Sales and Marketing Alignment: How to Sell To A Sales Person

Michael Brenner on Mar 20, 2012 in Sales Alignment

Sales and Marketing alignment continues to be a major issue for both sides. Marketing often seeks to drive long term while also helping sales has to hit their quarterly numbers. But the balance can be delicate at times, to say the least.

At some point, we need to sit down and have a conversation about how we are going to help each other sell more stuff, to more buyers, at a higher price in a way that helps our customers.

This is the only way to create a sustainable business model where our customers come back and buy more, tell their friends, and we get to invest that extra revenue in more and better products or solutions to meet their needs.

But marketers often struggle trying to sell their ideas to sales people. So how do you sell a marketing strategy to sales people?

Marketers Focus on Activities

I think it starts with understanding where the alignment issues start. Marketers focus too much on their activities and not enough on business outcomes. We list our accomplishements as:

  • How many emails were sent
  • How many webcasts were produced
  • How many events were sponsored
  • How many ads were bought
  • How many priced of content we created
  • How many leads we generated

So maybe we need to stop talk about how many and talk about how much value these activities generate.

Sales Focus on Next Quarter

Sales have numbers that must be hit and they will hit them – with or without marketing help. So when sales people at the beginning of the quarter, they want more leads. Then at the end of the quarter they only what the leads that are ready to buy right now.

This back and forth has frustrated marketers from the beginning. The fact of the matter is that “sales is terrible at prospecting,” as Kenny Madden (@KennyMadden1973) has said. And so in order to generate real demand, sales and marketing must combine efforts into what he called “SMarketing.”

Then sales can focus on what they do best: closing deals.

How to Gain Sales Alignment

I suggest these ideas to align marketing and sales:

  1. Go on a sales call. Listen to how your products are actually sold. Hear how they are positioned and how questions, concerns and “objections” are handled.
  2. Learn how to deliver your company’s elevator pitch, software demo or main features and benefits.
  3. Speak to a customer. Nothing can provide the perspective that speaking to a customer can provide.
  4. Get a revenue goal. Identify how much value you bring to the organization and make it part of your goals.
  5. Joint planning. If you work together on your business challenges, then you’ve already achieved alignment.
  6. Make friends with your sales colleagues. Get to know your sales colleagues on a personal level and it will make the rough conversations much easier.

So if you want to sell to a sales person, you have stop focusing on marketing activities, help them understand that it is your job to develop demand together and you have to be more like a sales person: speak to customers, demo products, carry a quota and go on sales calls.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 6 comments
  • Tamas Simon

    In reading the header I was hoping there would have been a focus on tactics business owners use to sell to other business owners. Working in marketing, I’m sales first and marketing service second. One thing I ‘ve noticed is that business owners I call on seem to forget they too are in sales in one form or another. Treating me different from themselves (they happen to be selling something frombehind a counter) is a frustrating thing to me. Might make for a good follow up article, and if you want someone to interview, let me know. @TamasSimon2

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Tamas, you’re absolutely right, we’re all in sales! Let me chew on that for a while…

  • Brian MacIver

    You are, of course, completely correct!

    I have stopped talking about Alignment, and even less about Collaboration. They are too difficult.

    However what you describe,
    and I agree with, is Coordination and Cooperation.

    If more People in Marketing would follow your simple and easy advice they would find themselves aligned with the Customer, and coordinating and cooperating with Sales!

    Every CEO should read and implement your plan!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Brian, it’s almost too simple but I think this is best way to get it done. I appreciate the support!

  • AJ Perisho

    Great post Michael!
    Marketing and sales have been separate for too long at the majority of companies.
    The other challenge is the people in charge usually know one discipline or the other, so they become part of the division and problem.
    Marketing is the process of getting someone who has a need to Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer you. (This is the extended definition, ha!)
    The other problem I see is that most sales people think they have sales skills, but are usually have no training in the art & science of sales.
    You make great points, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi AJ, I like your extended definition much better! And your points are right on. We need sales people and marketers to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, job shadow, mentor, whatever it takes so we can speak to each other with common understanding.

      As for people who think they know what they’re doing but don’t…I have never met one 😉

      Thanks for the comment and adding to the conversation.