“Sales is a team sport.”
The thing about clichés is they’re grounded in truth.
Due to the turbulent economic events that have rocked SaaS recently, sales teams of all sizes are being asked to do more with less. Primarily, drive more pipeline, opportunities, and close deals with less headcount, budget, and resources.
It’s a daunting challenge, yet Sales isn't in it alone.
Their revenue-generating counterparts, Marketing and Customer Success, are facing the same steep task. Collaboration between these teams is no longer just about efficiency—it’s existential.
Getting these teams who have traditionally been at odds with competing goals, strategies, and KPIs to work better together is no small task—especially when each team relies on their own processes and tools.
Yet opportunity awaits businesses who can shift their mindset to a more holistic, collaborative approach to growing revenue.
This article details how Sales can better collaborate with Marketing, Customer Success, Product, customers, and buyers, and among themselves to win over (and retain) modern buyers.
Why it’s time for sales collaboration
We’ve written before about how today’s fastest-growing companies are shifting to a more holistic approach to growing revenue.
This shift, which has been in the works for a while, has accelerated recently thanks to a perfect storm of economic, technological, and human factors:
- A turbulent and unpredictable economic climate has seen many companies switch from a growth-at-all-costs mindset to focusing less on acquiring new customers and more on retaining and expanding the ones they already have.
- Today’s buyers wield more power, choosing to do most of the research themselves before talking to a salesperson. That means the best sellers act as consultants, collaborating with buyers to provide tailored guidance. After the sale, CS faces the challenge of ensuring adoption and preventing the biggest revenue killer—buyer's remorse and churn.
- The lack of tools specifically designed for collaboration both internally between teams and externally with customers hamstrings revenue teams. A reliance on multiple internal tools, differing data sources, and “tribal knowledge” creates inefficient processes that frustrate customers and leave leadership in the dark.
Sales is no longer the only team responsible for revenue growth. It is a shared responsibility between Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success.
The challenge now for these three teams—and the CROs who oversee them—is to act as one revenue unit driven by a strategy focused on supporting each other across the entire customer lifecycle.
For sales teams in particular, this newfound shared responsibility for revenue growth doesn’t get sales off the hook—far from it.
Sales now faces the two-fold challenge of:
- Collaborating with the broader revenue team to ensure their contribution to revenue growth doesn’t remain siloed.
- Collaborating with customers who possess all the requirements today’s modern buying experience demands.
Of course, this goes much deeper than just talking to other teams.
Winning means collaborating on a strategy that drives towards hitting key activities and metrics that determine not only whether a customer will come onboard, but stay on board.
Collaboration within the Sales team
Modern sales teams have grown so complex that it makes sense to start by investigating how the many people across many different sales roles can better support and collaborate with each other.
Using account executives (AEs) as the focal point, we’ll explore how to foster collaboration among the diverse roles on sales teams large and small.
Sales and RevOps collaboration
Revenue operations (RevOps) is a relatively new Sales function.
It is built off the premise that revenue growth is a flywheel and should be a shared responsibility among Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success. RevOps supports the backend operation of all three teams.
However, they’re far more than just the “data people”. RevOps are responsible for maintaining the strategy, tools, and processes that enable the entire go-to-market team to drive predictable revenue.
RevOps work with sellers to build a standardized sales process and create a smoother customer experience and make sure the technical elements of the sales cycle work how they’re supposed to.
Sales collaboration with Sales Engineering
Sales Engineers (SEs) are the backbone of sales teams selling highly technical products.
They work directly alongside AEs when pitching potential buyers.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek memes shouting out SEs as the real MVPs of closing deals—sorry, AEs—in reality, their responsibilities at this critical stage are mostly distinct from AEs.
- SEs act as connectors between Sales, potential buyers, and the product itself. They bring their vast technical know-how to the pitch; establishing the scope, building custom demos, and managing proof-of-concept projects addressing the prospect’s unique use case.
- It’s on the AEs to get the prospect to the point that they’re able to pitch them. AEs build relationships, manage timelines, ensure prospect’s budget requirements are met, and follow-up for payment—and of course, ultimately are the ones asking for the sale.
SEs are notoriously stretched thin. The median ratio of AE to SE is 4:1, in other words only one SE for every four AEs. For an AE whose commission is on the line, it’s in their best interest to foster a collaborative relationship with their SE.
