Breaking Down Walls Between Sales and Marketing

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Becca Apfelstadt and her team at treetree agency work with B2B giants. They partner with Fortune 500 marketing and sales teams and act as an extension of the in-house departments to achieve all the organization’s goals.

But as anyone who’s ever worked in an enterprise B2B environment knows, things aren’t always sunshine and roses between these two teams. In fact, there’s often tension. Sales feels protective over the leads they’ve cultivated and gripes that marketing doesn’t send them qualified leads. Marketing, meanwhile, feels pushed aside by sales. They get “make this pretty” requests but feel boxed out of real conversations around how to help the sales team close deals.

Becca has seen it all—the territorial stand-offs, the distrust. As the owner of an outside agency, she is empowered to act as a bridge between the two departments. While many organizations start out with an event-driven marketing approach, where marketing is only brought into the conversation when there’s something specific to promote, Becca helps the marketing teams she works with to get involved in broader discussions.

She says the misunderstandings between sales and marketing go way back to the Industrial Revolution. The sales function was created during that time, while marketing didn’t come onto the scene until about 140 years later. And when marketing departments did crop up, they were always framed as a function to support the sales team.

Only now is that really changing structurally, with some organizations having both functions ladder up to the same individual, a chief revenue officer or chief growth role. However, the individuals populating these roles often come in with a sales background, so more must be done to address the lopsided relationship.

Becca notes that internal marketing can be essential in evening the playing field. She encourages marketing teams to create case studies highlighting their role in a recent deal. 

She says it’s also crucial we educate sales about the tools, technology, and data marketers have at their disposal. Salespeople can be hesitant to hand over their contact list for fear that marketers will spam their prospects with blanket messaging. Marketers can prove that, with their knowledge and expertise, they are not trying to steal anyone’s fish. Instead, they’re trying to create more ponds.

Finally, there’s a vital role for leadership to play here. The tone from the top must support integration of the two teams. Favoritism or leaving certain people out of the conversation will only breed distrust and resentment.

Leaders should align sales and marketing on KPIs. While the two teams will achieve those goals in different ways, the underlying objective should be the same.

At the end of the day, Becca notes, these internal tiffs don’t matter to customers. Customers don’t care who did what; they just need the information. The goal of every individual in the organization should be superior customer experience and service, not remaining top dog within your four walls.

Becca suggests that, to do right by your customers, you stay focused on them. Pay attention to your segments and make it about their journey. When sales and marketing can unite in service of a common purpose, you’re all the more likely to see success.