Too often, sales, marketing, and customer success exist in silos—and it’s stifling progress.

When all three forces align, businesses thrive and customers get what they actually want and need. When they don’t, it’s easy for businesses to get “stuck.”

In the most recent episode of the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast, we’re joined by Margaret Mueller, Board Director, President, and CEO at The Executives’​ Club of Chicago, who reminds us of a commonly underutilized tactic for unlocking business potential: sales as a source for customer insight and innovation.

With sales on the frontlines and marketing the compelling force behind engagement, both can benefit immensely from sharing data and gaining symbiosis, especially in turbulent times such as an acquisition, brand consolidation, or uncertain economic conditions.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Learnings from what can go wrong in pursuit of alignment
  • Breaking down departmental silos with an enterprise-wide mindset
  • Hunting for insight to inspire innovation with your frontline, customer-facing teams

Listen to “#63 Break Silos Between Sales & Marketing to Unleash Innovation” on Spreaker.

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Learnings from what can go wrong in pursuit of alignment 

Margaret’s journey to becoming the CEO of a century-old organization began with unlikely roots in psychiatry. After receiving a Ph.D. in sociology and serving as a professor, Margaret shifted into the world of market research, customer insights, and marketing strategy, where she would stay for fifteen years. From there, she started her own company.

Margaret was able to successfully grow and sell her company, helping to build Shapiro + Raj, which would become the sixth-largest independent insights company in North America. This feat required navigating the merging of four different brands—all while keeping sales and marketing in alignment.

Margaret shares exactly where things went wrong so that you can avoid similar pitfalls.

  1. Choosing the wrong brand
  2. Failing to help clients understand the ‘why’
  3. Not genuinely understanding clients
  4. Refusing to back peddle

Breaking down departmental silos with an enterprise-wide mindset

To be successful in the modern business world, your teams can no longer operate in silos.

The only way to build a collaborative culture where there is alignment towards a single mission is to communicate between teams and break down silos.

“We all need to be talking to each other,” Margaret says. “Everything we do as a company around sales and marketing touches every single person, including all of our employees.”

Everyone within a company should take part in its promotion. Creating an environment where employees organically want to promote the organization requires building something people can be proud of—easier said than done.

But one shared necessity exists across all companies: an effective leadership team that leans on an enterprise-wide mindset.

Citing Mary Dillon, Margaret breaks down the three characteristics of an effective leadership team.

Deep functional expertise

Leaders should understand how the business works and the roles that each person plays within it. They should have a deep knowledge of the various processes and functions within an organization beyond the “what” and into the “why.” But this alone isn’t enough.

Enterprise thinking

According to Margaret, enterprise thinking is one of the most important prerequisites that is unfortunately underutilized.

“We need to be thinking about everything enterprise-wide,” Margaret says. “Sales does not sit in a silo; it impacts every aspect of business.”

Recognizing that each role within an organization affects every other role is essential for breaking down silos. Sales and marketing are greatly intertwined, sometimes causing tension. But once you can build alignment between the teams and beyond, each cog within the business machine can run much more effectively in unison. 

Ability to collaborate

Once enterprise thinking and deep functional expertise are combined, collaboration is the ingredient that enables teams to move forward. Working together to maximize each team’s efforts so that every role within the organization can function at its maximum potential is necessary for gaining symbiosis within an organization—a key to other great benefits like improved culture and retention, higher productivity, more closed sales, and better business growth.

While each characteristic is strong on its own, truly effective leadership requires all three.

“When you’re an enterprise thinker, you’re collaborative and know sales and marketing strategy better than everyone, you’re going to win all the time,” Margaret says. “HR, finance, marketing—they need to be thinking enterprise-wide, too.”

Hunting for insight to inspire innovation with your frontline, customer-facing teams

When teams remain siloed, businesses suffer. Products and services are developed with good intentions but ultimately fall short because they don’t speak to your customer’s needs. According to Margaret, businesses should be looking to their frontline, customer-facing teams for innovation. 

“Don’t create things that people don’t actually want to buy,” she says. “Who knows better what your customers need than the people on the frontlines serving them every day?”

When in-office work was the norm, we saw a rise in open-office concepts and shared workspaces where teams that interact with customers could share their experiences directly with sales and product development teams. Teams could gain alignment by witnessing firsthand how each plays an interconnected role throughout the customer experience.

Now in a remote-first environment, achieving the same symbiosis can be challenging. But you can gain alignment with an organizational commitment to cross-collaboration in your existing digital communications. For example, teams can gain similar alignment with online meetings and Slack channels — but communication has to be done intentionally.

Simply opening up an honest line of communication in which each team collaborates to inform the other enables the development of a supercharged culture of innovation that actually serves customer needs.

So, when you’re looking for effective innovation ideas, consider customer feedback from your frontline workers (a strategy that has proven extremely successful for Apple). Break down existing silos to capitalize on each team’s strengths and enable creative thinking in a collaborative environment.

Want to learn more about creating a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing? Listen to the full episode of Winning the Challenger Sale where Margaret dives into the secrets of gaining sales and marketing alignment, establishing an enterprise-wide mindset and utilizing the under-leveraged source of customer insight — your frontline employees.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for it in your favorite podcast player.

Andee Harris

Andee Harris is CEO of Challenger. Andee brings more than two decades of experience growing and scaling service and technology businesses. She has previously led multiple companies, both as CEO and Senior Vice President, through periods of rapid revenue growth, critical fundraising, and successful acquisition. These companies include Highground (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), TMBC (acquired by ADP), Syndio and Emerging Solutions (acquired by Emtec).