The silo effect – where groups or teams within a company become isolated from each other and work too independently – is often portrayed exclusively as a large company phenomenon. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many ambitious SME owners will be only too familiar with the difficulty of ensuring that everyone is ‘on the same page’ and collaborating to keep the company’s interests at heart.
This is a common source of frustration when it comes to the sales team and their dynamic with marketing. HubSpot’s latest “State of Inbound” global report reveals that only a quarter (26%) of over 6000 respondents say their sales and marketing teams are “tightly aligned”. In some respects it’s not surprising – sales people are naturally target-orientated, and we incentivise them to be so, which can engender a culture of short-termism where they forge ahead without sufficient consideration for brand values, solution-based selling or relationship development. Equally, marketing bears a responsibility to engage closely with those at the coalface of customer and prospect outreach.
At worst, this disconnect can derail company performance. I noticed an article in the Harvard Business Review recently that described the case of a Fortune 250 company that had analysed the reasons for a product failure and pinpointed “misaligned goals between marketing and sales” as the chief culprit. Not the product itself, nor the sales team’s performance. If this is the consequence for a large enterprise, the impact at SME level will be felt far more acutely.
The sales and marketing rift not only limits growth potential, it also hinders your ability to provide a consistent experience to customers and prospects.
In today’s multi-channel world, brand consistency across your various touchpoints and at every stage of the customer lifecycle is a top priority – and this relies on both teams pulling together. Equally, the growing customer appetite for engagement rather than promotion means that sales plays as much of a role as marketing in raising your organisation’s profile as thought-leaders and sharing your content, messaging and vision as effectively as possible.
So what steps can you take to foster joined-up working? Consider your physical environment; does your office set-up facilitate regular contact between teams? Meetings are a must, but alignment goes beyond simply updating each other on activity; it’s about setting mutual objectives, formulating campaign strategy together and tracking each other’s progress. You can even draw up a sales and marketing ‘Service Level Agreement’ that outlines goals, activities and agreed steps. Formalising processes in this way is necessary for most companies.
On a practical level, the tools you use to cultivate collaboration can be a make-or-break factor.
Using spreadsheets tends to perpetuate siloed ways of operating (not to mention the risks they pose from a data governance perspective, in today’s GDPR era). Using a specialised technology platform to bridge the gap between teams is vital to instil the principles of consistency, visibility, information sharing and – importantly – accountability. It’s surprising how this simple step can bring about significant cultural change, helping to encourage joint decision-making, brand coherence, team spirit and common goal-setting.
In summary, much rests on the way that your sales and marketing staff engage with each other. A good litmus test is to ask them to do a joint presentation on a campaign’s performance, objectives or challenges. Would this ruffle feathers? It certainly shouldn’t. But it might well reveal several ways in which you could improve the dynamic between teams to the great benefit of your organisation as a whole.
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