Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Asha Maskiell-Demarsh, CircleBack’s Director of Marketing, to discuss a topic that’s forever at the forefront of everyone’s concern: aligning marketing and sales teams. Thinking that I’d heard it all before—using Smarketing, communication, and shared goals to create alignment—I honestly expected to hear more of the same.

But that’s not what I got at all. Rather, Asha told stories offering insight into the reality of misaligned sales/marketing dysfunction sorting what worked from what didn’t . Sharing stories from her own experience as well as those who mentored her to her position today, Asha’s lessons offer new perspectives on the practical realities of aligning sales and marketing teams in startups, non-profits, and large corporations.

So here we go.

The Interview: Aligning B2B Marketing and Sales with Asha Maskiell-Demarsh

Austin Duck: Asha, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I was hoping you could give me some insight on how best to combat marketing and sales misalignment? I understand it’s something you have some experience in?

Asha Maskiell-Demarsh: (laughing) Austin, I wish I didn’t, but when you work in this industry [marketing], it’s inevitable that you’ll come across it. But I don’t want to do this as a boring listicle. Because misalignment is so specific to the company that’s experiencing it, I don’t really think “catch-all” recommendations are super helpful. Instead, how about I tell you some stories?

Austin: I like stories…

Asha: Good. The first one I’m going to tell you didn’t actually happen to me. It’s something an early mentor of mine shared with me, and, in my mind, it’s a perfect example of misalignment and what happens when you try to apply a “catch-all” solution.

It goes like this. [Name redacted] worked for a global non-profit as a marketing lead. He, along with the fundraising and cause-marketing teams, were basically in charge of bringing in large corporate investment to fund organization programs and corporate good campaigns. The idea behind it was super simple. [The non-profit] would use their social media influence and engagement to provide media potential to their new partners in exchange for funds to support the non-profit programs.

Austin: Ah, so a pretty classic cause marketing affair. Makes sense.

Asha: Well, it should have… Instead, because of an enormous misalignment and misunderstanding of the very new field of digital marketing, it was apparently one failure after another. It was explained to me like this: the standard workflow should be: sales articulates what their potential partners want, digital marketing concepts it out, adds it to the pitch from the program managers and then, in the pitch, sales would always overpromise and misunderstand digital marketing technologies leading to under-delivery.

Austin: So it was a problem of sales overpromising?

Asha: At first it was. But, as [Name redacted] tells it, marketing started to get fed up with things being promised, and reacted. They started developing pitches based on assumptions rather than on really specific feedback given by corporations to the non-profit.

It all sort of culminated with one pitch to a major insurance company. Sales, tired of the battle that had been brewing internally, allowed marketing to hijack the pitch. A $50,000,000 pitch went to the company with a promise of social media engagements. Had they known what sales knew—that what the company wanted was actually a significantly more cause-based campaign to drive PR and a significant investment in redevelopment of outdated technology for the non profit’s programs—the results might have been different, but, basically, the company walked away and the non-profit lost a $50,000,000 investment in the future of global farming.

Austin: So kind of a profound misalignment fail, huh?

Asha: Exactly. And totally avoidable. That didn’t have to happen. It would have been as simple as sitting down, sharing expectations and team/tech ability/bandwidth, maintaining a shared understanding of goals, and having a shared vision of the insurances companies KPIs for investment. They would have automatically aligned in their conversion funnels and produced a successful pitch.

Austin: What do you mean a shared vision of the conversion funnel? Don’t sales and marketing work on two different funnels?

Asha: One feeds directly into the other in this case, and certainly in our case. And this leads to my other story. This one’s actually happening to me right now in the context of a startup, CircleBack. Trust me, it’s going to seem like I’m going off topic, but I’m going to circle back (shakes head) to the idea of a shared funnel.

Basically, when I got here, one of the first things I did was sit down with the Senior Director of Sales and get a sense of what they were doing. I wanted to know everything: who were their target prospects, how leads were reacting to products, you know, everything. I wanted to understand what kinds of leads they wanted and needed so that I could ensure that what our team would be able to generate valuable leads that flow into sales.

Austin: So is this the idea of the shared funnel, then? An extension of the sales funnel that includes marketing efforts, so that, as the marketing funnel ends, the sales funnel begins?

Asha: Yes and no. Yes, both funnels should feed into one another, but no, marketing’s job doesn’t end just because a salesperson has a phone/email conversation with a lead we generated. What we’ve done is work out a system for tracking all of these leads and passively following up with them. Once sales makes contacts, unless it’s just a straight up sale, they notify me, and we continue to engage the lead and their reports with highly personalized marketing over different time periods (depending on how warm the sales team feels the lead is), until they convert.

Models like this make it really easy to stay aligned because they don’t let us forget that we have the same goal and, in some ways, the same job, just with different tools and in different parts of the pipeline.

Austin: That’s neat. So by building alignment into the workflow, you’re able to stop it before it gets started.

Asha: Exactly. And, of course, we make sure that we’re in constant communication. We created the funnel together, they’ve given me a clear understanding of their sales pitch, our messaging and our brand voice/linguistic styles have been aligned and tested… now we are going full speed, adapting as the sales pitch transitions for other industries. It’s like we’re sisters or something (laughs).

Austin: So that makes sense. You’ve taken the initiative, you hold one another accountable for doing their part to make the funnel work, you meet regularly and provide feedback to one another. You make it sound so easy.

Asha: It doesn’t have to be hard. Marketers have the tools, and sales knows the customers. As long as you also have the product, obviously, sales plus correct and evolving use of tools equals alignment success.

Austin: Thanks Asha!

The Bottom Line

Though Asha has, in some ways, reiterated a lot of the best practices you can find from other thought leaders—create a funnel together, hold weekly meetings, ensure consistent communication, foster the sense of a shared goal—her stories make one thing clear: misalignment isn’t just bickering and office-tension (which, of course, is bad in and of itself); it’s millions of dollars lost.

Align your marketing and sales teams for a more peaceful office, sure, but really, without it, you’re gambling huge sums of money on whether or not two independent teams can accidentally work in sync.

One simple step to take is equipping your teams with the CircleBack app. Using CircleBack, they’ll stay informed about any major job changes taking place within and across your departments, helping to facilitate better, stronger relationships.

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