What are the biggest challenges in working together?
There are a few challenges.
On the one hand, there are human factors, the different personalities, which are also hired according to these characteristics. Marketing people are often more creative and analytical. They look at the data and optimize it. They look at the portfolio: How is the branding? What personas should be behind it? They invest much time to make sure the overall brand picture is correct. Salespeople are usually more communicative, more pragmatic, and approach people proactively. Sometimes you get situations where Marketing says, “Hey, Sales, you guys just need to sell this.” Sales comes from a different perspective. They say, “Meh…, that’s a lot of theory, but we know our customers and their needs. We have our own goals, and everything that’s going on around here isn’t that important to us.” And so they pick up the phone and call off their leads.
It has become a tradition to directly attribute a corresponding need for change to people whenever there is a push for change.
This need for development has to do with the fact that the cause of conditions in companies is often attributed to people’s character traits and abilities. This logically results in the change lever “MindSet”.
Apart from the unproductive attempts at change by working on people, the significantly greater lever for change is the system, not the manager or the people themselves.
The leadership system is the context in which the leader and their colleagues act. It consists of organizational and operational structures, management tools, and policies.
Yes, some of these people indeed produce these structures. But that doesn’t mean that people have to change. They have to LEARN something.
So, better: we look at the framework and the context.
Where in the system are the levers?
Roughly speaking, there are three essentials: the lack of synchronization in the timing of actions, the different incentives, and the undefined communication channels.
- Lack of synchronization: While Sales is forced to think in the short term (mostly in quarters), as they are often evaluated based on incentivization, Marketing looks at the portfolio and the Brand Strategy. So the latter have different time horizons: short, medium, and long term, and these time horizons are also very different from Brand to Brand, from B2B to B2C to D2C.
- Different incentivization: sales looks at revenue. What are the annual plans, and to what extent are they broken down to quarters? On that, they get commissions. Marketing gets campaign targets, for example, in very different time frames.
- Communication between each other: Marketing, for example, likes to write a 50-page PowerPoint brand strategy and push it over, which, unfortunately, people need to read through. Which is the channel on which Sales processes information? (PowerPoint certainly isn’t).
In short, both sides must learn to listen better, learn from each other and recognize the value of the information for their work.
So both sides “just” have to talk to each other.
If people are busy and already have many meetings, then it must be ensured that communication is valuable for both sides rather than simply setting an appointment. The communication needs to be well facilitated and prepared, then it is a win-win communication where both sides discover how they can benefit from each other and how it doesn’t work. In many companies, the two departments are fairly separate silos.
It’s about creating relevant communication for both sides.
Problems everywhere but what is the solution?
The solution is therefore based on the common interest that BOTH have in achieving their goals. What does it take? It sounds trivial now, but first of all: the same goals. It’s not uncommon for the umbrella campaign to have a different theme than the white papers on which performance marketing has its goals. That creaks because Performance doesn’t want to free up its budget for a topic on which individuals don’t get commissions on leads they win via an incentivized whitepaper topic.
Speaking of budget: here you may also ask yourself why not both draw from one budget “pot”, because then there is also exactly one place where the objectives converge.
If both sides have a common goal, “talking to each other” suddenly has relevance, and both sides realize what they get out of it when they come to an overarching meeting. Both start to benefit from each other. Marketing discovers the knowledge of their sales colleagues from their proximity to the customer: what are the questions that prospects or users ask? What is driving them? What problems do they need to solve? And Sales realizes that a call without prior lead nurturing can also scare away prospects.
Common goals, what can that look like?
If a company is organized hierarchically, then there is one place where everything comes together: sales and marketing managers, who also form a team, namely a management team. Here, you can first take stock: What is there? This needs to be made transparent. And even if not everyone always gets the same goals and commissions cannot be abolished immediately (there are contracts, after all), there should be agreement on the “big” goals and, above all, conflicts of goals (such as the one described above) should be abolished or at least better balanced.
When looking at the corporate strategy, it becomes clear what is best for the entire company and objectives are generated on this basis, which are broken down into the areas.
It is not enough to simply write some numbers behind the goals but to work out how the team members can achieve them. Ideally, employees are no longer incentivized but motivated on their own accord because they recognize that they are part of the value creation and participate in the success.
It is clear that this requires real work and also workshops, but at the end of the day it is work well invested, because it also shows how the knowledge transfer between the individual areas and departments can succeed and the results improve.
Eliminating silos sometimes also requires restructuring
Who wouldn’t want to do away with silos? In an optimal world, there are customer missions within the organization around an end-to-end responsibility. These are teams around a customer problem or around a product (this varies greatly from company to company), but in the ideal case, a cross-functional team sits at one table. They start talking even without an appointment, as is the case when people are in the same room. And exchanging ideas is much more satisfying than having a 50-page PowerPoint dumped over the fence.
In principle, the organization is then cut in such a way that people exchange information and support each other directly across functions.
The only thing is that this reorganization requires restructuring, which should be done with caution.
Before touching the organizational structure, it should first be examined whether the problem can also be solved via common goals, as described above. Or via another vehicle without having to restructure right away, so first: analysis, analysis, analysis.
Within this analysis, it makes sense to do a cultural pattern analysis to see what makes this organization tick. What beliefs are there? In this way, it is possible to anticipate resistance. This is a good step forward, even if it is an intervention that should not be underestimated and can already trigger change.
And if it turns out that restructuring is unavoidable, it makes sense to test it first, within a protective space.
What is a shelter?
In a nutshell: A representative mapping of the overall organization. In other words, a cross-functional team.
(In smaller organizations, by the way, this can be solved by a part-time staff). This team also gets a separate part of the database and budget. You go in with a hypothesis, leaning on the identified problem. The problem might be “Our leads aren’t converting to sales.” Then the hypothesis is “Sales closures increase when leads have gone through a content route (lead nurturing) beforehand.”
The good thing: the results that come out of such a shelter are (optimally) better, and thus, you already have the “proof of concept”. Then when you catch up with the rest of the organization, you can already say “hey, this is how it works better and this is how you will do better on your work”.
That’s a great motivator to really push for restructuring. However, a shelter project also requires time, capacity, and attention.
It is of great importance that marketing and sales are fully interlinked within a company. Therefore, it is important to design the framework to create a culture of cooperation. If you turn the two areas into a cooperative team, the results can far exceed all expectations. Through the right strategy, companies can cause marketers and salespeople to reach their full potential together. This blog post was just the first step. Now it’s up to you to take the next.