Summit Podcast - End sales and marketing war

Strategies to solve the sales and marketing conflict.


Strife between marketing and sales teams can lead to problems and missed opportunities for your business. But at the core, sales and marketing teams are striving for the same goal. In this episode of Summit, Kyle sits down with Neal Benedict of Sandler Training solutions to discuss the root cause of tension between sales and marketing departments as well as methods of alignment for a mutually beneficial outcome.

With years of experience coaching salespeople across the globe, Neal has navigated and worked to improve the relationship between sales and marketing departments in numerous organizations. Here he shares key insights into what methods are effective in creating synergy between these often conflicting groups. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, they can reach the common goal of converting leads into recurring customers. So, let’s dive into how to do just that.



Kyle: (00:02)
Welcome to the Summit. This is Kyle Hamer your host where we go through interesting things on the Internet for sales and marketing professionals to help you grow your business and take it to the top. Today’s guest is Neal Benedict. I believe I said that right.

Kyle: (00:17)
Did I say that right Neal?

Neal: (00:18)
You certainly did.

Kyle: (00:20)
And of Silver Brick and Sandler training. You’re training, but is it Sandler training systems or,

Neal: (00:27)
We are now, we used to be Sandler training, uh, systems and we used to be Sandler Sales Training. We are now just Sandler Training because we are offering more than just sales training in the organization right now, which you probably don’t even know about Kyle. So yeah we’re Sandler training now.

Kyle: (00:41)
Great. So, you’re president and CEO of both the consulting practice as well as the local training or the local sales division of Sandler. And you’re here to talk to us today about, sales and marketing, what a healthy tension looks like. But before we get into that topic, Neal, I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Neal: (01:05)
Sure. Sure. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I look forward to being part of the show. Um, I actually consider myself still a recovering corporate sales leader. I spent most of my career in various corporate roles. Um, mostly in sales leadership. I’ve been given the opportunity to do things I probably shouldn’t have been and have been given the opportunity to do. Um, like strategic planning for Intel in Asia Pacific, uh, running a manufacturing business for a $12 billion company, small business, but a business I shouldn’t probably have given, been given the opportunity to run. Um, as well as some other things that I’ve been fortunate enough to do. I’ve lived in China working in corporate roles and, and uh, lived overseas in Hong Kong and spent a lot of time in general just, uh, leading global sales organization. So, about four years ago I decided to leave corporate and branch out on my own and try to serve the world in a different way.

Neal: (02:05)
And ever since then, I’ve been running my own consulting practice, focused on really helping organizations build very efficient sales organizations based on the people, the process and the tools that they use. Um, and hence, I’ve been, largely engaged with businesses in sub $40 million range for those past four years. And again, helping them build healthy and successful selling organizations. You mentioned Sandler. I’ve used Sandler training, uh, throughout my career as both a seller and a sales management leader taking different teams through the Sandler methodology, um, just decided to become a Sandler trainer, uh, roughly six months ago. And, uh, have a new training center here in northwest Houston where we bring people of all skill levels from a selling standpoint, including sales management, into our training center and help them adjust their attitudes, modify their behaviors and ultimately teach them techniques that are going to help them build much, a higher level. And a much better performing sales organizations in general. So that’s a, that’s sort of a brief overview of who I am. Sorry for that long winded introduction.

Kyle: (03:14)
Not a problem. We, uh, we appreciate getting to know you a little bit better. Now, you do have to tell me it’s not true that salespeople have bad habits or bad attitudes. Is it?

Neal: (03:27)
Ah, well we always tell people, right? We take good habits and good behaviors and turn them into great habits and great behaviors. So no, sales people generally don’t have bad habits and bad behavior patterns. We just, uh, we take the good ones and make them great.

