A common problem many of my clients face is how to clearly and effectively communicate with sales, and I can understand why – supporting sales is tricky and delicate. Here are 6 easy steps you can follow to boost good communications with sales reps.
For example, when I do sales enablement presentations at conferences or training sessions, I often get questions such as:
“Sales change their minds a lot, so it’s hard to know what they really want. How can I support them if they change directions all the time?”
“Sales ask me to send the same content all the time because they don’t stay on top of what’s been published. How can I help them get in the loop?”
“Sales don’t want to do their own research or create templates, and they ask Marketing to do it for them. But it’s not my job, so how do I tell them no and still maintain a good relationship?”
Ok, regarding that last question, check out my tips covering content marketing for sales.
Here is the question I’d like to address in particular:
How can you better communicate with sales and set up clear expectations?
I understand your pain because I have supported sales for a long time. However, even though every company has a sales organization and/or sales enablement team. They all face similar challenges across the board, there is no cookie-cutter solution – remedies will vary from company to company.
I’ve never recommended a one-size-fits-all solution to a company, even if the challenge they’re facing resembles similar case studies because you need to take into account each sales organization’s culture, sales seniority, structure, processes, and even the tools that sales use.
For example, many sales organizations struggle with the quality of leads from marketing. We need to find a potential cause or causes for that before anything else.
Do we have a clear definition of marketing leads that sales can accept? Is the quality really not on par? Do we need more vetting before we pass leads to sales?
How can we change the definition if we need to? How should we modify the processes, and who should vet them? Once you determine some plausible causes, the solutions will also depend on the organizational structures, resources shared between sales and marketing, etc.
So, one big key takeaway here is that there is no blanket solution for working with sales.
Although communications soft skills are essential, here are six steps I’d take to effectively communicate with sales clearly and set up concrete expectations:
1. Interview and talk to several sales team members about their challenges and how they ideally want to be supported moving forward. Put your listening skills to work. Face-to-face is preferred.
Bear in mind: at this point, you are just gathering information. You don’t necessarily need to implement everything they suggest, and you’re not committing to anything just yet.
2. Go through the list and prioritize. Here’s what you need to consider at this stage
- List: If you interview 20 salespeople, the resulting list will be long. You’ll need to comb through everything and group similar requests together. That takes time.
- Prioritization approach: Prioritize what you will do, some of which may be low-hanging fruit, while others require resources and a budget. Identify 3 from the low-hanging fruit category and 3 that require more intensive resources and budgeting that you need to work on.
- Create a service level agreement (SLA): Create a document to explain what you will and will not do, and/or specify something sales need to do to move things forward collectively.
3. Get buy-in from sales and management
Create a presentation and show what you will do to get buy-in. Sales like to see what you can do for them NOW. So you need to have a couple of things to show that you will jump right in.
For example, you might refresh the sales pitch deck or sales training deck, update a pricing guide, or even just commit to attending their weekly sales huddle meetings to listen in.
4. Once you get buy-in, it’s all about execution, execution, execution. Start working and show them what you can deliver. Knock their socks off.
5. Stay close and provide timely updates
Always let them know what you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do. This can be in the form of an update at the weekly huddle meetings. Take a couple of minutes during each meeting specifically to provide status updates. Or, you can incorporate these notes as part of the quarterly updates that your marketing team provides to Sales.
Strong communication is key!
6. Update SLA as you go
As time goes by, sales always have additional tasks which fall outside of the scope you’ve proposed. I KNOW, I’ve been there. Address these head-ons. It’s kinda like when you are a restaurant owner, and you see a bad Yelp review – address it, explain your point of view, and apologize if necessary.
When sales team members ask about something which is not part of the Service Level Agreement, address their concerns right away and discuss what needs to be done, then update the SLA accordingly.
Both you and sales will learn to make the appropriate adjustments over time through close communication and collaboration.
Here is the ultimate sales enablement guide that details how you can better support sales as a marketer.
And there you have it!
We covered quite a bit here, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’ve got any questions on how to effectively communicate with sales. I always love to hear from you.