A modern-day love / hate story: sales and marketing

Posted on September 20, 2016 by Lauren Greatorex

The ‘siloed teams’ story is a tale as old as time. Boy (marketing) meets girl (sales), neither boy or girl like each other much, neither thinks the other understands them, boy and girl refuse to work together… or something like that…

There are no ‘happily ever afters’ in that scenario. External comms efforts are disjointed, ineffective, pricey and confusing to the audience.


As marketers and PRs, we talk about this in relation to our own organisations and clients a lot. But it’s also very true of the publications we pitch to, themselves massive and complex organisations.

Last week, I attended the brilliant Dots Conference and heard from Duncan Hammond, Delivery Director (strategy guy, not paperboy!) at Guardian News & Media. The Guardian is currently in the midst of Project 2021 which asks, “What does the Guardian want to be at 200 years old?”

The team developed an internal questionnaire and one narrative cropped up time and time again, that the organisation is too complex and siloed to compete in an increasingly digital and agile market.

Duncan says, “We don’t want silos anymore, just teams with people that can talk to one another.” Sound familiar? His team developed a strategy around three key themes:

  1. A common purpose
  2. Clear goals that unify purpose
  3. Adopting a common language

They particularly focused on joining the dots between the Editorial, Commercial and Digital sections of the business by developing ‘huddles’. These are cross-functional mini-projects that aim to achieve one defined objective (OKRs - image below) in a set period of time. Basically, they set out to accomplish something achievable using people from each department.


By Duncan’s own admission, these aren’t always popular but they do encourage more collaboration, new relationships and new ways of thinking. This means the team now focuses on quarterly, short-terms goals rather than slow-burn annual plans – vital in an ‘always-on’ world.

We’ll be sharing more on this topic over the next few months but here are some tips we regularly give to marketing clients that want some sales love:

  1. Collaborate: As the Guardian strategy demonstrates – work together occasionally. You might even like it!
  2. Get key salespeople involved: If you can’t bring yourself to connect your entire teams, identify your key sales stakeholders and get them involved in your project. In particular, those with the vision to see what you’re trying to achieve (and will stand up for it) as well as the blockers that hate everything you do and need convincing. Invite them to join the creation process and build a sense of ownership, and personal responsibility, from the start. More tips are in this SlideShare.
  3. Talk numbers: To avoid being labelled as ‘fluffy’, marketers need to speak to sales teams in their language – no, not Klingon, numbers! Get focused on KPIs, results, measurement, and sales funnels.
  4. Don’t assume you know best: Ask the sales team for help and make the most of their insight into potential customers. Involve them in the planning process by getting their feedback on what does and doesn’t work for prospects.
  5. Put yourself in their shoes: Similarly, show that your work matters to prospects and explain how it’s aligned to the needs of the sales team. Marketers need to convince salespeople that they understand their new business targets but can also help them to build long-term relationships.
  6. Make it usable: Explain how your marketing content can be used to generate interest from potential clients and how the salesperson might practically use it to enhance a meeting. You could do this in face-to-face workshops or via written toolkits and conversation guides.

Ultimately, we must overcome the odds and act as one cohesive team to create the shared outcomes we all want. When it comes to sales and marketing, it’s time to stop messing around and realise that deep down, we’re perfect for each other.


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