Now Is the Right Time to Build a Hybrid B2B Sales and Marketing Team

Author: 
Kristen Powers

You have seen the mantra in the news, via advertisements and throughout social media: “We are all in this together."

It resonates with us as civilians as well as business owners and employees working to navigate these unprecedented times. But in a company with both marketers and sellers, this motto has never been more applicable. Whether we readily admit it or not, there has always been an underlying current of us versus them between the sales and marketing teams. There is plenty of chatter about how these two departments need to work together to yield greater success, but urging people to play nice is not enough. It is time to go big or go home (or, more specifically, go out of business). Sales and marketing need to become one. One team. One leader. One goal.

Four months ago, a complete merge of sales and marketing disciplines would have benefited your business, but now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is mission critical. Requiring marketing and salespeople to “wear each other’s shoes” will generate a stronger revenue engine in the here and now and turn marketing teams into the deal closers we need them to be – a true sales enablement function. This will benefit your business and position you for growth when the economy improves and we can return to a new normal.

Here’s what it takes to create a holistic sales and marketing organization — and why now is actually the perfect time to enact such a sweeping change.

Shared agendas and goals increase collaboration

I’m a marketer myself, but let’s not kid ourselves: Now is not the time to build out your library of buyer personas or to launch a grandiose, top-of-funnel campaign. In today’s economic climate, it is all about the end result; closing the deal. 

Salespeople are under immense pressure to produce revenue amid unprecedented circumstances. While marketing has always been expected to support sales, it has its own agenda, metrics and mindset, too. You’ve probably heard an enterprise salesperson grumble about marketing. “Where are those MQLs?” “Why should I care about buyer personas?” “I know the customer I’m talking to.” Likewise, marketers wonder how the sales team loses the leads they serve up, or why they don’t even open the work-of-art sales deck they took days designing and months researching.

The best way to foster improved collaboration is to create one set of shared goals. Combining the disciplines encourages marketers to translate insights into sales language and to use their findings to immediately support the bottom line. It also would necessitate a better feedback loop for sales to share what is happening on the ground with customers, allowing marketing to better understand firsthand customer insights to inform more focused marketing plays.

Don’t fight for a piece of the pie – share the pie

Make a hybrid team. You could call it the Growth Strategy team or the Customer Success Taskforce. Create a hybrid role that is a mix of both disciplines. You can’t lose the magic of each specialty, but you need to set agendas and goals together and join forces to achieve them. And this new hybrid team will report into one leader who has a foot in both camps. 

Why now? Because it is your best shot of generating revenue quickly, and it reduces the traditional friction that persists between the two groups.

I would even go so far as to suggest revamping the traditional sales commission model. Organizations waste time and cause strife separating MQLs from SQLs and parsing out who gets what percentage of credit for each deal. Instead, enact a team goal with a shared commission structure. You will motivate people to work together smarter and spend less time on attribution discussions and more time focused on conversions and revenue. 

You can’t afford to squelch the fire that motivates top producers or dull their competitive edge, and this approach may not work for every enterprise, but it is hard to integrate teams if people are operating with separate incentives and goals.

Your role as a leader

You may get pushback, sure, particularly from seasoned sales reps or marketers who are set in their ways. But this change is probably harder to make when things are business as usual.  In these unprecedented times, all bets are off.  I suspect individuals from both disciplines will be more willing to come together as one collective team because at this stage in the game, what do you have to lose? One team just means more collective braintrust focused on solving the question: “what is going to work NOW to make a sale?” They will tap into the “we are all in this together” undercurrent and contribute in new and different ways to keep business afloat. 

Plus, it is no secret marketing is often one of the first places a company looks at to reorg when business starts to slow. This could be the best move for marketers to tie themselves directly to revenue and cement immediate value back to the business.

That said, the merge won’t work without trust and communication, and as a leader, you will need to foster that. Traditional marketers will need a better understanding of the day-in-the-life of a sales leader. Sales will need to realize the insights marketers bring and communicate more readily. 

One of sales leaders’ biggest struggles is using past buyer behavior to predict and influence future purchases. Marketing can help, but not without visibility into the “wins.” Establishing a retrospective between sales and marketing after every closed deal will open communication to enable meaningful insights. This will be a departure for salespeople who are conditioned to close and then move rapidly onto the next, so be prepared...

Again, I am a marketer. I believe wholeheartedly in the value of what we do. But right now, it is all about enabling sales. A hybrid team could be your organization's best chance to make an impact on the bottom line. And when your company makes sales, everybody wins.

Kristen Powers is vice president of Centerline Digital, a Raleigh, N.C.-based B2B digital marketing agency.