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12 min read

Winning the battle between marketing and sales

Membership content

Tomer Zuker, Gaël Angoula, Div Manickam and Sam Shrager gave this talk at the B2B Marketing Festival.

Div Manickam: Hi, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, depending on where you are. We’re looking forward to taking you on a ride to winning the battle between sales and marketing.

As we know, the classical battle between sales and marketing exists not in just one company, but in every organization in all shapes and forms. It's a problem that plagues many organizations, but one that's rarely discussed.

So today, we are going to have our amazing B2B marketing leaders share their journey, their experiences, and what it looks like to navigate relationships with sales. We’ll also share some tips and tricks to keeping the peace.

We'll be covering a couple of topics, the first among them is how to work together, especially when your organization is diverse and distributed. We'll also be talking about some common areas of conflict and how to overcome them. We’ll also look at the positive side of things and think about the benefits of sales and marketing working together.

About the speakers

Div Manickam: Let's dive into our introductions. I'm Div Manickam. I'm your moderator and a mentor and product marketing influencer who has been working for over 10 years in B2B SaaS product marketing at Fortune 500 companies and technology startups.

Currently, I'm exploring life one day at a time. I recently embarked on a journey with stress, anxiety, mindfulness and essentialism, diversity, and belonging, and I'm committed to breaking the stigma and being a voice for the unspoken. As part of that journey, I'm taking a leap into the unknown, and I self-published two books on my journey through stress and anxiety and authentic leadership.

I'll turn it over to Tomer to share his experience.

Tomer Zuker: Thank you. Hi, everybody. My name is Tomer Zuker. For the last 20 years, I’ve been in marketing and sales in the B2B domain. I've worked for startups and big corporations. Currently, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer of Kryon, one of the leaders in robotic processing automation. I’ve worked with Microsoft in the past, as well as Amazon Web Services and IBM for both sales and marketing. So I believe I can see both sides of the funnel, and it gives me an interesting perspective on this topic today.

Div Manickam: Thank you, Tom. Sam, would you like to introduce yourself?

Sam Shrager: Hi, I'm Sam Shrager. I'm currently Head of Marketing and Communications at BCB Group. We are a B2B payment services provider in the crypto and blockchain space. Prior to that, I spent about 20 years in either B2B or B2C sales and marketing, from Associated Newspapers to Clear Channel to remittance area, and I’m now in the great crypto world. So lots of experience, and I'm really looking forward to this conversation today.

How do sales and marketing work together today?

Div Manickam: Awesome, thank you, Sam. Thank you, Tom.

Let's dive right in. If we think about sales and marketing working together, what does that look like in your organization today?

Tomer Zuker: It's really dependent on the nature of the organization. I see a lot of differences from company to company; I think it's related to the approach, mainly of the CEO, to the position of marketing within the organization. Is there a chief marketing officer or a VP of marketing? Do they report directly to the CEO, or maybe to the CRO? These kinds of differences can impact the way the organization sees and acts with marketing.

Currently, as the Chief Marketing Officer of Kryon, I’m working as part of the leadership team and working very closely with the Chief Revenue Officer. We’re working together to win the battle of these business challenges, so we have very organized cadences between the two of us, reviewing performance from a business point of view. Also, our teams have joint meetings to review performance at a more tactical level.

Div Manickam: That's an important point, right? When you think about working together, it's not just about putting together your KPIs or getting your main goals and objectives out there but also how you do it on a day-to-day basis. The key lesson that I took from what you just said is that it's about those meetings, right? Whether it's at the tactical level or the strategy level.

Tomer Zuker: Exactly. One of the first things I did when I joined the company was to have one-on-ones with the CRO, in order to better understand his KPIs, his challenges, the struggles, the history, and even his career aspirations.

I’d like to be a trusted advisor to the CRO, and vice versa, of course. And I think bonding is one of the keys in this domain. You need to create and build trust between you and your colleagues in sales. Trust is one of the most important things to establish.

Div Manickam: For sure. Building that bond and actually putting in the time and effort to create that relationship is key.

Sam, what have you seen at BCB group?

Sam Shrager: I think we've got quite a successful model in that we have a growth team and the marketing team sits within that, as does the sales team, account management, and the trading team, so we're all really closely aligned on our goals.

As a company, as well, we're very customer-centric. We work on the flywheel model to keep the customer at the center of everything we do. So although our MO in marketing is really in the attract phase and getting customers into the sales pipeline, we still don't exactly hand them off to sales.

We work closely with the sales team and the customer success team, delighting and engaging the client with all that we do throughout the whole journey. Ideally, they then become advocates of all that we do as a business and attract more clients in that constant circle.

