My friend works in the social media space in the marketing department of the company and her colleague works in sales. Even though they are friendly, they never really talked about exactly what it is that the other does in a day. Over a couple drinks, however, some interesting connections and observations emerged.
It became clear that the sales folks had no idea what the marketing team did on a regular basis to support their efforts. This is a common problem a lot of organizations face. Marketers and sales folks are different breeds, with different approaches, different interactions and different metrics for success.
Often, marketers don't have clear-cut metrics for their success and are focused on reaching a wider audience. To a sales person, "creating awareness" and "building the brand" are concepts that are hard to put real numbers to. And in the world of most sales people, it's all about numbers. It's also about real people for sales teams. Their real numbers improve when real people sign on the dotted line.
Meantime, many marketers I have spoken to over the past few years are scared. Some are terrified. The new social tools that they are expected to master create an entirely different dynamic. While it was once enough to create brand awareness and direct mail campaigns that looked great in a portfolio, they now need to learn a whole new set of tools to do their job.
From my perspective, it doesn't seem like the sales folks have as steep a learning curve when it comes to engaging with an audience in social media. Many sales folks are embracing social media and recognize that it's just another tool in the belt. They already knew how to communicate directly with individuals, as their livelihoods depended on it. Most good sales folks are in the business of building relationships. This, of course, is at the heart of social media.
Recommendation: Hang out with the sales team
So what to do? Every organization is different and each sales team has different needs, strengths and opportunities. I highly recommend -- before spending hours putting together a marketing PowerPoint that is full of stats and studies -- spending a couple of lunches or dinners with different members of your sales force. Find out how they connect with new customers. Ask them what social media tools they use. Ask what would help make their jobs easier that the marketing department could provide. Be clear that you can't make any guarantees, but let them know that you have a keen interest in helping them do their jobs better and more easily.
Perhaps your organization is already involved in active dialogue between sales and marketing. Is it only at the highest levels? That's a start, but it's better to have connections at all levels. There are really only a few people whose job it is in an organization to be constantly looking outside its own walls. The more dialogue that's going on between those parties, the more everyone benefits.