Brian Signorelli is the Director of the Global Sales Partner Program at HubSpot. He knows better than most just how much sales has changed over the last decade. Before he rose through the ranks at HubSpot, where he started as an Account Executive in 2012, Brian was COO at an early-stage startup and an analyst at the Corporate Executive Board. He has witnessed technology shift the landscape, and he’s been a part of that shift.

Every seasoned salesperson knows that the questions you ask to a prospect are just as important as your pitch. The best salespeople are also the best listeners. They pick up on the nuance of conversation. They make perceptive comments and ask insightful questions.

On the flip side, many salespeople end up talking their way through conversations instead of listening. Most of us have been on a sales call where we couldn’t get a word in edgewise because the salesperson was on a roll. It leaves little room for a productive back-and-forth because the prospect sits there twiddling their thumbs while the salesperson continues down the path of no return.

This scenario plays out across many functions. Sales managers often think that the more they talk at their team—and the more their team asks questions—the more they have to teach. In reality, when employees lean on their managers a lot, it usually means that the manager is training, not coaching. Or worse, the team member is using their manager as a crutch. When you train, you just impart knowledge. When you coach, you empower growth.

Sales and Marketing’s Co-dependent Relationship

So what does this have to do with marketing and sales? Well, like any co-dependent relationship, marketers and salespeople often end up at odds because one feels they’re giving more than the other. Marketers are perpetually complaining that salespeople don’t work the leads they give them, while salespeople complain about the quality of the leads they’re getting.

Go to practically any SaaS company, and I guarantee you’ll hear these complaints from both sides. It’s pretty obvious that neither side is solely at fault. The real issue is the quality of the relationship between departments. And that all comes back to listening.

For marketing and sales, part of listening is looking at the same data. Oftentimes, marketers just want to see some consistent touches on the leads they pass to sales. On the other hand, sales just wants to see some reliable lead scoring that tells them marketing is doing its job. It’s a simple lack of visibility, but it costs companies a lot. If marketing and sales distrust each other, then the company is headed down a tumultuous path.

How to Drive Sales & Marketing Alignment

Instead of grappling over sales activity and lead scores, teams can align by listening to each other’s concerns and planning solutions collaboratively. If marketing keeps complaining that sales isn’t logging activities, leaders on both sides should come together to form a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that holds each team accountable for something.

At HubSpot, our marketing team promises to provide a specific volume of quality leads at a specific flow. Sales commits to working those leads a certain number of times before they pass them back to marketing. This means everyone first agrees on what “quality” looks like, and how deeply a lead needs to be worked before they’ll close.

When we adopted this approach, we found that each team needed to adjust its metrics to speak to the other’s needs. Marketing now partially measures their performance on the number of meetings they successfully schedule for the sales team. Rather than MQLs and SQLs, it’s a KPI that focuses on action. And our sales team loves it. They’re getting more bookings with higher-quality leads who they want to engage.

Again, it all comes back to listening. When you balance activities with outcomes and listen more than you talk, you empower people. Whether it’s a prospect who’s more inclined to buy because they discovered the need themselves or an employee who learns to problem solve because their manager empowered them—when you listen more than you talk, you solve tomorrow’s problems.


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