The thing that we’ve found very successful is regular meetings. At 9:05 every day, we have a stand-up across the growth team, and we'll go through what we're doing for the day. That means we're really aligned on all of our goals.

We also have things like shared dashboards and shared OKRs, which are very successful as well. It just means we're all focused on the end goal of keeping the customer at the center and keeping the customer happy. That's what works well for us.

Areas of conflict between marketing and sales

Div Manickam: It’s wonderful that you have that synergy and you know that you're working on shared goals. But let's also be real: we know that not everything is icing on the cake, and there are times when it's not as wonderful or as pretty as we want it to be.

So maybe Tomer, if you could share what you see as some common or potential areas of conflict, things that new CMOs or new heads of marketing or new heads of sales should be keeping an eye out for?

Tomer Zuker: The role of marketing is changing in B2B organizations; I see marketers taking more and more responsibility for the funnel. In the past, it was clearer that marketing had a certain starting point and a certain endpoint and then they would hand over to sales.

Now we’ve moved to SaaS and digital engines, we see marketing acting more along the customer journey, and in some cases, there’s a gray area that can be a potential spot for conflicts. What are the actual responsibilities of marketing across the journey, and where are the boundaries between sales and marketing? From a strategy point of view, I see those areas as potential risks.

Going down to the tactical level, one of the most classic arguments that marketing and sales can have is about the definition of a sales-qualified lead. One of the most important things you can do in order to avoid these kinds of conflicts is to set a common ground between sales and marketing and get an agreement on those definitions.

Another potential cause of conflict is the responsibility around nurturing opportunities originated by marketing. If I’ve created sales-qualified leads, and it's not the right timing in terms of the qualification, who owns the nurturing? Is it marketing – the BDR, say? Or is it the account executive? We have to think about the time cost. So this is another space for potential conflict.

In the end, what I try to share with my peers in sales is that there is no silver bullet, right? Marketing is not magic. It takes time to create an established funnel, to create a real awareness, to deal with the consideration phase, and to encourage customers to try our products, especially when we are talking about a highly complex solution and product in the B2B world. So I think once you set expectations with sales, it will be easier for you along the way.

Div Manickam: I like what you said about not thinking of marketing as a magic silver bullet and the approach that you are taking of educating sales on what the funnel looks like and helping them see both sides. You’re changing the notion that you get the leads, you throw them over the wall, and then sales needs to figure out how to turn them into opportunities.

Is there anything, Sam, that you would like to add? If not, we can move to the next question, which I think will be pretty apt for you.

Sam Shrager: I just thought that was a really interesting point that there's that level of finesse and nuance. It's not just about, as you say, throwing it over the wall and there you go.

Funnily enough, I had an example just this morning from one of our sales guys, who said to me, “I've had bad leads come through recently, what's going on? Is it the SEO?” Because we work closely with him and he's a great guy, I can say to him, “Just tell me what they are, and then we can look into it more carefully.” Sometimes they just think it's black and white, but it's not. It's about understanding a little bit more about the data that's coming through, I think.

Div Manickam: That's perfect. And having that relationship, I think, goes back to what both of you were sharing in the beginning, too.

Avoiding and overcoming conflict

Div Manickam: So now that we've talked about potential areas of conflict, and we know what the landmines are that we should try to escape, what tips do you have for overcoming some of these conflicts? Are there things we can do ahead of time to make sure we don't hit those landmines?

Sam Shrager: As I've already touched on, data and a really good CRM bring us together as sales and marketing functions. That’s so useful because we can make sure we're completely in line, we're completely on the same page, we understand where everything is coming from, and which channels are working successfully.

I try to bring the sales team with me by regularly presenting what we do so they really understand the ins and outs. I don’t go too granular – I don't want to bore them, but I share what we're aiming for, and then they're quite happy to get involved and give their two cents’ worth.

I've actually involved sales in marketing calls with digital marketing agencies so that the agencies we’re working with get a real sense of what the sales team are doing at the coalface every day. That's been incredibly helpful, bringing them on the journey.

Div Manickam: It’s very interesting that you've taken it one level further, connecting sales not just with your own teams, but with your agencies as well. Are there any conflicts that you’ve had to overcome, being the marketing and sales leader?

Sam Shrager: I think the thing we struggle with a little bit is that, although we sit in the growth team and we're very aligned to the sales guys, we're also working with the product team, the compliance team, and the chief's office, and we work on comms. And I think sometimes the sales team struggles to realize that there are other areas of the business that we have to service as well. It's not all about them, although I make it seem all about them a lot of the time.

It comes down to nurturing not just the client but nurturing your colleagues too, to an extent. That way, they’ll come with us on the journey and understand that if we're doing stuff with the product team, that's only going to help them. The educational pieces in the market about products mean that, eventually, leads will come. It's convincing them of that, I guess.

