In the business world, there are two types of leaders. The first one says: "Do what I tell you to do." This type of leader expects his or her team to toe the line, keep in step with the organization's game plan, and deliver results... whether those team members feel supported in this endeavor or not.
The second type of leader says: "Do what I'm doing." This kind of leader sets the tone for the rest of the team, not just by words, but by actions. They walk the talk; they lead by example.
How does this relate to sales and marketing integration? Simply put, sales and marketing integration starts at the top. If leadership is fully committed to integrating the two departments and proves it through word and deed, mid-level managers and team members will follow the path that's been forged.
The big question is: Which type of leader are you? Your answer to that question can make all the difference when it comes to your company's success (or lack thereof) in creating synergy between the two departments. Let's talk about why sales and marketing integration really does start at the top, and some important ways you can support this goal in your role as a leader.
It All Starts With a Leader's Mindset
The seed of successful sales and marketing integration is the right attitude. Leaders need to recognize within themselves that this should be a top priority for their organization. They also need to understand that this integration process isn't going to happen overnight. Just as it may take months or even years for a person to meet their fitness goals, it may take quite a while for a company to achieve a healthy synergy between the two teams.
Leaders who have a sustained commitment to this new paradigm are willing to provide consistent support for their team members. They're willing to "hold the vision" for sales and marketing integration, and fight the inertia that could cause some stakeholders to revert to old ways. The right mindset is the first key to unlocking the power of an integrated approach.
Leaders Can Break Down Internal Barriers
There may be internal pushback on the idea (or at least the implementing) of sales and marketing integration. Sometimes leaders have to overcome a deeply entrenched negative viewpoint about one department or the other... and sometimes those negative thoughts come from the leaders themselves! For instance, because of a leader's background, he or she may be inclined to think that one department is more important than the other, or should take more of the blame when revenues dip.
In some cases, the hardest barriers to break down may come from your marketing and sales managers. They may be reluctant to share metrics and projections with a team they've always considered their "rivals." They may be afraid that they'll be called to task if something goes wrong. It's up to you as a leader to assuage their (sometimes legitimate) concerns, and build that bridge between the two teams. If you build the bridge the right way, it will bear the weight of everyone in both departments.
Follow-Through Begins at the Top
Once the mindset has shifted and the barriers have been broken down, leaders must consistently and repeatedly commit to the strategy and processes that make integration successful. They need to give the time, financial support, and freedom to their teams that are necessary for developing truly integrated strategies. It's not just about a joint meeting once every couple of weeks; it's about open lines of communication that feed a genuinely collaborative workflow.
Once again, leaders who "walk the talk" will see the best results. They need to proactively manage this paradigm shift, even if they can't oversee every detail. This could involve coordinating and conducting joint meetings, or having frequent one-on-one sessions with team leaders. Put another way: if you want the vision to take root, you'll have to do a little bit of digging yourself!
Actionable Steps You Can Take
What are some practical ways you can support an integration initiative? Here are three specific steps to take:
1. Evaluate your own attitudes and behavior.
It may be challenging to take a long, hard look at the person in the mirror, but it's often the first step towards accomplishing your goal. Ask yourself the tough questions about your own attitude towards either the sales or marketing team (or both). For instance: do you or your colleagues view either team as lazy or negligent? Do you support sales and marketing in theory, but without providing practical support?
Here are some other probing questions to ask yourself:
2. Practice empathy with your sales and marketing teams.
Put another way: spend some time walking in their shoes. Listen to them — and listen to understand, not to respond. Explore reasons for any barriers between the teams, and analyze how each team (and each professional on the team) adds value to the company.
This type of empathy is at the heart of any successful sales and marketing alignment, in part because it allows you as the leader to put each team member in the right role for them, and therefore set up both teams for success.
3. Build bridges, not fences.
It's all too easy to play the blame game when adversity strikes. However, as the leader, you must be alert to channel energy towards solution-oriented goals, not finger-pointing. Help both teams see collaboration as a non-negotiable priority. Work with your sales and marketing managers to create integrated strategies and processes with clear owners. Create a working environment where root problems are attacked, instead of fellow employees.
At the end of the day, whether your company enjoys effective sales and marketing alignment depends to a large extent on whether you, as the leader, are doing your part. If you are, you can realistically expect to see gradual improvement in team integration, and better sales and marketing performance across the board.
A healthy relationship between sales and marketing is vital to an organization’s success. Dive deep into this effective strategy in a new book called Sales & Marketing Alignment. If you'd like more insights on how you can improve your sales leadership, contact us. Or sign up for our newsletter for more valuable resources.