They can do this by providing their SEs with detailed information about a prospect’s pain points and needs, tag-teaming closing collateral like proposals, and aligning on the story for the demo.
Taking them out for lunch once the deal closes never hurts, either.
Sales collaboration with leadership
Salespeople’s relationship with the leadership depends a lot on the size and stage of the company.
At smaller, earlier-stage companies, the relationship between the founder and the first few account executives is pivotal. These hires have an enormous impact on the growth of the company.
As many founders do the first sales themselves, handing the responsibility off to a professional seller can also feel extra nerve-wracking.
Both founders and AEs need to define clear and nuanced goals and expectations. Vague outcomes like “close more deals” aren’t enough—you need to get specific on things like revenue targets for net-new business closed, the number of new logos, how expansion revenue fits in, and whether AEs need to source their own pipeline.
At more established companies—though this is true of early-stage organizations, too—there’s more focus on rep support and enablement.
- Coaching and ongoing training are important to help reps stay on top of best practices.
- Sales forecasting and setting realistic targets that simultaneously motivate performance and feel achievable.
- Support on deals that require an injection of urgency. Execs can either join a sales call to get things moving.
This collaboration is also a two-way street. AEs are speaking with potential buyers every day, so having them share what they hear can help leadership establish and shift the strategic direction.
Sales collaboration with other reps
Then of course there are multiple benefits of fostering collaboration between sales reps on the same team.
More senior reps can act as mentors to sellers earlier in their careers. Full-cycle reps can assist one another by supporting each other's deals and jumping on calls. And the relationship between an AE and their SDR is one of the tightest in the entire company.
Regular standups are key to fostering the tight communication needed for these relationships to work.
Sales & Marketing collaboration
Lack of Sales-Marketing alignment is something every go-to-market organization struggles with.
The problems that hinder effective Sales and Marketing collaboration vary based on factors like go-to-market strategy and company stage and size.
But they usually boil down to one of the following:
- Not enough leads. Or not enough quality leads.
- Ineffective communication between the two teams
- Sales feels Marketing’s contribution stops after they hand off marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Marketing feels Sales “goes rogue” with brand and messaging
The Sales and Marketing relationship is complicated. Yet when the two teams are aligned and pushing towards the same goal, revenue growth follows. It takes a lot of work to get right, but fostering collaboration around these primary challenges is a great place to start.
Key challenge: Lead quality vs. quantity
Sales and Marketing arguing over the number and quality of leads is the quintessential alignment challenge.
Sales feels Marketing doesn’t deliver enough leads, or the ones they do deliver are bad. Marketing believes they’re hitting their lead targets, but Sales aren’t doing enough to follow up.
Let’s break this down into its parts.
Lead quality: Improving lead quality starts with defining your ideal customer profile (ICP).
This profile acts as the measuring stick against which all leads are evaluated. Once established, leads can be quantified via a lead scoring model that takes into account the firmographic, demographic, and behavioral factors present in your ICP.
This method produces an objective “score” that Sales and Marketing teams can then use to establish a threshold as to whether or not they deem a lead qualified.
This system isn’t perfect, but it can act as a useful model to ensure the right leads are pursued.
Lead quantity: On paper, the solution here is more straightforward. It begins with the top-down revenue plan, which details how much revenue needs to be generated over a given time period, and the role of both Marketing and Sales in delivering on this revenue target.
Here’s what an example plan could look like:
Using this example, Marketing needs to deliver 375 qualified leads for Sales to close the $800k new revenue target.
The output of a plan like this is each team has a number to which they are held accountable.
Key challenge: Ineffective communication
Poor cross-departmental communication can quickly spiral into frustration between the two teams.
The fix goes beyond having the teams talk to each other more, though that certainly helps. The real solution revolves around a top-down example, good data practices, and consistent clear communication.
Better communication starts at the top. The heads of Marketing and Sales should be meeting at a regular cadence to discuss challenges, campaigns, and opportunities.
This sets the tone and example for the rest of the team to follow. Encourage sales managers to meet with marketing managers for weekly one-on-ones. The goal of these meetings is for each team to understand what the other is working on, and how they can support it.