Div Manickam: That's very important, right? For sales to realize that they're not the only stakeholders that marketing has, and vice versa. They have other stakeholders that are part and parcel of the equation. Having that understanding goes a long way when we're trying to build the empathy aspect.

A piece of advice that one of our speakers has shared is to work a day in the other department, see what it is that they do, and understand their role beyond just them verbally telling you what they do. Actually seeing it in action has a much bigger impact.

It's very interesting to see the different ways that teams are collaborating and trying to better understand how to help each other, versus making it troublesome for each other.

It could be tools; it could be the meetings and processes that you've put together; it could be making sure you have a streamlined framework, helping them understand what the customer journey looks like all the way from awareness to consideration to decision – all of that plays a bigger role. Once you put the customer at the center, like Sam said, then they’re the focus. It's not a question of marketing versus sales: everything’s about the customers. I think that's key, especially as you're trying to overcome conflict.

The benefits of collaboration between sales and marketing

Div Manickam: The next question that I wanted to ponder is, what are some benefits of alignment between sales and marketing? We've always had sales and marketing teams collaborating together, and more often than not, we see magic happen in its truest sense when we're all rowing in the same direction. Tomer, what would you like to share? What are some of the benefits that you have seen in your career?

Tomer Zuker: When the two huge forces of sales and marketing are properly aligned and integrated, the whole machine really works. Once you have these connections on a personal and professional level, it's unstoppable. When the alignment is there, our energies are going in the right direction, which is externally, to the market, to the customers, to the partners, to winning with competitors, and so on.

If the machine is broken, it’s ugly. All our energy is channeled into a battle, and battle is no good for anyone. It's a waste of time and energy. With alignment, you can achieve much better performance, you can save on a lot of costs for the organization, and you are much more efficient. If you invest in creating this kind of credibility and a really good relationship, you’re going to gain all the benefits of that.

And going down to the tactical level, thinking about events and campaigns, once the alignment is there, your conversion rates will be much higher. You’ve agreed on the targeting and the messaging; you know what really works with your customers and your prospects. The results will follow. So there are not only strategic benefits but tactical benefits too.

Div Manickam: It’s good to hear that you're bringing both elements together at the strategy level and the execution level.

Sam, what are you seeing when you think about the benefits? Would you agree with Tomer, or do you have a different approach when you think about the benefits?

Sam Shrager: I completely agree. Going back to the point you made, Div, about walking in somebody else's shoes for a bit and making sure that we understand each other and our goals, I think that's really useful. I think when we understand each other, that then means that we’ll trust each other.

And that's the thing: I think conflict often comes down to a lack of trust. When somebody thinks that a certain person isn't sure what they're doing or hasn't got that good enough knowledge of the market and they could do it better, that’s going to cause disagreements. That’s why those regular feedback loops and shared dashboards are so important: they make sure that you know that that person is working towards the same goal.

Not being afraid to ask questions is key as well. Our sales guys know the crypto market and the channels that work so well, so I often ask them questions, and they give me insight into things that I hadn't quite appreciated.

Likewise, I'm quite client-facing, so I often get feedback from clients about what they do and don't want and what their pain points might be. If I then communicate that to the sales guys, their conversations are better. It just helps everybody in the organization to make that customer-centric piece come to life.

Tomer Zuker: And by the way, if I can share one tip for all the marketers out there, it’s definitely what Sam just said: meet your clients, meet your customers. It will make you a much better marketeer, and your assets and your output will be much more accurate. Working with sales is great, but do not be afraid to work directly with customers too – in alignment with the sales team, of course – and really understand their needs and pains.

Div Manickam: 100%. Having that customer-centricity and making sure that you as marketing leaders have an opportunity to engage with your customers is golden.

I'll wrap it up here. Thank you, Tomer and Sam, for your insights and guidance.

This post was a collaboration between

Div Manickam, Tomer Zuker, Sam Shrager

  • Div Manickam

    Div Manickam

    Div has led product marketing in B2B SaaS startups and Fortune 500 technology companies for 10+ years. She enjoys sharing experiences on authentic leadership and evolution of product marketing.

    More posts by Div Manickam.

    Div Manickam
  • Tomer Zuker

    Tomer Zuker

    Marketing manager for global technology corporations, marketing mentor for early stage startups, public speaker for marketing, social selling, partnership.

    More posts by Tomer Zuker.

    Tomer Zuker
  • Sam Shrager

    Sam Shrager

    Sam heads up Marketing and Communications at BCB Group and leads on the strategy and execution for all communications.

    More posts by Sam Shrager.

    Sam Shrager
Winning the battle between marketing and sales