Thinking B2B: Mediating between sales & marketing
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) One of the most-common issues I see in B2B organisations worldwide is the strained relationship between the B2B sales and B2B marketing teams. This divide is a major problem and, the wider the gap, the more chaos there is within the organisation — and it’s ultimately completely counter-productive and unnecessary.
As marketers, we tend to look at the problem from a marketing perspective, thinking about what’s ‘wrong’ with the sales teams and looking at how those issues may be addressed to bring them in line with our thinking. We seldom take into account how sales teams see marketing. That means we’re trying to fix what we think the problems are without taking the time to understand them from both sides.
When I consult with marketing teams, the typical complaints about sales teams centre on a perceived lack of respect, the discounting of the strategic value that marketing brings to the organisation and the idea that the sales team only approaches marketing for help when it’s time to create something (eg run an event or produce branded merchandise). With this disconnect in mind, I’ve started to talk more to the sales teams about their perspectives, and have uncovered a few interesting things worth considering.
First, much frustration comes from the time that it takes marketing teams to deliver on sales requests. The sales team rely on the marketers to produce many things, sales collateral being an example — the things that help them sell and solve customer pain points on the purchase journey. The longer it takes to develop and deliver these, the higher the chance that they’ll lose the sales opportunity. It’s common for a sales team to request collateral for a big presentation and then not receive it in time. Aside from the frustration of the missed deadline, this also increases the perception that marketing adds no real value. The sales team also then often take matters into their own hands and create their own decks and collateral, driving the wedge between the two sides deeper.
The solution to this is simple — but it’s still one that eludes most organisations. There needs to be stronger communication regarding priorities, and the negotiation of realistic deadlines which need to be adhered to.
The feeling from the sales side is that the marketers are largely arrogant and ignorant of the nuances of the sales space. The feeling from the other side is often largely the same! This is unhealthy and not conducive to doing good business. The answer lies in a more-inclusive relationship: not only should the sales and marketing teams work on getting more face-time but marketers also need to attend pitches and sales training to help them understand what the sales team need at the coal face of the organisation. Direct and honest communication is the quickest way to resolve the issue.
When B2B sales teams feel that marketers don’t add value to the process, that’s largely the fault of the marketers themselves. When sales comes to marketing and asks for something to support it, the response is usually “sure thing”. Even though we’re really good at engaging with agencies and doing research, we act largely as service providers; there’s no interrogation of the requirements or collaboration on its development. It’s not about pushing back — it’s about being proactive in finding solutions and demonstrating the strategic value marketing teams can add by truly engaging with the requirements.
Only when we get this right — and there needs to be a willingness from both sides — will a B2B business see truly exponential growth in its results.
Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He has been chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.