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Build Trust and Revenue: How to Collaborate With Sales

Build Trust and Revenue: How to Collaborate With Sales

Since the launch of The Radical Sales Shift, we’ve been publishing the twenty lessons on the Mezzanine Blog. The lesson in this post is Lesson Twelve: Success Starts At The Top.


There’s a growing argument that the sales and marketing functions in B2B companies will disappear as separate entities and evolve into a “revenue generation” team with roles that correspond to the new buyer behaviour and purchase process. I believe we’ll see that occur in more B2B companies over the next five years. The process has begun in some companies who have chief revenue officers.

Today, though, most companies are still accustomed to the concept of a sales team and a marketing team. And there are ways to ensure these two teams work together well to achieve successful revenue generation. The most important element is that a good working relationship between the sales function and the marketing function starts at the top. It starts when the leader of marketing and the leader of sales – if they are different people – make conscious efforts to work in an integrated way. It starts with the attitude that revenue generation is the shared goal of sales and marketing.

Smart sales leaders tend to know that a great marketing leader will make their job easier. They know that with good marketing, the sales team will have qualified leads to pursue and they’ll need to do less of the tough work to generate leads. They also know that a revenue-focused marketing leader will take some of the pressure off the leader of sales, because the heads of the two functions will share the responsibility.

Here are four ways B2B marketing leaders establish good working relationships with sales leaders:

1. Understand the Sales Leader’s Mindset

When Andrew Jenkins, one of the twenty leaders interviewed for The Radical Sales Shift, begins work with a new organization, his goal is to build an effective working relationship with the sales leader from day one. To achieve this, he holds meetings, preferably informal ones, before he does anything else. As he says,

“What the org chart tells you and what actual people tell you are two entirely different things. I find a relaxed conversation over coffee yields incredibly powerful insight on what matters to each individual and how they think. That helps me identify how to create an effective working relationship.”

He then:

  • Outlines his framework and approach to marketing
  • Explains what he expects to accomplish in his role
  • Presents what he expects to deliver for the sales leader
  • Suggests how they work together to achieve the company’s revenue goals

This gives comfort and confidence to sales leaders because it demonstrates to them that his focus is on delivering revenue results and that he will hold himself accountable for them.

Many of the marketing leaders spoke of a similar approach in which they build relationships and share their direction in order to gain confidence among their peers.


2. Create Shared Definitions

One of their first objectives in working together at TAB, a 700-employee, privately held records management company, Ross Nepean, currently TAB’s VP of global marketing,   and Janet Campbell, VP of sales at TAB Products of Canada, define a qualified lead and continue to evolve it as they gained experience. Earlier in his career, Ross had seen situations where leads had been accepted by the sales team, but were not in fact qualified. That led to the sales team blaming marketing for not understanding and focusing on the right goal revenue generation. In fact, it had been an issue of poor collaboration between the sales and marketing teams. Ross learned that having clarity on the definition of a qualified lead was the key to success.

The definition of a qualified lead is one of the most important topics that sales and marketing leaders can work on together. It’s amazing how much of difference there can be in the perspectives. Joanne Gore humorously described what happens if the sales and marketing leaders don’t work together on a valid definition,

“The marketing team will define a lead as a heartbeat, while the sales team defines it as a done deal.” With such varied interpretations, nothing less than frequent, honest discussion between the heads of sales and marketing will resolve it.

In summary:          

  • Start with a definition of a qualified lean and evolve it overtime
  • Having clear definitions is a key to success
  • This reduces the number of misunderstandings that can arise from varied interpretations
  • Sales and marketing team members will have focus and know what is required of them

3. Try Things Out

Vice president of marketing at BlueCat Networks, Nikki Gore’s advice for making a collaborative environment between sales and marketing is to be responsive and open whenever the sales organization brings ideas to the marketing team, especially in the early stages of the relationship.

“If sales people come to you with an idea that you think won’t ultimately work, but it’s feasible from a financial perspective, try it anyway. The sales team will be more open to working with you in future and if it works, great. Even if it doesn’t, it’s the opportunity to collaborate on something and will make the sales people more open to your opinion in the future.” 

4. Be the Head of Sales and Marketing

What about when the head of sales and the head of marketing are the same person, as is the case for anyone who carries the title of VP of sales and marketing (or a variation of it)? In my experience, that is a powerhouse role for revenue generation when the individual has a strong background in marketing and appreciates the role that marketing can fulfill in the age of the New Buyer. Often though, because of the traditional sales dominance within B2B companies, there are sales leaders who’ve been given the title of marketing in addition to their sales title, but in fact they have limited experience and interest in the function. If they have a vision for the impact that strategic marketing can have on the company’s revenue generation efforts and can find a good marketer to work with, they’ll be successful. If not, it doesn’t tend to deliver incremental results for the company.