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Why Sales and Marketing Hate Each Other and How to Fix it For Revenue Growth

9 min read

A few weeks ago, instead of rising and sitting down at my desk to grind away on work for hours, I traded my office for the white sands of the Florida panhandle. As I reclined in my chair, which you have to rent and has become this weird gig economy along the 30A, I cracked open a nice cold hazy IPA—which was inside a koozie because if you’ve ever had to drink a cold beer in the summer in the South you realize the brilliant design behind this seemingly basic and useless tchotchke. Sure it was about 10 am but a crisp beer on a beach is pretty sublime. I’d argue it’s a natural combo. It just goes really well together and feels effortless.

You know what doesn’t? Sales and Marketing. I mean it should. But oftentimes it feels about as synergistic as the drink consisting of Jägermeister and Goldschläger I once imbibed at this kitschy club called Polly Esther’s in NYC when I lived there in my early 20s. It was as disgusting as it sounds. Just terrible. That bartender should’ve been fired for even serving it but then again I must have ordered it because that’s the dumb stuff you do at that age.

Anyway, we all kind of chuckle at the idea of Sales and Marketing hating each other. It’s an age-old feud entrenched in the business culture. Here are the cliff notes:

Sales: “We need more leads!”

Marketing: “Look at all these leads we generated for you!”

Sales: “These leads suck.”

Marketing: “You suck.”

Sales: “No, you suck.”

And while it often creates friction and makes working generally unpleasant, it has real tangible—and negative—impacts on your business. Consider the following startling statistics:

While the Sales team is credited with prospect conversions and therefore revenue, the truth is Marketing’s role in developing and nurturing the pipeline is expanding. Yet seemingly so is the gap in alignment between these key departments. The problem with that is the sum of your Sales and Marketing efforts is your company’s revenue growth engine. If that’s not firing on all cylinders, you’re not seeing the business performance you should.

Marketing is often seen as a supportive function for Sales. However, if Marketing is done right, it can easily serve as a business driver. They’re of equal importance. I like to think of Marketing as the sowing before the Sales harvest. The best outcome for a life sciences company is when Sales and Marketing work in tandem and are completely aligned with each other.

So why can’t we all get along? Sales and Marketing both have shared objectives in the pursuit of revenue: creating an unfair competitive advantage and increasing perceived value. Without these, the company’s offering becomes a “me too” or “nice to have” product at best and you’re forced to compete on features and price, decreasing win rates and profit margins.

Here are five things you need to do to fix your Sales and Marketing dysfunction and in turn your revenue growth engine.

1. Issue an Executive Order

We’ve already established that misaligned Sales and Marketing teams are damaging to your bottom line. But if you think the kids are going to play nicely on their own, you’re dreaming. For there to be a fighting chance for peace and more importantly a robust revenue engine, the mandate must come from the top.

The dysfunctional union of Sales and Marketing harkens back images of the opening mediation scene of Wedding Crashers when Rebecca DeMornay shouts "You shut your mouth when you're talking to me!" to Dwight Yoakam. Most divorces require a mediator for a reason. In the corporate world, the CEO often needs to take on that role but with the aim to reunite. Instead of trying to facilitate an acceptable uncoupling, the CEO needs to make it crystal clear that alignment is non-negotiable and a priority. With executive sponsorship, the teams are more likely to push through the initial challenges (and awkwardness) to authentically engage in designing a better process to achieve shared goals. If not, then it may be time to rethink your Sales and Marketing leadership.

2. Agree Who Your Ideal Customer Is

I’m not usually a betting woman (you can read why), but I guarantee you’ve got a segment of customers that are dead weight. Perhaps they tried you a few times, but they’re not committed to you and contribute very little if any revenue. On the other end of the spectrum, you likely have a segment of loyalists that equate to predictable and meaningful revenue. It’s easy for companies to get comfortable with the 80-20 rule (80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the customers), but why should you accept that? Why not spend any time and money on attracting and converting prospects that approximate your ideal customer—who are easier to attract, require less effort to keep, and become a greater source of recurrent revenue?

This is both a process and a discipline. Start by analyzing your customers today and determining who is happy to work with you, easy to talk to, keeps buying, and seems to appreciate what you do for them. Once you have that customer list, the work turns to focusing on defining what makes them an ideal customer. The most important thing to understand is that no one buys a product, they buy an outcome. As Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” As such, Sales and Marketing need to understand what outcomes these customers are really buying by creating an Outcomes Inventory.

Marketing should spend time talking with 15 to 20 identified ideal customer accounts. Here are the questions we have them answer:

Through this exercise, there are always critical and new insights that neither Sales or Marketing were aware of. By defining the outcome you’re really selling based upon what your ideal customer is sharing, you now have the business intelligence needed to generate leads, nurture them, and increase the likelihood of conversion. You also have 15 - 20 case studies or use cases to write up and leverage in your revenue generation process.

