Karen Woodhead, Director of Marketing at Huthwaite International
We all know that digitisation has transformed the business landscape. Customers have more power and higher expectations than ever before, and if you’ve been following our Sales and Marketing blog series you may already be pondering the value of a more interconnected sales and marketing team to meet today’s challenges.
An alignment, where both teams are collaborating as true partners, is easier said than done however.
Our research with YouGov revealed 92% of business decision makers recognise that it’s important for sales and marketing to work together. If achieving alignment were as easy as simply telling these teams to work together better, it wouldn’t be the case that the majority of business leaders (64%) believe they could be more aligned.
It’s not enough to believe that these teams should be partners. Businesses need to create a culture conducive to a genuine partnership and actively promote this throughout the organisation.
And how do you do that? Here are our key steps to creating a real sales and marketing partnership:
Get physically close
The story goes that when Steve Jobs was in charge at Pixar he made sure there was only one restroom and that it was located in the middle of the office. His rationale was that this would encourage people with completely different skill sets to pass each other on a daily basis, so the IT team would cross paths with the graphic designers, and so on.
While extreme, the underlying truth of this is that the best ideas don’t occur in a vacuum, they are born when people talk and collaborate, and a closer physical proximity can greatly facilitate this.
Businesses should carefully consider the lay out of their workplaces and ensure sales and marketing are located closer together so that they can share information and support each other’s work through their complementary skills and insights.
Our research found that a lack of understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities was a key barrier to greater alignment between the teams. This closer physical proximity will help them to see, hear and therefore learn from the day to day activities of each other.
Establish one team
Sales and marketing working together as a single team is another idea. By sales and marketing ridding themselves of the ‘them and us’ mentality and behaving as two sides of the same coin, alignment would naturally occur. For example, business planning, meetings and project groups never taking place without a mix of these two valuable skill sets at the table.
It’s a radical thought but then we’re living in radical times. It’s not the sort of thing though that many businesses will consider implementing overnight. A longstanding divide between the teams and the natural caution of large businesses in particular will guard against any sudden restructures.
However, given the fast-changing business landscape, even the largest corporates understand the power of agility and those that are prepared to take bold decisions early could turbocharge their collaboration and secure an important first-mover advantage.
Mind your language
Getting teams talking to each other is an important first step, but it only delivers value if they’re speaking the same language.
At Huthwaite, when we train sales and marketing teams in SPIN®, a valuable outcome is the common language established between the teams. Another is to place the goal of customer persuasion centre stage alongside the tools needed to achieve this.
Building good team behaviours
Another value of training sales and marketing teams together is that it provides Huthwaite’s behavioural experts with the opportunity to assess the dynamics that exist between the two.
Behaviours play a crucial role in determining the success of the relationship. Too much proactivity and idea sharing at the expense of listening and validating will add to any pre-existing competitive vibes. Too much validating and too few ideas will slow progress. It’s a balance. Through our decades of research we know the behaviours needed to help ensure the success of any interface. They are behaviours which, once learned, professionals can execute to varying degrees to help ensure the outcome they want from every situation. Reviewing current behaviours and then aligning both teams to a more appropriate set of behaviours is a hugely beneficial first step to a closer and more productive partnership.
Once businesses have created an ideal environment for sales and marketing to collaborate, this new way of working still needs to be actively encouraged and promoted.
Businesses should regularly check in with the teams to see how the collaboration is going and gain feedback on how it could be enhanced. Ideally, the business should take responsibility for driving the one-team concept. Equally importantly, examples of successes driven by new levels of collaboration should be communicated and celebrated throughout the organisation.
Ending a longstanding rivalry between sales and marketing requires a proactive, ongoing drive across the business and continued support for the challenges change brings with it.
But for real progress to be made in this area business leaders must truly believe sales and marketing teams are only effective partners when you can’t see the join. And when they do, Huthwaite are ready to help.
For more insights and research into the changing sales and marketing relationship follow #gococreate on Twitter.