Old Silos Die Hard
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
The sales department is frustrated because the leads coming in are unqualified and unprepared to pay the rates set out by upper management. This in turn affects their ability to hit their sales goals. They blame the marketing department for not listening to their feedback about the services and products qualified clients are buying. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing tries to take some of the credit.
The marketing department is frustrated because they are building demand for the services and products defined as top objectives by upper management. They blame the sales department for not converting more of these primed opportunities that come through the funnel. Even worse, when the sales team closes a deal, marketing gets none of the credit. Even upper management questions their value.
See the problem? A disconnect is causing significant friction and a toxic environment.
Upper management is handing down goals, objectives, and rates that appear removed from facts on the ground.
Sales sees Marketing as disconnected from the reality of the marketplace.
Marketing sees Sales as inept and unable to close qualified opportunities.
In this example there is no cohesive set of guidelines or principles guiding the various teams in the organization. Moving forward is like herding cats. Everyone is running in different directions. The consequences of this dynamic are obvious.
Sluggish sales performance occurs in key service and product areas that results in missed revenue targets
The company experiences turnover from frustrated and unsatisfied team members
Company culture deteriorates and begins to affect other areas of the organization
Even the brand itself starts to lose equity with customers
How On Earth Did We Get Here?
There are countless reasons why an organization dissolves into tribalism and internal competition, but the process of disintegration happens so slowly that most teams don’t recognize the breakdown happening around them. Teams fracture and drift apart into independent silos free from distractions from the other departments.
You may recognize many of the attitudes that occur inside the silos.
- “This is the way we’ve always done it!”
- “I don’t trust .”
- “I don’t want anyone messing with my . I’ve worked hard to get things running smoothly!”
- “What if we miss our goals?”
- “They have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Once an organization loses touch with one another it takes a seismic change to bring the various components back into (buzzword alert!) synergy.
Get the Band Back Together
Say the word “synergy” in a room full of your best employees and watch their eyes roll back in their heads. The mere thought of cohesive communication conjures up images of fruitless meetings, memos, and inaction; and for good reason. The old “Death By 1000 Meetings” phenomenon can be just as unproductive as internal tribalism. Or worse, companies talk a good game about bringing teams together, but then no one really follows through. Within a couple months things return to how they were before.
It doesn’t have to be that difficult, and it doesn’t have to devolve into feigned kumbaya team building. Start by reexamining the company’s brand strategy. What are the company’s values, mission, and overall plan for connecting with clients? Explore these together as a cohesive team. Encourage each member of sales and marketing to consider how their current activities propel the company forward towards revenue goals, or conversely how their silos hold the company back.
Establish channels of communication and strategies that allow sales and marketing to give valuable insight and guidance to one another. This may come in the form of joint sales and marketing meetings during which productive conversations can occur about goals, training on new products/services, methods of reaching customers, and how each team can contribute to the success of the organization. These meetings could even act as a brainstorming session that provides valuable feedback to upper management or other departments in the company.
Note: these meetings don’t have to occur all that frequently. They just need to happen.
Another activity is to map the customer journey together. Explore how each team engages the customer as she moves from Awareness to Conversion. Provide updated information about buyer personas, buyer behavior, and what truly motivates the buyer to make a purchase. Sales and marketing teams have unique perspectives on this, which can be incredibly informative for the other team.
The aforementioned process should also include an exercise that defines a qualified lead versus an unqualified lead. This is a helpful characterization for just about everyone on the business side of the company. If you can’t identify a qualified lead you will find yourself dedicating time, money, and resources to people who have no intention of buying. This activity alone could reduce headaches and heartbreaks across the company.
Embrace New Tools And A New Future
I expect many leadership members to read this next section and say “AHA! Let’s buy new software!” But it’s not quite that simple.
Don’t be afraid of new technology or new methods of reaching customers. If your company holds the mentality of “This is the way we’ve always done things”, then this definitely applies to you. The fact of the matter is that society and buyer behaviors are changing very rapidly thanks to technology. For better or worse, old tools may still “work”, but they may also be inefficient, provide no security, or (even worse) don’t adapt quickly to changes in the market.
Embracing new tools may mean investing in updated software like CRMs, marketing automation, or interdepartmental communication platforms (like Slack…. We LOVE Slack). But before you open up your wallet and throw money at the problem, think critically about what bottlenecks occur in communication and with executing a cohesive sales and marketing strategy. Compare that with the brand strategy and the buyer journey. If you see pain points that prevent you from motivating buyers or converting leads in ways that are consistent with your core values, then find solutions to fix those kinks. That may also include replacing team members that are toxic to the overall mission.
Finally, don’t accept mediocrity. Your customers deserve better, and frankly so do you. The silos in your organization may be delivering “just fine” for now, but better teamwork is always a good thing. We may not have covered your unique problems within this article, but that shouldn’t be grounds for giving up and accepting the status quo. Eventually your silos will run out of grain and your company will be just another rusty relic on the horizon of the past.