A couple of other tactical solutions to poor Sales-Marketing communication include:
- Data cleanliness: Marketing can clearly see who’s in sales’ pipeline so they can exclude them from their middle- and bottom-of-funnel campaigns
- Regular stand-ups where teams can review everything from pipeline performance to upcoming campaigns
- Include one-page internal briefs in every new campaign so Marketing can quickly provide relevant context to Sales, who’ll be following up with leads.
Key Challenge: No sales process support from Marketing
A common grievance from Sales is they feel Marketing’s contribution stops after they hand over MQLs.
Marketing must shift their mindset from simply driving leads to actively generating revenue. This is emblematic of the broader need for Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success to act as one revenue unit rather than siloed teams.
For Marketing, supporting the sales process means more emphasis on down-funnel content and campaigns, product marketing, and sales enablement. This could be:
- Product Marketing working with account executives to create new pitch decks.
- Field Marketing organizing prospect dinners to foster relationships.
- Brand Marketing creating direct mail campaigns to expedite deals.
When crafting these campaigns, Marketing and Sales should coordinate closely to make sure they will resonate with prospects and that there’s a plan for coordinated follow-up in place.
Key Challenge: Sales goes off-brand
Rather than wait on Marketing to create the content and collateral they need to close deals, Sales may just make their own instead. This all-to-common occurrence can cause both teams to butt heads.
Salespeople often can’t wait for—or simply can’t find—Marketing’s latest up-to-date case study or proposal. Their prospects are waiting and the deal is on the line, so they improvise.
A powerful solution—and one we advocate for at Dock—is a centralized content management system that’s built for both cross-team collaboration and a smooth customer experience.
When sales content lives in one place:
- Marketing is happy because they know everything’s approved and up-to-date (and Sales isn’t constantly asking for the latest version of something)
- Sales is happy because they don’t need to dig for the latest proposal or case study, or create their own (and they don’t need to wait on Marketing)
Sales & Customer Success collaboration
There are three major milestones in the customer lifecycle that determine whether a new account will become a long-term happy customer or churn: handoff, onboarding, and renewal.
Better collaboration between Sales and Customer Success at these key moments greatly influences the likelihood of a new customer sticking around.
Sales-to-Customer Success handoff
For new customers, the post-sale transition sets the tone for the working relationship with your business.
Needless to say, it’s critical to get it right. Smooth Sales-to-Customer Success handoff requires clear communication, collaboration, and an unwavering focus on customer experience from both teams.
- Relationship continuity: Involving too many people can create a clunky handoff that impacts the relationship built during the sales process. The customer success manager (CSM) assigned to the new account should be introduced by the salesperson in a meeting or call.
- Accurate information: Before the official handoff takes place, the salesperson needs to provide the CSM with a detailed brief including the new customer’s goals, challenges, and expectations, who are the decision-makers and who are the end users, and who else needs to be involved in the implementation.
A customer-centric transition process is key. Smooth handoffs deliver on the trust and goodwill established in the sales process and pave the way for long-term loyalty and success. Equally important to this is onboarding.
💡 Tip: Loom’s introduces their Customer Success team to buyers during the sales process. Having a CSM preview their onboarding process reduces uncertainty for the buyer and makes them more likely to sign.
Collaborating during onboarding
It’s easy for Sales to move on after the handoff and leave onboarding to Customer Success. But a holistic revenue org understands Sales’ input and collaboration here can be instrumental.
A smooth onboarding experience is the primary factor in whether a customer renews or churns.
- Set realistic expectations: When Sales are expected to help out in the onboarding phase, they’re incentivized to establish and manage customer expectations during the sales process. Providing the customer with a realistic understanding of the product’s capabilities and how it fits their needs prevents potential disappointment during implementation.
- Kickstart product education: With Sales’ input, CSMs can better tailor product training and tutorials to target the customers' specific needs and requirements.
- Continued engagement: It’s in Sales’ best interests to remain engaged with the customer after handoff. They can learn more about how a specific customer uses the product, allowing them to better sell to that ICP. Plus, there’s always the opportunity for account renewal and expansion.
Collaborating on renewals
Who owns customer renewals is often debated among B2B SaaS companies.
Ultimately, the responsibility is shared between Sales and Customer Success. Yet having unclear roles and expectations of each at this critical phase can open up revenue teams to problems.
