The tools that allow us to communicate faster and easier also create a functional divide between sales and marketing teams at a time when collaboration is needed most. Here are six key questions to consider to help keep both departments in alignment.

As digital marketing capabilities continue to expand with every new technology, the concept of effective customer relationship marketing (CRM) must similarly adapt to the new landscape. Historically, the interplay between sales and marketing involved some modest interaction and occasional collaboration on isolated initiatives. CRM fundamentally changed that relationship to require better communication and more collaboration among cross-functional teams. Now, an endless stream of advancements in digital technology and online marketing have further redefined the landscape to require not just more effective collaboration but rather a lockstep sales and marketing relationship with little room for disconnect or dysfunction.

So how does leadership go about maintaining sales and marketing alignment in a digital CRM world? An easy mechanism to accomplish this is for the sales and marketing teams to review together six key questions that should be considered prior to every sales conversation:

1. What is the selling scenario? (personal or non-personal)
2. What is the client’s decision style and is it affected by the selling scenario? (e.g., innovator, follower, laggard)
3. What is the goal for each client engagement? (Is there a sales continuum or is every engagement expected to result in a sale?)
4. What are the hurdles (objections) to achieving the goal?
5. How will sales overcome the hurdles?
6. What is the best close to win the business?

By reviewing these six critical points in advance, the marketers receive a much better picture of the actual selling process and the customer experience that can then be integrated into the strategic development process. The teams can also strategize together on the use of any CRM data (demographics, preferences, segmentation, etc.) that may be collected through online marketing and other digital tools as well as the development of sales materials for specific applications.

At the same time, the collaboration must be mutual to be effective. Prior to launching or updating any campaign, marketing should pause to educate the sales team on their research and creative thinking. The marketing strategy behind messaging, positioning and sales materials should be clearly explained in detail since these will drive every sales engagement, online and otherwise. And finally, the marketers should explain how they envision the sales team executing on the strategy, including use of any newly developed materials. This last exercise forces the marketers out of their conceptual comfort zone and requires them to think more tactically about the field implementation of their work where there is much less personal selling, and buying decisions often are made after exposure to online messaging and prior to meeting with a sales rep.

Instituting the above collaboration as a standard operating procedure will strengthen the overall functional relationship between sales and marketing. It also will help bridge any gaps between the two most important revenue producing teams in the company. Given the ongoing pressure to do more with less, it’s not surprising that many sales and marketing teams have retreated to their respective silos, despite a stated commitment to collaboration. Instead, the real answer is for both teams to visit the same silo more frequently and spend some quality cross-functional time strategizing on success in a digital business world.

  • Robert Carmignani

    Robert D. Carmignani is Executive Vice President, Sales at eHealthcare Solutions where he oversees the professional and consumer sales teams, penetration of new domestic and overseas markets, and overall growth of the EHS brand. Rob has extensive experience in both the healthcare and entertainment industries and has held executive positions in sales, marketing and operations.