Sales Operations and Marketing: How to Work Together

7 min read

The marketing and sales divide is nothing new. But does the growth of sales operations signal a new opportunity to bridge the gap? Sales Operations is in a position to create smarter processes for passing leads from marketing to sales, for example. But with this potential comes further questions, a key one being how engrained in the marketing funnel should sales ops be?

We asked our community of sales operations leaders about their relationships with marketing and how they work together.

Nikesh Shah, EMEA Sales Strategy Analyst, Salesforce

In my previous role at Goodlord, one of the key things we wanted to do going into 2019 was making sure we have a close grip on all of our conversions. We used four key metrics in marketing: Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Qualified Opportunities, Sales Accepted Opportunities and Won. We focused on helping marketing create pipeline through various lead sources and one of the projects we undertook was understanding where our successful lead sources are. We discovered that for us, physical touch points such as events and direct mailers work well for us and subsequently, that’s where the marketing team are focusing their efforts in 2019.

Where we really wanted to make an improvement was the way in which marketing leads entered the sales process and also the way we attributed where that lead came from. Marketing and Business Development targets can sometimes clash, so it’s important to incentivise correctly.

The second thing we looked at is implementing key KPIs for the sales team and Business Development team so that we’re working smarter, not harder. We got response times on MQLs, how many times we’d contacted an MQL, followed up with them etc. We got granular with these KPIs so that everyone had visibility over their own leads, what they’re working on and what they need to convert. On the topic of visibility, we made sure that MQLs enter the sales process in a transparent way. We wanted to give the team and managers full visibility and we achieved this through process automation and notifications.

Once we did that, we slowly started to see those KPIs improve. MQL to SQO conversion improved, as well as SQO to SAO. Why focus the sales team’s effort all on outbound when you can get smarter with inbound?

Read our interview with Nikesh.

Robin Yeoman, Director of International Sales Operations, Snowflake Computing

In my first six months at Snowflake, I’ve noticed a few disconnects between things like who owns finding accounts, who owns the data behind that etc. And if those things don’t align then you get conflict. So I think I learned very early on that in order to make those things work, you’ve got to be fairly transparent. And you’ve got to form these partnerships with people, so for instance, I’ve been working very closely with the account-based marketing team. My job is to ensure that the data they’re giving sales in order to run campaigns is also good enough for us to run territories.

And if we’re not seeing that as a joint product and a joint project for us to get together on, it falls between the cracks a little bit. So I think that’s what I’ve learned. And there’s been a little bit of conflict there, but I think that’s natural. And it’s about managing those conversations. People have different aims in their projects and it’s about making sure that they come together close enough for you both to get a win out of it.

Read our interview with Robin.

Brandon Bussey, Director of Revenue Operations, Lucid

At Lucid, our marketing is divided into three groups. We have our growth team, which is focused on our B2C self-service business. We interact a little bit with them. We work a lot more closely with the other two functions – product marketing and demand gen. Together with our Head of Enablement, I sit with product marketing at least once a month and we also have weekly meetings to ensure that we’re constantly working in alignment. And then the demand gen side works closely with the SDR team. We all meet at least monthly to talk about initiatives.

We have a very strong alignment, which eliminates the need to consolidate the team for now. There are definitely areas we need to align more on but since we have a good relationship it’s definitely doable for the future.

Read our interview with Brandon.

Tyler Holmes, Director of Sales & Revenue Operations, Beamery

I think connecting sales and marketing operations as a function and having them report into a single role – a revenue operations role for example – rather than having them separated between sales and marketing is a good first step towards getting the marketing and sales functions working together.

If I can hire a sales operations role who has been in the marketing department I would hire and prioritise them over anybody else. All operations related to revenue should be in one department and that department should be the centre of excellence for marketing, sales, customer success – anything that touches revenue. You need to have a functioning understanding of what all those people do in order to do your job. The classics sales/marketing friction is almost always caused because neither side really understands what the other does. You have to walk in each other’s shoes before that gets better.

Read our interview with Tyler.

Cris Santos, Director, EMEA & LATAM Sales Strategy & Operations, Docusign

Seeing sales and marketing as two separate departments is the first mistake. For me, marketing creates the demand for sales. Sales can’t exist without marketing and vice versa. Having that broken relationship is very common in companies. At DocuSign, we removed that wall across the two organizations and we got the marketing and sales leaders together to discuss targets. And we concluded that there is no such thing as a separate sales target and a marketing target. I think it’s that lack of accountability that can create that tension between marketing and sales. So we put together a new measurement on the compensation plan to align both departments.  

At the end of the day, organisations are made of people, so we need to make sure we get those people together. We have the marketing team spread across different countries so they’re not sitting here with the main sales team, but we go and see them all the time, they come to see us, and we have regular contact over the phone. I think that explains a lot of the success here at DocuSign; people are very open to dialogue and willing to cooperate in a holistic way.

We make sure we have the right systems and processes in place to be as efficient and fast as possible. One of the first things we did was to reassess the lead scoring system and we worked with marketing on that to make sure that we are focusing our time on the best leads. However, even if they’re not an MQL, we continuously monitor them and we’ve invested a lot in a sales development organisation that helps with that machine. We have people in charge of processing those leads so we’re on top of everything that’s coming in. We have inbound reps and then we have the outbound team. We’ve created a sizable sales development organisation, similar to what Salesforce, for example, have created.

Read our interview with Cris.

Mark Feldman, Head of Revenue Operations, Localytics

One of the things I have learned is “there is no marketing; there is no sales; there is just us.” Part of the philosophy of why Localytics created rev ops as a role rather than separate sales ops and marketing ops is that it is really us.

So, to start with ‘a well-oiled machine’: I think that everybody says sales and marketing need to be aligned but any function responsible for revenue should not be split in two! So, our entire growth team report to the Chief Revenue Officer, not to Marketing. I think that’s the first step. We are all focused on the bottom line. Philosophically, I think centralisation of the growth function is the most important thing.

Read our interview with Mark.

Jonathan Bunford, Director of Sales Operations, Ada

It’s important to encourage both teams to celebrate their wins. And if sales finds that the quality of the leads aren’t quite as good, you can’t just throw their number out the window, because they are still doing a lot of work to get those leads.

I can say I have had the benefit of working at two organizations that have really honoured and put transparency and communication in the forefront. It’s about encouraging that open dialogue but backing it up with data. For example, being able to say, “we are finding a lot of the new leads are disqualified because, once you start talking to them, none of them have budget.” or, “they found the content really interesting but that article doesn’t signal intent to buy.” By being able to put that conversation piece back in, and having it come from the sales team to marketing, you end up getting this feedback loop that is really helpful.

The one area where it becomes really challenging, especially in the startup scene, is a lot of times departments will get hyper focused on their targets. If marketing is being given this higher and higher number, the easiest way to achieve this is to lower what their acceptance threshold is. And at the end of the day, that can start hurting the sales side of things. So you need that feedback loop not just from sales to marketing but also from the organization back to their investors or to their ultimate decision-makers.

Read our interview with Jonathan.

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