Kyle: (03:42)
That’s fantastic. So, Neal, what we want to talk about today is, you know, given your vast experience, both time in corporate America, overseas building strategies, there’s this constant struggle between sales and marketing, right? And for most organizations, finding that healthy balance between, you know, call my leads versus give me more leads. There’s this, this almost a bickering that happens. And I know that you have a unique perspective on it. So I was, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about what a, what a healthy tension looks like between the sales and marketing team.

Neal: (04:17)
Sure, sure. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve, had the, you know, fortunate experience that, the lead, both sales and marketing teams never, I’ve never ran a marketing team on its own sales. When I’ve, when I’ve engaged with marketing, they’ve always been part of an organization that I sat, above, which was, uh, which again a, was split into sales and marketing. So I have some, some experience and some background in, in engaging those teams. And, I, at first, I think I want to start by saying that I think sales and marketing generally have the same goal, at least in most organizations. You know, their goals are pretty well aligned. Even if they’re, even if they’re not fully aligned on paper, the perspective of the head of marketing and the perspective of the head of sales, when you boil it down to really what’s the purpose of each you know, they would almost always align very closely.

Neal: (05:06)
And that alignment is really about driving, you know, new business into the company. Right. And, um, when I say new business, it doesn’t necessarily have to be only new logos, but it certainly, um, know revolves a lot around that. But it also can be new business with existing clients or existing customers who don’t know that you do certain things in certain aspects of your business. So, but generally speaking, marketing and sales have the same goal. And the, the issue that I often see though is that there is a misalignment between the leaders in those organizations in being able to communicate the tasks, activities and overall strategy to achieve those goals. And I think that’s where the tension begins is that when there is a lack of visibility between both sales and marketing, um, and how those organizations are supposed to be supporting and helping one another without a clear plan, without a clear strategy and without a clear communication process to be able to do that, there becomes, there becomes this process where distrust happens, where the activities that don’t seem like they’re supporting one another tend to be seen as conflicting activities versus supporting activities.

Neal: (06:24)
And I think fundamentally, um, that’s where all the disagreement begins.

Kyle: (06:31)
So look, you, as you said, you’ve resided over an organization where marketing reported to you and you know, the head of marketing and head of sales at least on paper appear to be tied at the hip. How do organizations set it up so that the sales leader and the marketing leader are looking at the problem, at least with the same perspective or the same outcome tied together as you talked about that foundation. What are some strategies or ways for organizations to ensure that the head of sales and the head of marketing are aligned?

Neal: (07:08)
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, one of the things that you know, I was very fond of doing was making sure that my sales and marketing leader, you know, built joint plans. For example, they each had, you know, they had a sales plan. The sales leader obviously had his group sales plan. The, marketing leader had their marketing plan. But overall what I would ask them to do is to join, build a joint, you know, commercial plan that allowed us to have a full view of both the sales strategy and the marketing strategy and understand how they were built, how they intersect and how again, they were willing to reflect one another’s goals and objectives. So for me it was very important for an example to have a plan, a commercial plan that really had both components of what we were going to do.

Neal: (07:53)
both tactically selling and tactically marketing and you force people to build a plan together. It’s almost impossible for them to diverge too dramatically to start to pursue their own goals and objectives without, you know, pulling one another back towards the middle and focusing on, you know, joint goals. So, one of the things that I often did again was make them work on or ask them at least to come to work and contribute to a joint marketing sales commercial plan that was really sort of the overall commercial strategy of the group that was continually and regularly reviewed. Both with the sales and marketing teams so that when they worked towards goals and objectives, their quarterly goals and objectives or annual goals and objectives, that the foundational um, direction that they were continuing to take was really, based off the commercial plan that was created by the head of sales and the head of marketing. So that was one way where we decided to align the organization to make sure again that there was consistency in both activities and, and outcomes we were expecting out of our commercial, the commercial part of our organization.

