The Missing Link Between Sales and Marketing with John Barrows

sales and marketing alignment

The word teamwork defines itself. Without team cohesion and hard work, sales and marketing efforts are likely to falter on their course to action.

John Barrows, owner of JBarrows Sales Training, provides sales training and consulting services to some of the world’s fastest growing companies like, LinkedIn, DropBox, and many others. A sales professional with years of real-world experience, John knows what works and doesn’t work in sales and loves sharing the tips and techniques he has found to have had an impact along the way.

One of his latest goals is to  improve alignment between sales and marketing. Check out our Q&A with John as he discusses what he’s learned on his path to achieving sales and marketing alignment.

1. Sales and Marketing Alignment Horror Stories

ZoomInfo: Misalignment between sales and marketing can be incredibly destructive to the success of both individual initiatives and company-wide efforts. As someone who’s had his share of experiences with both teams, can you share one sales and marketing misalignment horror story that can work to scare everyone into alignment?

Barrows: There are two stories that come to mind; I was involved in one, and the other is a relatively well-known story in the industry. Here’s some background on the latter: A salesperson – or I’m guessing a marketing engine – sent a (very ill-informed) email pitch to Werner Vogel, Amazon’s CTO, and of course, he shared it. In brief, the email was to one of today’s founding fathers of the cloud, asking this question in the opener: Is your company still considering going to the cloud? Vogel Tweeted back perfectly: “I know your targeting algorithm was cheap and thus not perfect, but I suggest to ask your money back from however sold it to you!” Ouch.

Something similar happened to me. A sales rep sent one of those typical email cadences with a bunch of e-mails focused on how great their company and product suite was. The cadence included the expected “guilt email” and ultimately the “breakup email.” I don’t usually pay much attention to these emails, but on this particular day, for whatever reason, I decided to let the rep know how I felt. Straight to the point, I said something along the lines of, “the reason I’m not responding is because I’m tired of receiving these templated emails; they’re doing more harm than good, and I’m sick of sales reps going through the motions without thinking about what they are sending!” The poor rep…but he had it coming. The rep later wrote he understood my frustration and also pointed out that he wasn’t the one who sent the emails – his marketing department did.

I reference the occurrence of this all-too-common breakdown in sales and marketing in the article, “Marketing should Market and Sales should Sell,” but in a nutshell, when marketing tries to pretend like they are sales they do way more harm than good in my opinion. Marketing writes emails that sound like they’re coming from sales, but the reader usually knows, often in seconds, that these emails are far from personally customized. As soon as your recipient figures out that the messages they’re receiving are automated (or developed by a robot in the case of AI), they stop trusting that rep entirely and begin deleting every single email from that brand. Without aligning the roles of sales and marketing, you’re actively contributing to the growth of distrust in your target audience.

2. The Benefits of Sales and Marketing Alignment

ZoomInfo: Please expand on how the customer, in particular, can benefit from a cohesive and cooperative marketing and sales team. 

Barrows: Today, a simple Google search renders you just about anything. Before the Internet, the sales function existed in large part to educate people on features and functions because that sort of information was simply unavailable. Now, that same information (and a whole lot more of it) is out there and easy to find. So our job has changed drastically when it comes to outreach and the conversations we’re having. I believe our job in sales has evolved and should focus on getting people to think.  It’s our job to help them realize that even if they don’t have a direct problem right now, they may have a problem later and that there’s a better way of doing things.

If you’re comfortable with where you are right now – in business, in your role, etc. – I’m quite worried for you. In the past, technology both displaced and created jobs with somewhat of a balance between the two. Today’s world is different; technology is moving much faster and is now just going to start erasing jobs without replacing them with enough to go around.  If you’re not more mindful, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll wake up one day and your industry and role will be entirely irrelevant. Take the Uber example. Do you think the taxi industry had any idea that Uber was lurking around the corner?

By having a coordinated effort between sales and marketing that’s focused on education and specific challenges via created personas, you can educate the client and help them come up with their own conclusion. The bottom line: People hate to get sold on anything, but everybody loves to buy stuff. Like in the movie Inception, you can plant a seed and nurture it until it becomes that person’s idea. Account-based marketing and account-based selling, for instance, have contributed real value to the customer. If you deliver value from the beginning, and give away useful free stuff, even in the form of an informative blog or email, your customers will thank you. Try it.

3. A Sneak Peek into ZoomInfo’s Growth Acceleration Summit

ZoomInfo: Your session at the 2017 Growth Acceleration summit this coming September is titled, “The Missing Link Between Sales and Marketing.” Without giving too much away, please clue us on how to best initiate the first steps to alignment.

Barrows: First, stop relying on tech to solve whatever problem you may have. Second, think about the things that you can do with the resources that you already have to align sales and marketing. Remember, you’re the one responsible for getting marketing and sales on the same page – for helping each team help the other. There’s really no tech out there that can deliver sales and marketing alignment on a silver platter.

We’re living in a world of technology platform overload, so if you’re looking for that quick fix solution, you’re in for a tough time. In reality, the human component is what’s responsible for better alignment. Think about what you can do without additional tech resources; use what you currently have at your disposal (i.e. your phone) to align better and drive better results.

4. Good Advice

ZoomInfo: What piece of advice has proved most significant in your career?

Barrows: The biggest lesson I learned happened soon after I was fired from Staples. Long story short, after I was let go, I reached out to the man who wasn’t my biggest fan at the time – the one responsible for firing me  – and asked him directly to answer a few questions for my own personal and professional development so I could better understand what happened. He was overly gracious with his time and rewarded me with some of the best feedback and insight that I’ve had to this day.

Importantly, when I asked if he would have been open to a similar meeting when I had worked for him, he answered, “yes, why wouldn’t I have been?” He continued with something along the lines of, “what would have been the risk? On the one hand, I could have ripped you apart, and you wouldn’t have wanted to work for me. But if things went differently, the chance of us seeing eye to eye was still there, in which case, don’t you think your career here would have been a little easier?” Of course, it would have been. He was right. The takeaway: If you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, take the risk.

Want to learn more about sales and marketing alignment? Join John Barrows, as well as 25 other experts, at ZoomInfo’s 2017 Growth Acceleration Summit, a two-day B2B event geared toward sales and marketing professionals, on Sept. 13-14 in Boston. John’s session, “The Missing Link Between Sales and Marketing,” presents a specific approach to help align sales and marketing without having to spend any additional money or buy any new technology or tools. Register today.