— 24 min read

Salespeople are warriors on the front line hustling and closing deals. They are motivated, they are goal-oriented, they live in the now, and we need them. We need them badly.

Despite how much we need them there are a few problems. Sales people tend to think short-term and often don't like to fill out reports. That creates conflict, because we sometimes need information from them to do our job better, especially when it comes to customer feedback. Also, every once in a while we need them to come out of their recency bias and think long-term.

This situation is bound to create conflict and can lead to less motivated sales people, frustrated coworkers, and worst of all, lower your bottom line. Unfortunately, I have seen this problem in too many companies. Nevertheless, this is a challenge that can be fixed for both parties.

This article will give Sales people a way of setting long-term goals and a template for what they should be reporting to everybody else. Also, this article is meant for other team leaders to find out how to work with Sales teams to get better results, especially for Marketing teams. But first, here’s a quick background story to understand why this conflict between Sales and other teams keeps coming up.

Conflict between Sales and Marketing

I manage a marketing team and my job is to think long-term, be patient, and build up a constant stream of great leads to close. Whenever I have a meeting with the sales team, I have noticed that I zone out when they start talking. Why?

That is because I have heard it all before – recency biased rationalizing, silver bullet fixes that will cure everything, marketing is not giving us enough leads, etc. And I don't blame them, I respect them, I couldn't do what they do. It is their job that makes them think that way.  Forcing them to fill out more reports and cutting their bonuses won't help.

Nevertheless, there has to be a silver lining if we want to be aligned and exist in harmony. That is why I sat down with our Head of Sales and tried to understand what their needs are and also explaining the value of their communication to marketing and the rest of the company. After an insightful discussion it was clear that they understand the need for giving feedback and doing some long-term thinking. Now, it was time to figure out how we could do it.

Since we all use Weekdone – a software that combines short-term and long-term goal setting and tracking. I will give you the solution and examples based on our software.

The difference between Sales’ and Marketing’s long-term goals and reporting

In order for us as a company to be more focused, organized, and goal-oriented, we set quarterly Objectives and Key Results – OKRs. The point of OKRs is that each quarter we would have a common objective to strive for. It is like a beacon that we build our everyday activities upon. In order for it not to be just a soft, fuzzy beacon, we add key results/key metrics that tell us if we are successful or not.

Weekdone combines these long-term goals with weekly tasks which helps me know what do I need to do on a weekly basis to make that long-term goal happen. For Marketing it is pretty straight forward.

For example, if our goal in marketing is to improve our content and its distribution, we would set that as our Objective. For Key Results, I will set the following:

  • Implement 12 new channels/mediums where to post old or new content
  • Get 60 marketing takeaways from reading 1h of marketing materials a day
  • 50 000 new visitors to our site

Now everybody knows that this quarter I will focus most of my time on improving our content and distribution. That doesn't mean I ditch the rest, it means this area of marketing gets more attention and we believe that this focus will grow our business more than other activities.

I will set my weekly tasks accordingly and Weekdone’s automated report system will show everybody  what I do in real-time. If my boss or coworker needs to understand where I am at with my work, it is all there, available for everybody. What’s more, they can also give me feedback and comment on my work.

For Sales, it is more complicated as coming up with quarterly goals might not be hard, but sticking to them is. In addition, their weekly reporting is almost pointless. It is largely the same day in and day out – Make x amount of calls, close x amount of deals. It is tedious for sales people to report on these activities and most of all they don't offer any value to the rest of us.

When I report something like a new article on goal-setting or a new distribution channel, it is valuable for almost everybody, whether they learn something new, their feedback is needed, or for just knowing what is going on in Marketing.

Nevertheless, there are some useful things for Sales to report. These examples will be explained later on in this article.

As a company our goal is to be more aligned and we strongly believe that if everybody moves in a unified direction, we accomplish greater results. We have now implemented a new way of working for Sales, so that they are satisfied and we get the information that we desperately need. I’m excited to share this new approach with you guys, because I believe it will benefit our Weekdone customers and everyone else who has to work with Sales teams.

