Posted by Greg Owens
on 8 June 2017
I've worked in hi-tech marketing organizations for more than 20 years. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the number of marketing professionals that do not have good relationships with the sales teams in their company.
Most marketing people understand the importance of working closely with a wide range of people, including product management (who know the technology inside and out), corporate communications (who maintain branding standards), executives (who complete our performance reviews), and even legal (who typically own the enforcement of trademarks and often have an opinion on how we position things). But, how many of us have close working relationships with sales?
Sales people aren't all 'coin operated'
We all know the platitude: 'sales people are coin operated'. (Meaning that they only care about making money.) But, with a few exceptions, this is not true. The fact is, sales teams often have the best understanding of customers. You know, the people who buy the products and services that we work so hard every day to promote?
For most marketers, there is a disconnect with their sales colleagues. Does sales know what we do in Marketing or what we create for their use? Do we know what sales actually need to win deals? Is the material that we create too product-oriented and not focussed enough on commercial business cases? Is there something specific that our customer needs to know about or hear from us?
The focus of nearly all marketing efforts should be on supporting sales
So, what is the best way to build this relationship? Simple. Start by getting to know the salespeople. All of them. Make a list of who they are, what accounts they're responsible for, what has been successful for them and what challenges their customers are dealing with. Communicate with each of them as often as possible. Bi-weekly phone calls are a good start. Then, find out what they need from marketing. In one of my recent jobs, the checklist was simple:
thought leadership materials to help with market awareness. This is what some of my sales colleagues referred to as "air cover" and it includes stories in industry publications, representation at leading trade shows, that sort of thing. The bottom line is that no salesperson wants to walk into a meeting, just to be asked, "So, what is it that your company does?";
a good customer presentation for when the account manager is asked to give the obligatory 'dog and pony show' in front of the customer;
competitive information to know what competitors are saying about themselves and about your company. Again, imagine that you're in a meeting and a customer says, "Company X was in here a few days ago and they said they could do analytics better than you can. What do you have to say about that?";
customer wins/success stories, because nothing seals the deal better than a customer testimonial; and
product collateral which, at the end of the day, is something that salespeople need to include with the contract. (Often times this is a requirement, if only to validate the many claims that were made during various conversations.)
Other ways to build great relationships with sales
Here are some other activities that you should consider, as a marketer, if you want to build a great relationship with your sales teams:
get involved with sales training initiatives; whether they're face-to-face, by telephone or via video conference. If the training helps the sales teams to better understand the product and the market need that it fulfills which it should you will be viewed as a helpful resource;
complete market research projects that will be interesting to customers. Promote the research to both sales and customers, if you can. With compelling results, you will likely be invited to customer meetings to share the results and engage in useful discussions that sales can use to assess opportunities and learn about customer challenges;
create an online customer community. Typically, this is a closed group where customers can communicate and interact with other customers directly about a variety of topics, including your products and services. It is best to keep internal membership limited, so that customers aren't bombarded with responses from employees; and
join a customer-driven industry group, where you can attend conferences and/or monthly conference calls, listening to your customers describe their challenges and opportunities in an open forum. This will help you better understand their perspective, give credibility to your future discussions with sales, and result in you creating better marketing collateral.