Unfortunately in today’s swift-moving world, it’s somewhat normal for departments to work in a vacuum. Sales and marketing departments can be especially distanced and therefore don’t often make “insights sharing” a regular occurrence.
To explore the topic of how sales and PR/communications can better collaborate, I spoke with marketing and communications expert Andy Cunningham. You may recall Andy from her role alongside Steve Jobs in launching the Macintosh. (She is even portrayed — by actress Sarah Snook — in Steve Jobs, the movie!)
After working with Jobs at Apple in the ’80s, Andy has enjoyed a seemingly endless number of successful tenures at technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, with roles ranging from CEO, to CMO, to advisor. Today, though, she’s focused on helping companies with their go-to-market strategies through her consultancy, Cunningham Collective.
I asked Andy why she thinks there is such a lack of collaboration between sales and PR or marketing in general. “Salespeople don’t have an appreciation for the ‘nutrients’ that messaging provides for the whole company,” said Andy. “It’s easy for PR people to promote the vision a company is trying to put forth; but it’s hard for salespeople to do that. Quota-carrying salespeople often cannot spend time talking at a very high level to a prospect who doesn’t have the budget or authority to purchase.”
Furthering the rift between PR, sales, and marketing, PR teams have a vastly different set of metrics to measure business impact than, say, demand gen or product marketing. As a result, many PR and communications professionals lose sight of the fact that their work needs to be shared with the rest of the organization, beyond just the C-suite.
While she was serving as a marketing executive of a well-known tech company, Andy met with the organization’s head of sales only twice over two years. Twice! “It’s a huge problem,” said Andy. “Sales and marketing are two different planets on very different orbits. They don’t know each other’s worlds … It is incumbent upon marketing to fill the gap with solution messaging that will carry through the entire corporate narrative.”
So how do we close the gap and reap the benefits? It’s a joint effort that, if done correctly, will provide a huge boost to sales efficiency and build a healthy feedback loop between PR and sales. Here are four things PR and communications professionals can do to empower their sales teams with PR insights:
1. Send your sales team links to compelling owned media so they can share with prospects.
As a sales person, I make it a point to enrich my emails with relevant articles that will add value to conversations with prospects, and I’m often met with big thank-yous as a result. Inject life into an old opportunity, revive a dead conversation, or run a campaign around a company announcement, citing owned media as proof for added credibility. Sharing well-timed, well-positioned content helps to drive buying interest and boost sales opportunities.
2. Arm your sales team with messaging that has worked effectively in PR-driven content.
When PR content gains steam in social environments, there are often messaging insights that can be determined as a possible cause for the article’s momentum. Our team frequently uses our own platform to study which key messages are resonating most with the public so we can leverage that messaging again.
For instance, we were interested to know if our target audiences have a better understanding of Onclusive when we message ourselves as a PR attribution platform, as opposed to a PRTech company. I mirror the results in my own phrasing on sales calls.
3. Create a sales-focused PR report highlighting content that’s driving buying behaviors.
Yes, it’s extra work, but the benefits will be worth it. Share a report showcasing which stories are driving desirable buying behaviors on your website so your sales cohorts can gain a clearer understanding of what may be triggering prospects to take action.
Be sure to include data on how those leads engage with various assets and forms on your website. When salespeople see the direct link between PR content and resulting leads, it is nothing short of magical and will set the stage for some serious PR appreciation.
In the example below, you can see how many onclusive.com site visitors requested downloads and filled out lead forms after reading an article about us. We share reports like this, created using our flagship product Analyst, with our marketing team since it’s helpful to them as they use Outbrain for content retargeting.
4. Tap your sales team for intel too.
While arming salespeople with PR insights is one great way to break the silos, this concept also works great in reverse. Salespeople stockpile a great amount of intel that can better arm PR professionals, communications strategists, and digital marketers with what they need to evolve their strategies.
On a daily basis, salespeople receive immediate feedback about if the brand positioning and messaging they’re using is working. Inquire about their most successful cold-call emails, view the content together, then discuss the variables. Use this information to evolve brand messaging and pack more PR power.
Thanks again, Andy, for inspiring a healthy dialogue about how sales and PR can work together more fluidly. Sales and PR may be separate departments for now, but the ways in which they can work together and empower one another are great!