Have you ever wondered what irritates your sales team about marketing? What hinders your relationship, or how to fix it? Molly Raycraft asked the industry.
At B2B Marketing we hear time and time again about the frustrations that sales teams cause marketers; whether it be the expectations on a high workload with a short turnaround, or the belief that marketing’s sole purpose is to create branded merchandise. But what about the other side of the coin? What do sales find annoying about marketing that they keep behind closed doors? We asked the industry. Brace yourself for some honest feedback.
1. Marketing take forever to complete things
Some sales teams get frustrated when collateral needed for crucial touch points in the buyer journey aren’t completed on time – or at all. This delays the sales process and affects the amount of revenue sales bring in. Ultimately it’s the sales person’s neck that’s on the line – not marketing’s.
“It’s annoying when you ask marketing for something crucial for your pitch, and months later you’re still waiting for it. If this directly impacts getting revenue through the door, it begs the question of what marketing spends their time on,” says one sales professional.
“I’ve resorted to creating my own marketing to get things done in time, but this obviously encourages the marketing team to become even more remote from what the business is actually focusing on,” they explain.
The predominant cause of this kind of delay is that the marketing team is usually smaller than the sales team. This makes servicing individual needs difficult. But there are measures that can be put in place to elevate this.
How to resolve this:
- Explain your priorities. This gives more understanding as to why you’re unable to deliver something, rather than creating animosity by just saying no.
- Create customisable templates. This means sales will be able to access marketing assets quickly and tailor them to their needs.
- Be honest. If you really can’t deliver something in time, be truthful and make this known as soon as possible. This means that if a sales person is truly relying on the asset they still have time to create it without impacting their timeline.
2. Marketing are arrogant and don’t respect sales
You may feel sales don’t appreciate marketing, but guess what – some sales teams feel marketing doesn’t respect them. This leads to a volatile relationship and evokes one-upmanship that just isn’t conducive to business success.
Tim Gibbon, director at Elemental says he’s heard sales professionals complain that marketing are arrogant, particularly when they claim to know more about the customer and product than the other party.
“I get the impression many sales professionals think marketers are slick young things who sit around all day and try to think of ‘cool’ ideas,” says Tim. “There needs to be a greater appreciation of skillsets and value on both sides.”
These feelings usually stem from a lack of communication and a lack of understanding as to what each other are contributing. Once these negative feelings are within a culture, they can be difficult to eradicate and can be debilitating on both sides. “It creates an ‘us and them’ culture,” explains Tim. “This is obviously a drain on resources and will be destructive both on the short and long-term.”
How to resolve this:
as much as possible. This limits mistranslation. What’s said in person could be interpreted in a completely different tone to what’s said over email.
- Attend sales pitches and training. This will show sales that you appreciate their role in the customer journey and improves your understanding.
- Meet in a neutral environment. If things are volatile, meet sales outside the office, where people feel more relaxed and no one feels territorial.
- Encourage a clear and open dialogue. Break down siloes by encouraging things to be shared – whether that be successes or challenges. After all, two heads are better than one.
3. Marketing don’t add value to the sales process
Some sales teams don’t see marketing as providing any strategic value to the sales process. It’s this view that has created the label of marketing being the ‘colouring-in department’.
Russ Powell, head of marketing at Inervate, says he’s heard the phrase “sprinkle some marketing magic on this” far too many times during his career.“That is largely the fault of marketers who haven’t effectively demonstrated what real value marketing can have on a business and its sales function,” he says. Many sales people think marketing doesn’t operate in the real world. That at best, it’s just a support function for them, and at worst something that can be ignored in full,’ he explains.
The sales team’s primary focus is on hitting revenue numbers, so you need to demonstrate what marketing is doing to contribute to the bottom-line, whether that be for the short or long-term.
“If you can’t do that you’re setting yourself up to be seen as merely a cost-centre for the business, rather than a shrewd investment,” he says.
