New Survey Reveals Significant Inconsistencies in Collaboration Between B2B Sales and Marketing Departments

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A new national survey of B2B marketing and sales leaders found trust is a key issue when it comes to collaboration, yet there was a positive shift in the relationship between the two departments due to the increased attention on customer experience during the pandemic. treetree, a prominent women-led B2B marketing agency, commissioned the study in collaboration with PATH, a data-driven research and business management firm.

The survey found that most of the marketing and sales leaders in B2B organizations saw collaboration between the two departments as extremely important and key to an organization’s success, but there was a lack of shared focus on customer outcomes and how to align on collaboration.

A national study released today found great inconsistencies in the degree of collaboration and engagement within B2B sales and marketing departments. However, the study did find a positive shift in the relationship between the two departments as the COVID-19 pandemic created an increased focus on the customer experience. treetree, a prominent women-led B2B marketing agency, commissioned the study in collaboration with PATH, a data-driven research and business management firm.

“We began hearing rumblings from our clients of a change in the relationship between sales and marketing after the pandemic hit,” said Becca Apfelstadt, co-founder and CEO of treetree. “This made us curious about how the relationship had evolved and what challenges these departments were facing as COVID-19 shifted the customer experience and the digital landscape. The results showed a clear path for how sales and marketing disciplines should join forces to effectively serve the modern customer.”

The national survey of B2B marketing and sales leaders consisted of five phases over 18 months. It featured one-on-one interviews, a secondary market analysis, focus groups, telephonic study analysis, and a comprehensive national digital survey. The participants came from companies that reach more than $500 million in annual revenue, employ up to 400,000 individuals, and span multiple industries, including manufacturing, technology and health care.

The Findings

The survey found that most of the marketing and sales leaders in B2B organizations saw collaboration between the two departments as extremely important and key to an organization’s success, but there was a lack of shared focus on customer outcomes and how to align on collaboration. Additionally, the survey revealed that the pandemic drastically shifted the relationship between the two departments given that the digital landscape accelerated roughly 10 years of e-commerce penetration to a few months and put the customer in full control of the experience. What was once a seller-centric model moved to a customer-focused ideology, making traditional sales tools less impactful.

The survey found three main levels of collaboration within B2B organizations:
1. Department support: At this level, the relationship is more transactional, in which marketing is focused on sales support activities. Only 43% of respondents at this level felt collaboration was happening, a definite split between the departments. One hundred percent of respondents said lack of trust is the main challenge. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that collaboration was done to generate revenue.
2. Digitally-transformed partners: These types of organizations have a higher level of collaboration between sales and marketing, focusing on sharing key account insights and thought leadership. While 100% of respondents said collaboration was happening between sales and marketing, 71% felt it was inconsistent.
3. Integrated for customer success: Companies at this level had a true cross-functional and integrated approach, showing technology-driven alignment and transparency. Of respondents at this level, 85% felt sales and marketing collaboration was comprehensive across the whole customer experience. Only 6% responded that revenue generation was the goal of collaboration.

“The shift in not only goals for collaboration, but the level of engagement from the lowest level to the highest level of collaboration, showed a true model for what B2B organizations need to do,” said Sarah Ahern, partner at PATH. “Never before has the customer had so much control. B2B organizations must align to ensure a customized and seamless customer experience. This can lead to not only a higher quantity and quality of leads, but also to a greater strength of brand for an organization.”

Integrating Collaboration into Sales and Marketing

The study found three key steps to build effective collaboration between sales and marketing departments in large companies:
1. Build trust by proving value in every interaction
2. Drive consistency with systems that create and deliver value across organizations
3. Focus on the customer to integrate and provide a valuable and seamless experience

With these findings in mind, Apfelstadt offers these suggestions for fostering collaboration among sales and marketing functions:

  • Leave egos at the door. It’s not about one being better than the other, it’s about working better together to drive revenue growth and success because the strengths of each department are needed for the organization to succeed.
  • It starts from the top. The head of sales and the head of marketing need to align and agree on how to integrate their functions – and then follow through. Complexity often is the enemy of success, so set one goal and be clear about how to get there.
  • Design and roll out a roadmap for collaboration. Arm your teams with specific directions on when, where and why to integrate and what the desired outcome is.
  • Remember, customer-centric solutions will always win.

The survey findings were summarized in treetree’s fourth quarter Curiosity Report titled “The Friction, Fix and Future for B2B Marketing and Sales Teams” which can be downloaded here.

About treetree treetree, a leading marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio, delivers creative firepower for B2B giants to help the world's busiest marketing and sales teams shine when it’s go time. Every creative idea is built on a solid strategic foundation, so it does more than execute—it elevates. From sales tools for a multi-million-dollar pitch or fresh content for social channels, treetree’s strategy, brand, experience, project management and digital offerings are the powerhouse support and fresh thinking marketing teams need to confidently say "yes" to new initiatives. Founded in 2009, treetree is an independently owned Certified Women's Business Enterprise. Visit treetreeagency.com to learn more.

About PATH
PATH is a data-driven consulting firm that helps companies make the best growth decisions by focusing on the most important element of business: People. The biggest growth challenge for any business is to make bold and efficient choices with the highest returns. Since 1984, our mission has been to use data to help organizations adapt with confidence to the changing needs of customers and employees. By linking experiences to strategy and research, we can build bridges between customers, employees, and leadership to create positive and lasting connections. For more information, visit http://www.pathgrowth.com.

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Molly Todd Rudy