B2B Marketing – why listen to sales?

I’ve led B2B Marketing and Product teams for over 15 years now and so always worked closely with sales teams.  Sometimes that’s felt like fun and sometimes that’s been painful.  In B2B Marketing it’s easy to see sales as ‘interfering’.  They can throw up all over your beautiful, insight-driven plan with a whole bunch of reasons why it won’t work for their one customer.

It took me a while to realise that they were often right.  Or at least, had a data point closer to the customer, that I hadn’t considered.

A talented sales leader and friend recently told me “there’s a reason why sales comes first in sales and marketing Jill”.  Whilst at the time he was trying to wind me up, more often than not in B2B Marketing, the sales team is your primary channel and ultimately you’re both working to the goal of selling something.  Even branding campaigns, without a direct sales goal of their own, are there to encourage the customer to consider you, so they might buy from you.

The disconnect between sales and marketing is at its most fractious when they are working to different value propositions.  Aligning the teams behind a clear value proposition for your business is the key to sales and marketing being an effective partnership.  It’s the responsibility of the marketing and sales directors to agree this and lead consistently through both teams.  Focusing on benefits not product features is key, and good sales people can be brilliant at articulating real benefits simply.  Marketing can then lift this above the individual customer problems and stories, and pull out the common benefits that really differentiate your business.

So what’s the benefit to B2B Marketing teams?  Well, it starts to feel more like fun than pain to work together (or at least the pain of different perspectives is dealt with head-on and resolved up front). The sales team will actually use what you create for them because it feels more real and they believe it.  And sales people might even become advocates of the B2B Marketing team and the value it delivers.

Like in all relationships, listening to criticism can be painful.  But somewhere in that pain is the insight that can make your B2B Marketing campaign stronger.