Kyle: (09:07)
Well, as you look at the tying of the hip through the development of the commercial plan, then getting both the sales leader and the marketing leader aligned. One of the questions that I have, Neal, is where did it break down? So it’s always great to have a great plan, work your great plan and to know it and internalize it and start executing against it. But there’s still that, that tension that tends to happen even if you’re tightly aligned between sales and marketing. What was your experience as to where those places expose themselves for risk or weakness or breakdowns between the two teams?

Neal: (09:44)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I think a couple of the key areas were around the tactical execution of both marketing activities and selling activities and the inability for the accountability to be as close at those levels, you know, on the street level that they could have been. Right. So let’s take for an example the main complaint that sales has, it has against marketing is that marketing leads are largely unqualified and most of them aren’t very high value. Right? That would be a common complaint, you know, in organizations that are suffering from a lot of this stress and practical implementation, again regarding sales and marketing. On the other hand, marketing would, marketing’s biggest complaint in my experience is that we’ve sent good leads to the sales organization. However, those salespeople haven’t followed up and weren’t able to close a well qualified lead for an example.

Neal: (10:40)
So you know, those and again, those issues really relate to practical execution. Not so much the strategy of lead development and lead generation, but ultimately what happens when we put our strategies in place, we start to see the marketing organization driving these marketing qualified leads back into the organization. And what sales’ responsibility is to do with them. So the places where it tends to break down is again, inefficient processes or handing off marketing qualified leads for sales to salespeople for an example or a gap in the process between when it’s handed off to sales, what is the SLA associated with what the sales team does with those leads for an example. It falls down in the sales team, not effectively tracking and managing opportunities in the CRM so that the marketing team can understand how those marketing qualified leads either went into the pipeline and got processed through or you know, never made it into the pipeline because they just weren’t significantly qualified. Right. So the breakdown I think typically comes at those levels and the animosity tends to start, you know, from the ground up, and tends to create, this level of distrust and uncomfortable relationships when these types of things happen. And lead generation is only usually a symptom of the problem. But, you know, it’s a big, symptom that oftentimes gets brought to the forefront front by both both organizations.

Kyle: (12:16)
So, you know, I’ve been on the, uh, participating side of building the, the plans that you’re talking about as well as the front line conflict between sales and marketing. Hey, give me better leads. Call the ones you got and that whole cycle that’s there. What are things that you have experienced that have been successful in tearing down those barriers and getting all the way down to the ground level, the accountability, the trust and the communication improved so that sales and marketing are functioning in a, tension, but in an environment that’s healthy.

Neal: (12:56)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think, unfortunately there’s really no silver bullets to it. One of the things that we would typically like to do is we would have at least a marketing representative in all of our sales meetings, right. We would typically like to have a line manager from marketing in our sales meetings. However, if they couldn’t attend, we would have a, you know, a proxy. We would have always somebody in our marketing from the marketing organization, our sales meetings, and we would dedicate certain time on the agenda every week for a marketing discussion so that there could be evaluation of, you know, what’s going on at a high level. There could be feedback going back between marketing and sales and that there was some opportunity for us to discuss areas where we may need some additional followup.

Neal: (13:36)
So there was regular participation. Also there was a, it went the other direction as well. We would always have somebody from the sales organization participating in the marketing group meeting as well. That, that would rotate from time to time. But the, the goal of that person was to really bring back information that was pertinent to the sales organization and, and then ultimately share that with the rest of the team.Another thing that we would typically do on a regular basis as we would have what I’d, I likened it to a quarterly business review, not that you do with your clients, but what you do internally. And the quarterly business review was a half day meeting that was really designed to be able to align sales and marketing and make sure that, the programs on the marketing calendar that were being executed both the previous three months and the upcoming three months were reviewed and being seen as effective and that the salespeople have enough commitment to those activities and events that made them worthwhile for the marketing team to, to both execute them, but, spend the money and invest the resources from a marketing standpoint too, to make sure that the sales organization saw, you know, the return that they were going to get.

