

Q: Why is there a disconnect between sales and marketing?

Frank: Customer interest starts with marketing, and that’s where many customer relationships start with your company. Marketing investment is the tip of a spear; its objective is to entice interest. There’s a whole process and infrastructure that drives that, up until it’s handed off to the sales team. But the problem is in the hand-off because the two processes act independently rather than working together on development, training and deployment of a seamless demand generation and sales solution.

Janice: I often hear from sales teams that marketing doesn’t understand what they need. Sales is essentially marketing’s customer, so there needs to be a mechanism for understanding what sales wants, which usually is lots of high quality leads.

Q: Where exactly is the sales-marketing relationship breaking down?

Frank: The main break down is in the lack of integration in the flow of leads through the process and marketing truly knowing what is happening to those leads. Marketing might fail to understand what sales needs, and only sees lack of movement with the leads they’ve invested in acquiring. Meanwhile, sales is reactive to marketing and what they deliver. If they deliver something different than what is needed, then they react accordingly and don’t follow up with leads and many times those actions result in failed marketing investments.

Janice: Colder leads take longer to nurture too. If high-end sales reps are more hunters than farmers, then they don’t want to spend all their time doing that level of nurturing. Passing cold leads to sales tends to make them inefficient. The main issue here is the absence of some agreement on what a true lead is. Did marketing qualify the lead? What questions did they ask? If they asked the questions we agreed to, then why am I getting this cold lead? Those are the questions sales asks on a regular basis.

Q: What can companies do to make the sales and marketing relationship work?

Frank: Companies need to understand what a best practice infrastructure looks like. Sure, it’s easy to throw leads over the fence to sales. But marketing may need to hold on to those leads until they are truly ready to interact with a sales rep. Marketing needs to be aligned with sales on different levels. For example, marketing could be compensated according to the percentage of the pipeline or sales generated as a result of their efforts. Communication is another key area for alignment; they need a seat at the sales management table where they have a voice, can hear issues, offer solutions and be more transparent. Many times, marketing is not included and has trouble understanding the needs of sales as a result.

Janice: I totally agree, Frank. Both sales and marketing need to develop a joint process in order to see the entire experience of the buyer as they’re going through the sales cycle, with reporting and key performance indicators to gain visibility into what’s working and what’s not. This way, the process can be managed based on fact rather than opinion, and drive real discussions around performance. Just like buyer-seller customer relationships, sales and marketing should establish active, results-based service level agreements between the two groups. By nature, an SLA would require them to meet regularly to create an open forum for communication and establish a process that works for everyone and gets actual results.

We would love to hear about the challenges you face in integrating sales and marketing, and what you have done to create better alignment between the teams.

Janice Mars, Managing Partner and co-founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter

Frank Donny is founder and CEO of Marseli, a firm that makes sales and marketing operations faster, smarter, accurate and affordable. Frank’s remarkable 25-year career of driving marketing and sales operations divisions within Fortune 500 and start-up organizations is highlighted by his passion for business development and empowering others to succeed. Frank is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales performance, demand generation, pipeline management and sales and marketing integration.