To foster alignment and success, both teams need to:
- Champion for renewal from the start. From the outset, the Customer Success team should focus on ensuring client satisfaction at every touchpoint and minimizing time to value, as early ROI confirmation increases the likelihood of favorable product perception and subsequent renewal.
- Identifying at-risk customers by monitoring factors like reduced product usage, missed milestones, undelivered value, frequent support tickets, stakeholder changes, and low net promoter score (NPS) is an integral part of a renewal strategy aimed at reducing churn.
- Identify the champions and detractors whose opinions will be critical during renewal conversations to make sure their needs are met and concerns listened to
- Reduce customer friction by making it simple to buy. Clear and thorough communication from the start, proactively asking for feedback, maintaining an aligned internal strategy, and a constant focus on meeting customer needs are critical here.
- Templatize your renewal process to scale results. Leveraging tools like Dock to create and customize standardized templates for each client segment streamlines the customer success process, from onboarding to renewal, ensuring consistency across the team and enhancing the client experience.
Working with a single source of truth
Many revenue teams will default to the CRM.
While the CRM is useful for quickly pulling customer contact information, it can leave out key details essential to a successful ongoing relationship, such as the pain points that prompted your new customer to seek out your solution in the first place.
Collaboration tools like Dock provide the missing link for customer-centric revenue teams.
Collaboration workspaces act as the single source of truth, centralizing critical information that makes for seamless handoff, onboarding, and renewals that can be easily tailored as the customer relationship progresses and matures.
📖 For more Sales-Success alignment tips, check out our Sales & Customer Success Collaboration Guide.
Sales & Product collaboration
Given that Sales' job is selling the company’s product, it would make sense for Sales and Product to have a close, symbiotic relationship.
However, that’s not always the case.
The friction between Sales and Product is not as well-documented as the misalignment with Marketing, yet a lack of collaboration presents a significant lost opportunity for both teams.
It can even lead to problems that can ultimately impact revenue, such as new customers having exaggerated expectations of what the product is capable of and churning as a result. In short, Sales over-promised and Product under-delivered.
But when Sales and Product are aligned and collaborating, both teams stand to benefit. Here are four ways to do just that.
1. Identify and agree on what makes a PQL
For product-led growth (PLG) companies, PQLs—or product-qualified leads—are an essential metric to monitor.
Just like a marketing qualified lead, a PQL is a designation given to a user of the product—in this case, one who has often come in through a self-serve freemium offering—who has a strong likelihood of becoming a paying customer.
Creating a strategy to convert PQLs can be lucrative for sales. Sometimes, one successful (free) user can act as the catalyst for getting an entire team or company signed up. Because of this, it’s a fairly straightforward bottom-up pitch:
“Hey, noticed a couple of people on your team at Company X are having success with Solution Y. Interested in getting the whole team onboard?”
However, it’s important for both Sales and Product to agree on what constitutes a PQL. In a nutshell:
- Sales provides the characteristics of a good-fit lead, such as job title, industry, and company size. This information likely exists in profiles used in other sales channels.
- Product monitors for activated users matching these criteria and passes them along to Sales.
Most of the demographic data can be captured during onboarding. Product usage data will likely already be monitored by the Product team. It’s on Sales to be kept in the loop.
2. Establish Joint KPIs
Nothing fosters collaboration like working towards the same goal.
As most Sales and Product teams are focused on different priorities—Sales needs to deliver revenue, and Product needs to deliver new and updated features—assigning a shared target metric can act as a forcing function to foster collaboration.
Some shared KPIs could include:
- Lead to closed-won rate: This metric is essential for Sales, but it provides useful information for Product teams, too. It serves as a high-level indicator of product-market fit by showing how many customers are successfully completing the buyer journey.
- Net promoter score (NPS): This measure of customer loyalty is widely considered one of the best indicators of product-market fit. Product is usually responsible for NPS. But as it’s a measure of the entire customer experience, not just with the product itself but with the people too, it can make sense for Sales to implement strategies to improve this score.
- Retention rate: This measure of how many customers renew their contract is a great indicator of loyalty and satisfaction. This is key for both Product, as they want their users to keep getting value from the product, and Sales, who want the customers they bring in to stick around.