Neal: (14:42)
So I think those were a couple things that we typically do. One of the main other things that we would do is make sure that there was a constant, leadership meeting right between the head of sales and the head of marketing. Um, so that, you know, they had enough opportunity to share, what’s going on in their organization, personnel changes, et cetera. So, them being both on my leadership team, they enabled them to get together, but there was an expectation that they would spend time and basically one on one meetings, at least once a month to talk through some of the issues. So, really it was about communication and communicating. Communicating down to the street level and making sure that, again, all the activities and in things that the marketing and sales organization were pursuing together were things that they saw as valuable. And if they didn’t, there was discussions on why not.

Kyle: (15:40)
So just to kinda summarize what we’ve heard up to this point, have a plan aligned, get your leadership talking and working on the plan together and then communicate.

Neal: (15:55)
Yep, Yep. Yeah, that’s, I mean, I wish there was a silver bullet that, you know, where there was some level of ability to just kind of make it happen. But it really, it, it really stems from that. The biggest problems I’ve seen is where sales and marketing for one reason or another because of egos or because of, you know, just a general dislike or potentially a political disagreement internally begin to stop communicating and begin to stop, you know, seeing each other as, two spokes in a larger wheel and they begin to, act in contrary ways to one another’s best interest. And that’s where the real, the real difficulties happen and where it becomes almost a toxic type of relationship.

Kyle: (16:39)
In the in the environments that I’ve been in, when you have a really healthy relationships, you’re your best advocate for sales is usually your head of marketing. And your best advocate from marketing is usually your head of sale. Absolutely. One of the, one of the things that’s interesting though and I would really curious to get your, your perspective on it is, is there’s a lot of times marketers don’t understand what it takes to be a salesperson. Conversely, salespeople don’t really understand what it takes to be a marketer and to attract or push people further up at the beginning of the funnel. And for a salesperson, they don’t really, or for marketing, they don’t really understand what that salesperson has to do to push up, push a client across the finish line. Can you, can you give techniques or tips or things that you’ve seen work well in helping the, their counterparts appreciate one another?

Neal: (17:30)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, one of the things I think that, you know, let me talk about the kind of marketing perspective on sales first. I think one of the things that often helps marketing people quite a bit is to be engaged with, the sales organization from a real tactical standpoint, meaning going on sales calls for example, periodically with sales people so they can see how the actual process works, right? So, you know, being there on, uh, in the game when the game is actually being played and when, uh, when it’s a very difficult conversation for an example or there are some mitigating circumstances that you know, really are challenging both for the, for the salesperson and the client. Marketing gets a real good perspective on, you know, what the salesperson is up against at some of the worst times and allows them to generate some perspective about what, you know, what the salesperson has to face so that, you know, being engaged in that process generally helps marketing get, get their sea legs underneath them and start to help them just get a new found respect for what salespeople may do.

Neal: (18:38)
Now, on the other hand, the market, the salespeople, don’t have quite that luxury to go and travel to the marketing events for example as much as say marketing does. But I think one thing that needs to be, I think clearly defined by marketing is marketing should be clearly defining kind of the ROI that they’re producing, right? For the sales organization. And sometimes that’s hard to do. I get it, right? Not everything is measurable, right? But there should be a regular communication with the sales team. You know, for example, events. You go to trade shows and sales people will tend to be very skeptical trade shows because it’s hard to measure the ROI. Um, but you know, marketing for example, should own, you know, the ROI of cost avoidance. So people, you know, have a budget, typically they have a budget that need to travel under.

Neal: (19:28)
And, one of the benefits of going to a trade show for a salesperson if the marketing team can help out is I can have 10 meetings in one location for the cost of essentially one, right? So real ROI potentially could be for a salesperson, this is just an example, but cost avoidance. For marketing team, establishing that event, driving customers to the meetings and helping to create an event where, you know, people would want to come and meet with the sales rep for an example. Right? So, um, so anything marketing to can do to point to some of the benefits that they bring to a salesperson that isn’t always translatable. If the salesperson gets to do it on their own, uh, figure it out on their own, um, it’s much easier for them to say, I don’t know what they did versus seeing it clearly. So I think marketing has some responsibility, um, however they do it right. And again, I know there’s no perfect answer to this, but create some sort of vision for sales of, you know, how they’ve been helping other than just clicks or views, those types of things. Right. So I think those are two key ways that really help the organization continue to work more effectively together.