3. Build the Customer Journey Map Together

Once you know what outcome your ideal customer wants, you have to design and manage every single message and touch-point so it provides enough value to your prospect to move them down the funnel. In the life sciences space, cultivating customers is a process, not a transaction. You’re not going to ask someone to marry you the first time you meet them, so let’s not do the same thing with prospects. The goal is to deeply understand your customers and make them the hero. This is all about them, not you.

The best way to do this is to map out what questions your ideal customer has at each stage of the buying process, from awareness to conversion (and don’t forget what they think about once they become a customer). What are the emotional drivers at each stage? What would help them move to the next phase of the funnel? What can you deliver to overcome any emotional or rational barriers that exist to drive intended actions?

These are important questions to consider when looking at the tools, activities and interactions you produce and deploy and how it aligns with your revenue growth strategy as a whole. Marketing should find or target potential customers who have a specific problem and show them how it can be solved. They should warm up and nurture new leads by sharing information on the problem they have, amplify the pain to incite a sense of urgency to solve the problem and define the criteria for a solution (which would be your product). Then, when the lead is fully informed and ready to make a decision, Sales can step in to reinforce the messaging and close the deal.

4. Connect All Activity to Revenue

Sales teams are usually measured on numbers—be it new accounts, increased utilization, or contract renewals. Meanwhile, Marketing teams are typically measured by lead quantity, brand awareness, and engagement—if there are really any metrics they’re being held to. Is it any wonder that the teams are not aligned?

While I’m not suggesting that Marketing should be on the hook for quarterly revenue, I’m not convinced of some of the so-called vanity metrics Marketing often holds up when it comes to revenue generation. Ideally, Sales and Marketing should look at efforts and activities in the funnel and identify the ones that seem to be most tightly connected to revenue recognition. The easiest way to do this is to ask the question “To what end?” when you’re evaluating these. Keep asking that question until you can connect the activity to revenue. Even if you can’t distill each activity down to a numerical value, it’s important to understand the business (financial) motivation for the activity.

For instance, you may decide to invest heavily in the development and deployment of content assets. Why? You may not be able to attribute the number of leads you predict this will generate and convert but you might be able to show that prospects who engaged in company-generated assets were more likely to result in an in-person meeting with a rep compared to other activities. This is not to say that all metrics must be financial, but they should all be demonstrably connected to a measurable financial outcome.

Likewise with Sales, once you’ve determined your ideal customer, going off script should not be tolerated. Pursuing leads that don’t meet the ideal customer profile is not a good use of time or resources. Even if a rep manages to sell to a prospect outside of the ideal customer definition, it won’t really benefit your business. Why? Because real money comes from repeat business, not one-off deals. This is often exacerbated by reps having to meet quarterly number targets. Reps are incented to meet (or beat) their number every time—even if it’s the wrong customers. The more activity that’s aligned with targeting the right audience, the greater the odds that time spent will yield better results. So be sure the right metrics are determined and all Sales and Marketing activity should be measured against it.

5. Communicate More

I’d like to believe this doesn't need to be said, but it’s clearly a key link missing today in most organizations. A lack of communication and sometimes literally a lack of visibility means the two teams don’t actually know what each other's roles are on a day-to-day basis. This means Marketing needs to get out into the field, talking with customers. Sales reps need to drive intentional conversations with their existing clients about what challenges they are facing. Then, Marketing and Sales need to get together and talk about these things. Hopefully, no mediator will be required.

Some life sciences companies create a Sales and Marketing task force focused on optimizing the revenue growth engine. This is an intentional and routine process of meeting weekly or monthly to share feedback and ideas based upon what reps are hearing in the field and what Marketing is seeing in the digital space. What are some common objections being heard from prospects? What stage in the funnel are most prospects getting stuck and why? What messages are resonating? What are trends in the market that need to be considered? No one team has all the information or the answers. But with greater alignment, the chance to tweak, respond, and even accelerate for revenue growth is a reality and not a pipe dream.

As a life sciences company, what happens if you do these things?

Sales and Marketing are the main drivers for your company’s growth. With that said, they could still be the reason for its downfall. There’s no question that when Sales and Marketing have alignment companies see significant improvements on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, the cost of conversion is lower, and customer retention expands.

So go out and share a beer on the beach. It’s time to toast to the end of the feud. Hopefully, you have a koozie to keep it cool.

Want to see more synergy between your Sales and Marketing teams?

Grey Matter Marketing is a full-service, award-winning PR and marketing agency working exclusively with life sciences companies. If you aren't sure how to set up the right systems, we can help you address them head on. When done right, your Sales and Marketing teams will embrace teamwork and collaboration seamlessly. Contact us and let us help you create more effective Sales and Marketing enablement strategies.



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