Why marketing and sales must collaborate with product

As a business grows, it is important that departments within the organization actively work together to help achieve mutual long-term goals. Despite their unique functions, marketing & sales and product & engineering are all dependent on each other.

Collaborative companies stress the benefits of teamwork and encourage colleagues to lean on each other for support. Though marketing and sales teams are constantly overwhelmed with their ever-increasing workloads, they need to prioritize regular interaction with product folk and engineers. By sitting in on product team meetings, marketers and salespeople benefit in a number of different ways.

Align overarching goals

Tom Tate, project manager at email marketing company AWeber, knows that workers are susceptible to tunnel vision. Tate believes, “Every team (sales, marketing, product, engineering) will have their own goals and specific metrics for success. While those goals should align with the company’s mission and overarching goals, there are times when certain teams stray, even just slightly, to serve their own efforts.”

“Promoting collaboration amongst various teams keeps everyone locked into the mission,” he continues. “There is really only one team. Even if there are separate departments, everyone needs to be aware and in tune to what everyone else is focused on to best support each other and push to the finish line.” Joint meetings, where marketers, salespeople, product managers, and engineers all have a voice, allow everyone to reflect on what is important for both the company and its customers.

Close the communications gap

“Too often engineers live in a binary world,” says product management expert Jani Ruotsalainen, who spent more than a decade working at Nokia. “If something cannot be done 100%, it cannot be done at all. Sales and marketing, on the other hand, often see opportunities but lack the understanding of development realities.”

Though many teams do openly share information with each other, Ruotsalainen suspects the biggest issue lies in the fact that “they just have trouble understanding each other.”

Therefore, seven ways to improve interdepartmental communication include:

  1. Offer context
  2. Exercise empathy
  3. Embrace confusion
  4. Manage your emotions
  5. Develop a common language
  6. Intermingle
  7. Craft the right response

This way, the information exchanged between marketing & sales and product & engineering can be received and processed in an accurate, effective and timely manner.

Highlight feedback from clients

What marketers and salespeople learn from their conversations with prospects is fascinating. As gatekeepers of critical client feedback, it is their responsibility to relay important findings to their product and engineering colleagues.

“The marketing and sales team are on the front line, receiving vital feedback as to what appeals to the customer,” says Andrew Barrett, product manager of domain registrar EnCirca. “It would be wise of the development team to listen closely to their input and pivot their designs appropriately.”

Manage customer expectations

The message marketers and salespeople convey to potential customers must honestly represent the products and services they promote and sell.

“One cannot effectively market a product without a deep understanding of its purpose from the development team,” says Barrett of EnCirca.

Jeffrey Ricker, CEO of big data consultancy Ricker Lyman Robotic, argues, “The role of marketing is first to understand customer expectations and second to communicate effectively how the company fulfills those expectations.” Within product meetings, marketing and sales can keep tabs on upcoming feature fixes and updates. This empowers them to be agile with their sales pitch to ensure clients understand the value they will receive and can learn a bit more about the company’s development pipeline.

Product-market fit

Though most companies almost forcibly place product and marketing in separate silos, digital marketing agency Propel Marketing recently brought on a new CMO who now leads both departments. Cynthia Andre, a product manager at Propel Marketing, says, “[this] is a major strategic change for us to help align our positioning and messaging with product development and release planning.”

Knowing that many businesses build products first, before they involve marketing and sales, Andre sighs, “Companies often wait until after development to start marketing and figuring out how to sell a product when by that time it’s too late. Your salespeople may not be able to sell it and the features may not resonate with your target customer.” To ensure product-market fit, firms must actively leverage the knowledge, skills and talents of marketers and salespeople to produce profitable products.

“While sales and marketing are not there to tell product and engineering how to work and likewise, being equal partners in each other’s success forges a healthy, market-driven culture,” Andre says.

Support everyone’s ability to succeed

At MyCorporation.com, a provider of online document filing services, Natalie Riso was brought on to bridge the gap between marketing & sales and product & engineering. Riso notes, “Having the marketing team understand the processes of the product also allows them to know in what unique ways they can differentiate our product to the public. It’s also important for the sales team to know every detail of the product.” By participating in product & engineering meetings, marketing & sales employees develop an advanced understanding of how to use every available product feature. This makes it easy for them to later articulate the advantages and benefits of the company’s offerings.

To be more productive and successful at their jobs, “[marketers and salespeople] need to be ready to answer any question possible, even about the most minute details,” stresses Riso. “Especially with MyCorp, knowing all the different products and product regulations allows the marketing team to respond to complex legal filing questions without having to ask another employee. This increases efficiency and productivity for both teams.”

Post by Danny Wong

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award winning menswear company focusing on luxury made-to-measure garments) and does marketing at Grapevine (a platform that drives eCommerce, helping retailers partner with YouTube celebrities). Tweet him @dannywong1190