Bridging the Gap Between Marketing and Sales: An Exclusive Q&A with Allan Rubin of immixGroup

by Jenna Sindle

The disconnect between marketing and sales teams serves as a very frustrating and, at times, seemingly insurmountable obstacle for modern B2B and B2G organizations. However, with the proper strategy, willingness to compromise and a large dose of persistence, harmony can be achieved. Below, Allan Rubin, VP of Marketing at immixGroup, shares his tips on bridging the gap between marketing and sales.

Tell us a little about immixGroup and your role there.

immixGroup helps technology companies do business with the government. We work with enterprise software and hardware vendors and provide a platform of services that enables them to grow their revenue, support their channel partners and sales teams, and increase their efficiency in navigating the complex government procurement processes.

As Vice President of Marketing I lead a team of around 25 people in Market Intelligence, Client Marketing, Corporate Marketing, and Marketing Operations. Our job is threefold: to help our clients and channel partners identify qualified opportunities to sell their products to public sector organizations; to create demand for their solutions within the government; and to market immixGroup’s capabilities to the public and private sector.

There is a lot of talk surrounding the disconnect between marketing and sales. Why do you think this gap exists and why is it so important to bridge it?

This issue has existed in every B2B or B2G organization I’ve worked for or interacted with over the last 20-plus years. I think it starts with personality types and communication. These are generally two very different groups of people who often have opposing priorities, management approaches, skill sets, motivations, time horizons, and communication styles. In particular, sales lives by numbers and quarterly reporting cycles while marketing usually focuses on words and long-term relationship nurturing. Both want the same outcomes but see different paths to get there.

It’s important to bridge the gap because both sides need each other to meet their personal and corporate objectives. This is particularly true in a B2B or B2G environment with long sales cycles and high-dollar, complex deals.

The sales rep’s most valuable asset is time. Marketing can help salespeople make the most of it by accelerating the sales cycle. Sales needs marketing to provide tools, information, and activities that break down barriers with customers, position the company’s solutions as relevant to customer problems, generate leads, and nurture prospects.

Marketing, for its part, is usually a cost center and can’t exist if sales doesn’t bring in business. It needs sales to provide a better understanding of customer needs and pain points. And with pressure for qualified leads and ROI growing over the past few years, marketing needs sales to help quantify the value it provides to the organization and tie marketing investments to closed deals.

What is your advice for creating successful collaboration between sales and marketing teams?

It starts by building a relationship of trust, mutual respect, and understanding. Any walls between the organizations – whether actual or perceived – should be aggressively dismantled through joint planning, clear expectation-setting, and lots of give-and-take. Personal relationships are often critical, as are frequent communications and exchanges of feedback.

It’s really important that everyone agrees up front on expectations and how success will be measured. These decisions need to be documented, updated frequently, and revisited regularly to make sure everyone is in sync and to hold people accountable to their commitments. The better you are at this, the easier it will be to replicate your joint successes and limit failures, giving both sides a chance to buy in and gain insight into how to work together.

Can you tell us a little about the Government IT Sales Summit?  

The government IT community is flush with events, but most are geared towards government attendees, focusing on high-level policy updates and trends. We created the Government IT Sales Summit specifically for companies that sell to the public sector, with a focus on the people responsible for sales, marketing, business development, channel management, and deal capture. With recent budget pressures and ongoing political conflict, they’re facing flat spending growth, fewer corporate resources, and restrictions in how they how they market, sell, and deliver their solutions to the world’s largest customer. So this event will help them figure out how to deal with these changes, find the right business partners, and identify funded opportunities to grow their business.

From a marketing perspective, the landscape has changed significantly in recent years. Budget cuts, travel restrictions, and ethics scandals have forced a shift away from many events such as conferences, trade shows, and single-vendor seminars. Customers are bombarded with promotional E-mails, telemarketing, and online advertisements. As a result of these restrictions, more government decision-makers are gathering information online from established publishers as well as now-ubiquitous blogs, videos, branded content, social media, and communities of interest. This comes as CMOs and CFOs demand more metrics and quantifiable ROI —- an area which is difficult to measure in B2B or B2G content and social media marketing.