Kyle: (20:35)
With all this great advice and stuff that we’re covering what’s, what are the things that organizations who have an unhealthy tension between sales and marketing? What are tips and techniques, what are things that they can do to help improve that relationship? If I’m a salesperson that just absolutely can’t stand the marketing department, or if I’m a marketing person and I’ve really had it with the sales leaders or the salespeople, what are things to help repair that relationship and get it back to the healthy tension?

Neal: (21:03)
Yeah. A lot of what we teach our sales people, you know, for an example in this day and age is to sell through story, right? And it’s very difficult not to respect and like someone, once you understand their story, right? Most of the time when we have these, you know, very strong disagreements or these perceptions of people not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, the real truth is we don’t fully understand their story, right? We think we know something. We don’t. So one of the key things that’s important, I think on an ongoing basis is for both the sales and the marketing organizations to tell the story, right? Tell the story of their team, tell the story of their organization, tell the story of the, the, you know, giants that they’re fighting. Tell the story of the giants they’ve defeated.

Neal: (21:48)
Tell the story of the giants they’ve been defeated by. Right? And it’s really important for both of these organizations to really, form that ability to understand one another really well and you, and it’s really difficult to do that unless there’s a, a good narrative being told about, you know, what’s happening in the sales and marketing organization. Facts and figures are great. The number of leads marketing’s produced for sales on a spreadsheet over the quarter is great, but you know what, that doesn’t, that doesn’t sell the sales organization on really what it took to get those leads and all the hard work and effort that went into it right? Um, the, the, the quarterly results from the sales organization, same thing. You know, it’s great to see those numbers, you know, how we won. But the marketing organization a lot of times feels like those are those, those fell into sales’ lap or we generated a lot of that and we don’t get any credit for it.

Neal: (22:39)
So the idea would really be to effectively have leaders who know how to tell stories about what their organizations are doing, how their organizations are fairing, and you know, what really has been transpiring over the period of time before they last spoke. And again, it’s got to be told in a narrative form. It can’t just be placed on data on a spreadsheet because, because nobody believes it at the end of the day. And nobody, nobody feels it. Right? There’s no emotional connection to it whatsoever. And there has to be for these two organizations, I think to work together effectively.

Kyle: (23:11)
I think that’s really great insight. So if I were to recap Neal, I think what I heard today was, tightly align sales and marketing. Build the plan together. So if they’ve built a plan together, they need to understand the plan and what it’s tactically going to mean as they, as they execute it. From there, when they’re executing, it make sure that they’re communicating often on a regular basis and seeing the world through another person’s eyes. Is that pretty, pretty much summarize it up?

Neal: (23:40)
Yes. Yeah. I think, I mean, I think that’s it. I mean, I wish there was, like I said this a silver bullet or some wisdom that I could give you that said, it said, just do this and it’ll work. But it really is fundamental communication, fundamental understanding, fundamental, um, you know, ability to, to, to really, um, tell the story that’s really happening so that people can resonate with it and relate to it.

Kyle: (24:04)
Isn’t it amazing how simple sometimes the fix is for things that drive us crazy on a daily basis?

Neal: (24:11)
Yeah, I think so. I think so. We make it too complicated.

Kyle: (24:14)
I would agree. Well Neal, I want to thank very much for giving us some of your time today and your insight. It has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to hearing more from you about sales, marketing and everything in that world, but we appreciate you taking time and sharing your wisdom with us today.

Neal: (24:33)
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Kyle: (24:35)
Alright Neal.

Neal Benedict
Neal BenedictSales Coach