How to resolve this:
- Talk the language of the sales teams. Sales care about the numbers that relate to pipeline value and revenue. Explain how your marketing metrics directly impact these areas of focus.
- Say “no”. Push back if you’re being asked to do things that don’t add value to the business. If you don’t, you’re at risk of de-valuing marketing and becoming the permanent go-to for those branded golf balls.
- Start saying “Yes AND…”. If sales ask you to do something that does add value say yes, but add to that. Perhaps suggest the most suitable approach for the task, or propose an addition that would make the idea even better. This vocalises marketing’s value.
4. Marketing don’t seek sales’ input
Collaborating with sales
might not be something you enjoy, but it’s necessary. Sales teams find it frustrating when marketing work in siloes and don’t consult them. Lauren Bigland, VP brand strategy and communications at S4M says involving sales in marketing projects is crucial. “They’re the ones speaking to clients every single day, so incorporating their feedback into your work will improve the quality of your marketing.”
She says it’s important to see sales and marketing as one team, and don’t take sales’ criticism to heart. However, Lauren acknowledges this can be difficult. “The most challenging sales relationship I’ve had was where everything was critiqued, sent back, and amended over and over,” she says. “At the time it felt incredibly frustrating but ultimately it meant the work we sweated over was effective and actually used effectively by the sales team.”
How to resolve this:
- Don’t take criticism personally. Use feedback and data to improve.
Have regular meetings.
This should be an opportunity for sales and marketing to ensure approaches are aligned and relevant.
- Sit near the sales team. Aside from meetings, being in the same vicinity as sales enables team members to bond and promotes the idea of being ‘one team’.
5. Marketing don’t show they understand the customer
Sales are on the frontline with customers and some don’t feel their marketing counterparts know as much about them as they do. This causes a disconnect between what marketing delivers and what sales feel they need.
“How many marketers actually talk to customers to understand their world, their wants, needs and desires?” asks Paul Mackender, chief revenue officer at Agent 3. He says marketers need to get under the skin of customer and prospect needs. “Be customer-centric,” he summarised.
“I knew a marketing director who was so fed up with his team sitting at the back of the room taking notes that he set them the objective of bringing one piece of key customer insight the sales team didn’t already know to each sales meeting,” says Paul.
How to resolve this:
- Accompany sales on client meetings. Marketers can put this insight at the heart of their campaigns to ensure ultimate alignment and relevance.
- Do your research. Build a strong foundation of knowledge around customers, personas, sales strategies and the market. This will give you a stronger leg to stand on during sales meetings.
What our resident expert says…
Andy Bacon, consultant at B2B Marketing has worked with multiple brands to align sales and marketing teams in preparation for
. He says:
“Like many marriages, a happy and rewarding relationship between sales and marketing relies on good communication, empathy and trust. Where the relationship has broken down it will largely be due to misunderstandings, which could have very easily been avoided.
Fundamentally, marketing will state that sales do not understand or recognise the value they deliver, while sales believe marketing do not understand customers’ or their own challenges. Most behaviour is a product of this ‘void of understanding’.
Given that sales don’t believe they really need marketing, yet marketing can be so much more effective with a collaborative relationship with sales, marketing needs to break the deadlock and build trust.
Marketing are usually on the back foot because they’re frequently too far from the sales process and have no direct contact with customers. This is where to start.
Marketing execs should shadow the sales team as a part of their induction, and ideally attend customer visits/ and join teleconference calls (initially as an observer) so they can witness the sales process firsthand. If they contribute to the meeting it should only be to ask questions. In a short time sales will warm and the relationship will build, based on mutual respect. Marketing should seek to extract maximum value by discussing the experience after the meeting(s) and validating their impressions. Sales will be confident that marketing really do understand the customer and this will bring long term value as marketing will be directly influenced by first-hand experience ‘in the trenches’.
Having a number of allies in sales also makes a huge difference. By having a trusted sounding board, marketing can validate their thinking for future activity and gain buy-in. Sales feel they have influences and will feel part of the programme.”