1. Establish common ground and make agreements 

You need buy-in from Sales first. And the way you get it is through explaining the benefits and providing a clear understanding how much impact collaboration has on everybody.

What are our needs?

Sales:

  • No pointless extra work that doesn't even have an impact on closing deals (reporting, filling out stuff).
  • Need to be heard and understood. Let's be honest, we all need that, but Sales needs it more, it is like jet fuel, helping them to vent and be motivated.
  • Support from marketing – materials, campaigns, message, copy, etc.
  • Most of all, they want to make more sales so their bonus will be bigger. This might sound cynical, but I haven't met a salesperson who is not motivated by money.

The rest of the company:

  • We all need Sales to be great, it affects the success of our entire company.
  • Marketing desperately yearns for client feedback, great quotes, and marketing ideas.
  • The Product team and Engineers need feedback on the features, customer complaints, and customer needs. Without that information they work in isolation. In a way sales is the bridge between the company and the customer. Every team needs to have some communication with customers, but ultimately sales has the best and most frequent interactions with customers, which gives them the best sense of what clients needs are at one moment of time.
  • Finally, we need sales to think and execute in the long-term.

There are often more underlying concerns and ones which are unique to your company, but these are the needs that I have seen in almost every company I have worked for. Once they’re understood by both parties, you need a practical game-plan.

Sales people are not dummies, they understand why information for others is important, but they need a clear cut no-bullshit game plan. And I advise somebody else besides Sales should come up with it, because this kind of task is too far from their goals. So help them out, as you are far more likely to succeed.

2) Long term thinking and goals for Sales

I would again strongly advise that the marketing team takes initiative and set quarterly objectives with the Sales team. Why?

Because it forces marketing and sales to work in sync. Secondly, Sales goals are very straightforward – make more calls and close more large deals. Usually, these goals don't change. The point of OKRs is to set objectives that encourage new approaches and activities to strive for.

Of course, Sales can have their own long-term goals, but having common goals with Marketing tends to open up the information flow and has more impact on the company. Therefore, aim for objectives that can be tackled together and that will get the salespeople out of their funk, but at the same time keep them focused on making sales.

Example OKRs for Sales (for more examples click here):

A typical common ground for Sales and Marketing is conversions. We both need better conversions to succeed and marketing can help with the strategy and the message while Sales can be the muscle of the operation.

For us, it was the conversion from leads who test out the product and become a paying customer. Typically Marketing brings in the leads and the Sales team has to close them. We wanted to improve that conversion and with Sales we thought of ways we could do it. I would recommend having the same objective, but the the key results should be somewhat different, so it is applicable for the right team.

Example OKRs Marketing: Help Sales to convert leads better

  • Help sell demos better to increase the signup to paid conversion to X%
  • Help sales to upsell to existing customers to get X New MRR – Churn monthly
  • Write sales materials to increase the number the signup to paid conversion to X%

Comment: Our insight from the past was that clients who got a demo call were more successful at setting up their account. Thus, they were more likely to start using our product and since they knew the best use case, they were less likely to churn. Therefore, marketing agreed to brainstorm how we could help them get more demos. This key result included writing better demo pitches and explaining why it is beneficial for the person to get a demo.

Secondly, we noticed that Sales was complaining about not having enough quality leads and they were worried about our New MRR – Churn (this is our overall company metric) dropping. We brainstormed for other ways besides closing existing leads and came up with an idea on how to try and upsell existing clients.

It killed more than 2 birds with one stone. Sales would interact more with our existing customers reducing churn. Some clients would upgrade to bigger deals as many are expanding and need to bring in more users, which would add to our new MRR. And we got valuable feedback and use cases for marketing purpose.

Thirdly, sales needed more support materials for unique cases. This article actually is one of them. Turns out, it is not only our own Sales team that needs special use cases for long-term goals and reporting but many others as well.

We did not know all the materials we were missing beforehand, so we agreed that Sales will let us know whenever they notice a common issue that marketing needs to address in the format of an article or sales material.

While we are setting up Marketing Key Results, Sales was doing the same thing. See the example below.

