4 ways to make business and marketing relationships last
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As marketers, we see the phrase “marketing and sales alignment” often enough to roll our eyes in unison. But of course, it keeps coming up for a reason: something just isn’t working.
2022 marks my 23rd year of marriage, as well as 23 years leading marketing teams that work in tandem with sales. Either way, I endured a long enough tenure to have the wisdom of an adult of legal drinking age, so I gained insight into the eerily similar ways to keep these critical relationships healthy and long-lasting.
1. Work on your vows together
I won’t name names, but one of us in my marriage spent hours crafting a Rumi-esque trope celebrating our love and describing our forever love. The other searched “wedding vows” on the Internet and did a copy/paste.
Wedding vows are the first formal documentation of shared goals and alignment, much like quarterly and annual revenue plans that dictate programs and results. Surprises at the altar (or board meeting) can enhance dramatic flair, but drama is rarely the key to hitting yearly numbers or forging lasting happiness.
Marketers should start their quarterly plans by working from sales targets, moving from required opportunities to upper funnel activities. A thorough analysis of the current pipeline helps marketing teams know whether to allocate budget to closing opportunities or driving an acquisition.
Similarly, sales teams should consider the marketing roadmap and programs when deciding on quota categories beyond direct bookings or when setting up Spiffs (commission calculation)…
Marketing confidence in driving additional demand should be the basis for setting annual goals. It’s not just about how many reps you can afford, but also how many opportunities you see in the market.
2. Line up on the big stuff, then choose your battles
Before I got married, we had long conversations about known issues in ending marriages – religion, children, money. What we haven’t talked about is the furniture in the living room. So imagine my surprise when, while shopping for furniture with my new wife, he started turning to chocolate brown, heavy leather, and brass-studded recliners. How could he not know we were destined for an L-shaped L-shaped section of white marshmallow puffs?
Finally, I got my couch. He did, however, have his choice of car.
Sales leaders are sometimes suspicious when I acquiesce in things like funnel stage definitions and methodologies (AQL, MQL, SQL, SAL, etc.), or even who sales development reps of the team must report. I will often ask, “What do you prefer?” I am flexible on these things.
There is no manual for which decisions should be made by sales and which by marketing. Ultimately, what matters to me is that the funnel and pipeline stages provide a clear and consistent ability to measure success and forecast opportunities and revenue. As long as we get there, I’m not going to quibble.
The methodologies and metrics you swore at in a previous post or that were touted by an industry influencer you follow are far less important than the harmony of the relationship between the marketing and sales teams.
3. Learn that roses — and some tech tools — can be meaningless and expensive
Nothing seems more meaningless than the standard Valentine’s Day red roses that fade with high holiday prices. I don’t even really like red roses and am adamantly against price gouging. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a little attention once in a while. One of my husband’s most romantic gestures was recreating my wedding bouquet on an anniversary. It was unique, it had a special meaning and it was filled with flowers that I love.
Unfortunately, sales and marketing teams often adopt tools and technologies with about as much thought as in the case of the Walgreens customer on February 14 at 6 p.m., opting for a sample of waxy chocolate. Just as overpriced roses don’t make a happy marriage, investing in an expensive tech stack doesn’t automatically guarantee alignment.
Buying software licenses is not in itself a magic pill. Too many people rely on out-of-the-box functionality, methodology, and reports; but to successfully harness the power of such expensive platforms, it takes an adoption path as unique as your business.
I lost track of how many times I exported out-of-the-box reports to Excel files for the exact purpose required to align with a specific business. And while martech and business technology, like romance, is paramount to a successful relationship, it should be approached with thought and consideration for the specific nuances of your business.
4. Honeymoons are over, so plan for the worst and do your best
Slums, shitty marketing campaigns (who, me?), a worthy competitor out of nowhere, COVID… Any relationship is much more about day-to-day reality than idealism. And just as the test of a marriage is more about “for worse” than “for better,” the alignment of sales and marketing proves itself through trials and tribulations.
The good news is that tough times can bring you closer together. In 23 years my husband and I have certainly seen our fair share. We’ve learned that when you’re facing a tough uphill streak, you need to focus on your partner.
Divert your attention from the magnificent advertising campaign that the team is so enthusiastic about. Instead, think about programs to run that could help sales close the pipeline against a tough competitor. If your sales team took a beating for a quarter, rally the marketing team to host a sales kick-off on the topic of “comeback”. In a recession, pull up your pants, dust off the 4Ps of your marketing manual, and revise pricing, packages, and promotions.
And in this new dispersed reality, separated at home, devoid of ad hoc swivel chair conversations and joint customer visits, you have to go the extra mile (beyond Slack messages) to connect with each other through the understanding and empathy. For me, when I just can’t take another Zoom call, the sales counterparts are happy to connect over the phone while taking a refreshing walk.
Bonus: be happy forever
The gestures in this article say, “I’ve got your back, no matter what,” and they can take the trust in a relationship to new heights. As a marketer working with sales and as one half of a married couple, the same fundamental human traits – alignment, empathy, compromise, appreciation, connection – are the keys to lasting, loving and successful happiness for still.
More resources on the commercial relationship and marketing
How to improve the relationship between marketing and sales teams
Can’t we all get along? Why Sales and Marketing Need to Work Together
The B2B marketing and sales relationship in the era of ABM [Infographic]