- Churn rate: The opposite of retention, churn is how many customers you lose in a given period. High churn is a killer for SaaS businesses that rely on recurring revenue to survive, so churn is a number all revenue teams should monitor closely.
3. Cross-team workshops and training
Training should be part of every Product team’s feature launch plan. After all, as Sales will be the one selling a new or updated feature, so they should know how it works.
That said, your salespeople don’t need to know all the technical specifics of exactly how a feature is built or how it works. The most important information to know is how it solves a particular problem.
Demo days are another great way to feature products that are on the roadmap.
4. Establish a feedback loop
Sales are speaking with customers every day, discussing priorities, challenges, pain points, and goals. This direct line to customers is gold for product folks.
By establishing a feedback loop, Product can get a strong signal on whether the market actually needs the products and features they’re developing.
While no roadmap should be influenced by a single variable, this channel can be valuable to both Product, who can gather quantitative information to validate demand for initiatives, and Sales, who can get a more influential seat at the table for discussions on what to prioritize on the product roadmap.
There’s a few different ways to set this up.
- A stakeholder on the Product team can meet regularly with someone from Sales. This allows your product person to ask questions and have a conversation, and ultimately glean far more useful information than they could from listening to a call on Gong.
- Alternatively, product folks can join sales calls directly, either as a fly on the wall or an active participant.
- Use a tool like Pocus to extract revenue opportunities and product insights from your product users.
Sales & customer collaboration
So far, we’ve focused on collaboration between internal teams. But focusing attention on external allies can unlock a world of potential.
Buyers and customers make great champions—when properly enabled. Here’s how to better collaborate with the best resource your team’s probably not tapping.
How to identify buyer champions
Identifying and enabling an influential buyer champion is invaluable—it gets you a guy or gal on the inside, advocating for your product/solution for you.
There’s no one clear-cut person for a champion. They’ll be different for every deal. But they’re usually:
- The primary point of contact throughout the sales process
- Enthusiastic about your product or solution
- Either is the end user, or leads the team of end users
- Have influence with decision-makers, and have some buying experience
Champions assist sellers by helping them navigate internal politics and decision-making processes, and educating decision-makers on the value of your solution. Sellers assist champions by making it easy for them to buy, ensuring the key information they need to sell your product internally is easy to access.
Essentially, good buyer enablement is helping your champion appear organized, smart, and capable in front of their bosses—AKA the people signing off on your deal.
💡 Tip: Dock workspaces are like your HQ for seller/buyer collaboration. For your buyers, they’re a one-stop shop with everything they need to move a deal forward.
How to enable buyers
Revenue teams focus the vast majority of their resources on creating content and processes that make it easier to sell. And for good reason—B2B selling is hard.
Yet this overlooks the fact that B2B buying is hard, too. According to Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers considered their latest purchase extremely complex or difficult. Information abundance (noise), navigating multiple stakeholders, and complicated, high-pressure decisions are the prime drivers of this complexity.
However, like selling, buying is a process with defined steps. The best way to sell more is to make it easy to buy. Here’s how to enable buyers at each stage of the buying process:
- Problem identification: Buyers have a problem, but they’re not ready to explore solutions yet because the problem isn’t fully defined. Sales can help buyers at this stage by providing thought leadership content that can shape their buyer’s thinking, industry benchmarks for comparison, and diagnostic tools or frameworks for painting an objective picture of the problem.
- Solution exploration: With the problem clearly defined, buyers can now look for a solution. To assist buyers at this stage, you can provide clear, value-focused website content like comprehensive pricing pages, industry-relevant trend reports and case studies, cost calculators, short video demos, and a clear path and CTAs to start a conversation.
- Requirements building: Buyers are narrowing their scope, consulting internal stakeholders to nail down exactly what this solution needs to do. At this stage, your goal is to help your buyers feel confident they’ve thought of everything. Resources like buying guides and checklists help outline all the factors they need to consider—while also being a great reminder of your unique value proposition. Now’s also the time to loop in Sales Engineers and build custom demos.
- Supplier selection: In this phase, buyers evaluate if a solution meets their criteria. Enable your buyer here by providing product comparisons, ROI reports, customer testimonials, and utilizing referral programs to showcase your solution's value and reliability.