Example OKRs for Sales: Increase deals moving from "Leads" to "Won" sales funnel from X% to X%

  • Increase second log in from X% to X% for new deals
  • Increase people inviting their team and entering trial (only active trials) from X to X
  • Get in contact with X of all qualified + leads

Comment: Notice how specific the wording of the Sales Objective is. I strongly recommend that Sales now themselves define the OKRs and use their own definitions that are as close to their everyday Sales metrics as possible. Sales teams tend to work better if the goals are very clear.

Therefore, they substituted “increase the conversion” objective to an exact percentage they want to hit from leads to won. Plus, this description aligns with their CRM system. All in all, with key results, both Marketing and Sales have specified the same goal in their own way. Thus stating what each team needs to do. From here, it is off to the races.

3) Weekly and daily reporting for Sales

As I stated earlier, It is hard for Sales to report on their everyday activities. Often times it is simply to make more calls and close bigger and better deals. In addition, filling out something that does not benefit anyone is extra demotivating for any individual.

Instead, I recommend that while other teams report their daily activities, Sales should only report on the activities that are related to OKRs and information that is valuable for others. This is a win win for everybody – Sales doesn't have to report so much and the rest of us get the information that is important to us.

We have have settled it like this.

On a weekly basis, Sales report only on the following:

  1. Activities that they did towards their OKRs. For example, “gave marketing input what materials are needed in order to increase demos”, “launch and email campaign for existing users to get more upgrades”.

    Here we have a mutual agreement that although contacting more people is in their OKRs, there is no need to report it because that is a given. Sales team leader is responsible for how many call were done and he is in charge of making sure those goals are met.
  2. Report feedback from clients. While others post what they do, Sales posts and reports client feedback. It can be complaints, praise, bugs, feature requests – whatever feedback they get from their calls and chats. This information is almost the most valuable info we – the other teams can get and we praise them for it.

    With Weekdone, we use hashtags for common items and one of them is #feedback from sales. For marketing, it is great because whenever I need client feedback I just put “#feedback” in our search and there are tons of it. I consider myself a lucky marketeer to have that information so easily available.

    Another insight is that Sales feedback starts insightful discussions in our comment section. Sometimes, product team gets an idea for a feature and we at marketing get a great quote and ask Sales for contact info. We show our love to the Sales feedback with a like or a comment, so that they would know how valuable this info is. It is extra work for Sales, so make sure you give them the praise they deserve.

That is it, they report only on these 2 areas and that is all everybody needs. So, no need to torture your Sales team to mark everything down. They have their CRM system anyway, no need to make double entries in different systems.

4) Integrations between a central reporting tool and a CRM system

This is one of the most asked questions from our clients who have sales teams. My recommendation is not to integrate a CRM system and a central hub of information like Weekdone. These softwares serve a different purpose and contain information that won't match easily. Plus, it is clunky and creates more hassle.

Instead I recommend that Sales report only on their long-term goals and client feedback. The rest of it should be done in their own system. Of course, sometimes you want to know what the Sales team is doing and how the pipeline looks. This issue can be solved in 2 ways.

The first option is to create access to the CRM system for the people who need that information. Usually it is marketing and management.

The second option is to make weekly Sales pipeline updates. It can be done in a weekly team meeting or on your report. In addition to OKR progress and client feedback mentioned earlier, add one report item weekly on the status of the pipeline. That way Sales doesn’t have to do extra work or bother people with information that is not useful for everybody.

 

To conclude, I strongly believe that bringing Sales and Marketing closer together has huge upsides. Not only does it improve collaboration, but this approach has short and long term effect on your business. Instead of wasting your energy getting the information from Sales and Sales filling out meaningless reports, you can make ground rules and define what is important to everybody.

There is a silver lining and setting OKRs together is a method to unite Sales with the rest of the company. In case you work in Sales or with Sales, I strongly urge you to try out long-term quarterly goals and stop reporting on the day to day information nobody needs. I hope this approach benefits you as much as it helped our company. To make your company more focused and organized, try out Weekdone and OKRs here.

Below are all OKR related materials you might need to get started: