A key part of sales and marketing alignment is building strong communication between the two groups. At HubSpot, we have built Smarketing (a term that I think was coined by Dan Tyre over two years ago) which is a partnership between sales and marketing that uses a number of different techniques to align sales and marketing better. One of the most fundamental parts of this relationship is communication. We have found that having strong communication between sales and marketing helps in many ways to make both marketing and sales more effective. Based on our experience over the past 4 years, below is a list of tips for improving communication between sales and marketing.
All of these sales and marketing communication tips are only one part of building better sales and marketing alignment. In fact we have a free sales and marketing alignment webinar if you want to learn even more about how we have built a partnership between sales and marketing.
1. Have Sales and Marketing Meet Frequently
While there is a growing culture at startups to eliminate meetings, we have found that frequent meetings between sales and marketing help keep the lines of communication open. We have a Smarketing meeting every single week that includes the entire sales and marketing team. We review the activity for the week for both teams, update the sales team on what marketing is doing, and vice versa. Today this meeting is mostly about sharing information – with over 70 people it is no longer a great way to get feedback or discuss something – but in the earlier days of HubSpot it was smaller, more informal and we would discuss things and provide feedback both ways. The meeting takes 30-60 minutes, and both sales and marketing people present, as well as some other groups within the company.
In addition to the weekly Smarketing meeting, a subset of each team (about 10 people total) meets monthly to review our results in depth and talk about future plans for improvement. This is where we have more of a discussion, and we hold each other accountable for our portion of the partnership. This meeting started later at HubSpot, once the weekly meeting got too big to use it for discussion.
On top of these two standing meetings, there are of course impromptu meetings on different topics, and because of the culture we have built, sales and marketing are usually both represented in those meetings together. So marketing won’t get together to talk about leads without getting input from sales and sales won’t start a new sales effort without including marketing. Sounds like Smarketing to me!
2. Build Multiple Relationships Between Sales and Marketing
At other companies the primary relationship between the two teams might be between the VP Marketing and the VP Sales. This is a mistake. Mark Roberge and I try to build strong relationships at multiple levels of our team to make the two teams functions more like one team. You want sales managers talking to marketing managers, you want everyone in marketing talking to individual sales reps. The idea is that rather than every problem bubbling up to the VP of Sales and then having a conversation with the VP Marketing and then it flows downhill, solve the problems at their source by empowering everyone on the team and building relationships at all levels in the team. Today at HubSpot, Mark and I only have to get involved in a small number of issues.
3. Mix Marketing and Sales Desks Together
At most companies the majority of communication and relationship-building is informal, so it surprises me when the marketing and sales teams sit in different parts of the office. Some companies might put sales and marketing near each other, but it is still one big group of salespeople and one big group of marketers that happen to sit near each other.
What companies should do is mix sales and marketing together. Every marketer should sit next to a sales person and vice versa. The benefit to marketing is that they get to see firsthand what salespeople do, and if the marketing activities they are working on help sales or not. The advantage for sales is they have a marketing person to whom they can ask questions about the leads they are getting and the different marketing programs created. This is also a benefit for marketing, because when salespeople better understand the leads they are getting, they can go after them more effectively, which makes them both more productive and happier.
At HubSpot we actually take this office arrangement a step further, and all of our implementation and support consultants also sit among sales and marketing, so we have sales, marketing and post-sales all together, helping to build even more cross functional communication. Using humans natural tendency to be social in order to build better marketing and sales communication works great.
4. Provide Many Types of Feedback Between Marketing and Sales
We ask each sales person to rate their leads in our CRM system. We send out periodic surveys to the sales team to give feedback on leads and the sales tools marketing provides. We have 1-1 conversations with many sales reps to get their feedback on marketing in person. We ask sales managers to get 1-1 feedback from their teams and then provide that feedback to marketing.
Marketing people go on demos and provide feedback to the sales team on how they are doing. We monitor the stats of each sales rep on their success with following up on leads and show them if they are not doing as well as the rest of the team.
The goal of all this activity is to make everyone in marketing and sales feel empowered to offer feedback, and that the feedback is actually used to make decisions and improve things. While everyone in sales or marketing does not always agree with all the decisions they make, I think they would all say that they are part of the team and that both sales and marketing listen to each other and when we make decisions, their voices are heard. This level of feedback and trust is key to successful marketing and sales communication.
5. Agree on Terminology
Communication requires the two parties to use a similar language and vocabulary. One of the things that we did at a very early level (only a few employees in the company) was to decide what a “lead” was and what an “opportunity” was, wrote down those definitions, and then built them into our reports and culture. If you don’t have agreement on what a “lead” is, you will constantly have the problem of sales complaining that the leads are bad and marketing complaining that sales is lazy and not working the leads effectively.
Our definitions of “leads” and our sales and marketing process have changed a lot over time, but at all times we had firm definitions and had a sales and marketing SLA that defined exactly what each group’s responsibilities and goals were. (In fact, there was one period of two months where one of our definitions got a little hazy, and those were some of the rockiest months in terms of communication between sales and marketing.)
6. Use Data to Communicate
Finally, all of this communication between sales and marketing is built off of the principle that data never lies. Salespeople are not allowed to say “the leads suck” without data showing that the conversion rate has dropped or a key demographic factor has waned recently. Marketing isn’t allowed to say “sales are lazy” without data to show that they are only following up on each lead only one time.
This does not mean that informal qualitative feedback is not useful in sales and marketing. But it does mean that if there is a way to use data to verify your feelings, you should use the data.
At all of our meetings, we use data to understand the current state of sales and marketing, we have daily reports that show exactly the progress of both sales and marketing each day, and we generally don’t answer questions with “it feels like”. Data is a wonderful tool to help remove the emotion from conversations, and to focus your teams on the real problems.
Do you do anything similar at your company? Are there other sales and marketing communication techniques that you have found to be effective? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Originally published Sep 9, 2010 8:40:00 AM, updated January 22 2020