- Validation: With a solution chosen, it’s due diligence time. Buyers need to show internal legal, security, and financial stakeholders they’ve considered and minimized potential risks. Mutual action plans, technical documentation, and sales pilots are tools you can deploy to fast-track this validation.
- Consensus creation: Think of this less of a final stage and more something that needs to happen throughout the entire buying process. Buyers are dealing with a constant back-and-forth to keep everyone on their side happy and in the loop. Collaboration here involves keeping important information organized in one place—like a digital sales room—for stakeholders to quickly reference. Equipping your champion with the tools and resources they need to sell internally is also a big win.
Buyer enablement is also important for product-led growth (PLG) sales. But there are differences from the enterprise motion outlined above.
PLG enablement is all about helping your customer see the value in your product as quickly as possible. Sophisticated self-guided onboarding, detailed help documents, and templates help customers get the most out of their trial and convert to paying customers.
Customer enablement and collaboration
As the era of product-led growth and retention-over-acquisition gathers steam, effectively collaborating with customers is the key to success.
Speaking of, customer enablement—while a subset of customer success—is more focused on the tactical elements of helping your customers reduce the time-to-value of your product or solution. It involves tools, resources, and content that help them get to the “Aha!” moment faster.
As such, customer enablement should be a joint effort between all revenue teams. Best practices for converting customers into champions include:
- Multi-channel support: Material that helps customers learn how to use your product and accommodates different learning styles can be created as a joint effort between Marketing and Customer Success team.
- Personalized onboarding: Either 1-1 with a CS rep or low-touch automated onboarding, providing solid onboarding is a great way to increase adoption and reduce churn.
- Implementation plans and checklists provide customers with a clear roadmap to successful adoption of your product.
- Product templates help new customers avoid the blank-page problem by presenting a head start to solving common use cases.
- Educational content like knowledge hubs are a great way to educate customers at scale with minimal facetime. With a little help from Marketing, knowledge bases can also show up in organic search results.
For more on how to help customers help themselves, check out this comprehensive guide to customer enablement.
Sales collaboration software & tools
There is a vast market of sales enablement software that enables revenue teams to collaborate and work better together.
Your sales tech stack will evolve as your company and your team scales and changes. For instance, there’s not much point investing in sophisticated forecasting software if you can manage the early deals in a spreadsheet or free CRM.
The focus for early-stage companies is to build a stack that will help establish a sales process. Point-based solutions like Loom for personalizing demos or Calendly for scheduling meetings will dominate your stack as your growing team encounters these challenges.
For more established teams, the focus shifts to be more about managing people than managing the process. Revenue intelligence platforms like Gong are critical for coaching, and tools like Chili Piper can help with lead routing.
For a comprehensive breakdown of the sales enablement software market and how the myriad solutions fit into your tech stack, check out this guide from Dock CEO Alex Krakcov.
Tools for cross-team collaboration
While there are many tools designed to promote collaboration within one team, there aren’t any tools built for cross-team collaboration.
For modern companies striving to remove silos and enable collaboration between revenue-generating teams, this is a major bottleneck. As companies scale, critical knowledge is lost to poor organization, jumbled internal knowledge management systems, and murky processes.
- Up-to-date product information is buried in bloated internal wikis
- The best content is hard for Sales and Success teams to find
- Key customer information is lost when employees leave
- With teams working on different priorities and timelines, it’s hard to be timely and consistent
Collaborate better with Dock
Better collaboration between Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success is a complex challenge, especially as current market conditions force everyone to do more with less.
But fostering a holistic revenue-centric mindset among three teams who historically have had separate goals and KPIs can be the lynchpin to the kind of collaboration that unlocks health revenue growth.
Revenue leaders must go beyond short-term tactics to hack collaboration. Truly breaking down the silos between your revenue teams means getting them aligned on the same strategy, solving the same challenges, and working in the same tools.
You need a source of truth for your customer-facing interactions. A platform that effectively manages the entire customer lifecycle.
- Sales uses Dock to share content, send order forms, and work through action plans
- Customer Success uses Dock to onboard customers and guide renewal conversations
- Marketing uses Dock to manage sales enablement content
To learn more about how Dock can help your revenue teams collaborate, talk to our team here.