I’d been working with a client as their outsourced sales management consultant for a while and we’d already achieved a 23 percent conversion rate for our inbound web leads. While nothing to sneeze at, my contracts usually involve an at risk portion for payment. I had no choice but to take on the biggest stumbling block and risk to both mine and my client’s results: integrating Sales and Marketing. In time, we did boost those conversions to over 43 percent – closing in on 1-in-2 of those leads.  However, this could not have happened without breaching the void between sales and marketing – a problem that’s a lot more common than it needs to be.

“Sales and marketing” roll off the tongue like they belong together, but actual sales reps and marketing people seem to operate in private universes. Marketing comes up with creative campaigns to build the company brand; sales people touch base with their customers to keep their pipeline flowing. In the worst cases, there’s just no communication at all between these teams – and that’s ‘just the way it’s always been’.

The result? Sales people in the company saw the marketing team as creative, interesting and ultimately useless cost center. The marketing folks picked up on the disdain and just stayed out of the sales team’s way. Critical market information and analytics that the marketing team had uncovered and would be exceptionally helpful in the sales process – just wasn’t being passed on.

In particular, one inbound marketing campaign that was regularly sending salespeople leads was being totally ignored – those ‘hot leads’ would wind up in the sales people’s email inboxes and just get ignored. The sales people didn’t know that there was a new marketing effort in place to get those hot leads – so they assumed wrongly that those leads were not so hot (as a result of a previous campaign that had not gotten the desired results). No one had informed the sales team of the change, so the company was simultaneously losing deals and potentially turning off interested customers forever.

Integrating Sales and Marketing isn’t easy

The first step in fixing this problem was literally putting the two teams in the same room (Not something every company can do; with very large teams, you may have to settle for the senior people and just make sure that those leaders pass on what they’ve heard to the rest of the group).

Marketing people explained their job, breaking it down in terms that the sales people could understand, and vice-versa. This was an in-depth process over several days, not a 5-minute conversation. Ultimately, the exercise was to put them in each other’s shoes, answering the million-dollar question: “How does what I do help you in your job?” After this, we instituted regular monthly meetings for integrating sales and marketing. We had to make sure this cooperation wouldn’t be a one-time deal.

This changed everything.

Sales and Marketing Working Together. Finally

“Now I get where you can help me in the sales cycle,” said one of the sales reps for the company to his newfound marketing buddy. “I’ve got a ton of ideas. Let me see your research on the target market – and I’ve got some ideas for adjusting this content here so some of the most successful pitches I’ve got come through on this landing page…”

It was synchronicity. The marketing and sales units went from being uncooperative silos to genuine teams that were regularly feeding off each other’s data and strategies. That’s how that inbound marketing lead-to-sale metric nearly doubled from 23 to 43 percent – and that was just the start. There were intangible benefits, too; for the first time in year, the sales and marketing teams were organizing their big Xmas holiday lunches together. This, instead of exiling marketing to the office cafeteria while the sales team dined in style at a steakhouse.

Any company can benefit from getting their sales and marketing teams to work together – but it’s not always easy. Office politics can get in the way. Corporate culture can be entrenched. But the truth is that no company can afford the luxury of these teams working in silos. It’s bad for sales – and eventually, one of your competitors is going to figure out that synergy just makes sense. Integrating sales and marketing isn’t something you can just leave for later.