There are subtle but crucial differences between managing your team during a crisis and leading your team through a crisis. These differences are especially noticeable when a disruption like COVID-19 affects your company. Instead of letting that disruption drive you, however, flip the script and be a leader who acts preemptively and makes internal alignment a priority.
We’ve been living and reacting to COVID for so long that it’s easy to feel like we’ve got a handle on what leading through a crisis can and should look like. In reality, though, this crisis is an evolving situation, and even if you’ve been practicing the best crisis management techniques out there, you may not be leading as well as you could be.
There’s a significant difference between managing your team and leading them, and it’s a difference you need to be especially attuned to in the face of a crisis like this. “To chart a path forward, leaders must simultaneously anchor on what matters most and execute multiple initiatives well,” McKinsey says. “This means, first and foremost, that they must lead with purpose by taking care of their people, their customers, and their communities.”
As a leader, it’s your job to keep your teams aligned with each other and with the goals of the company at large. Even when a crisis disrupts tried-and-true routines, you need to make sure you’re still prioritizing and implementing as many sales and marketing alignment best practices as you can.
Know the Difference Between Leading and Reacting
Before you can start to align anything, you need to make sure you know the difference between leading through a crisis and merely reacting to it. Reacting can get you through the worst parts of a situation, but it can result in a fatigued and unmotivated workforce.
Leading, however, focuses on guiding your people to the best possible outcome. “Your focus needs to be on what is likely to come next and readying to meet it,” Harvard Business Review says. That means looking beyond what’s immediately in front of you and anticipating “the next three, four, or five obstacles.”
If you want to keep your company agile in the face of unpredictability, you need to lead your company. This means taking the reins and charting a path that guides your team through the current crisis and maps out a plan to help you get back on your feet once the crisis has ended.
Ideally, leading through a crisis involves a three-pronged approach that HBR describes as being about what was, what is, and what will be. This approach can and should apply to your efforts to align sales and marketing. Here are a few of the sales and marketing alignment best practices you’ll need to help you on your way.
Host Cross-Departmental Debriefs
Everyone on your team, regardless of whether they’re in marketing or sales, is going to respond to a crisis in a way unique to them. It’s far too easy for people to hunker down when facing higher levels of stress—“the human brain is programmed to narrow its focus in the face of a threat,” after all—which means it’s crucial you do whatever you can to bring your teams together.
Hosting meetings with both departments is a great way to do this. Not only does it open up a place for discourse, where your team members can express themselves and the (maybe new) pain points they’re experiencing, but it also allows you to begin to build a bridge between the departments.
One of the best ways to do this is by hosting a daily check-in with your various teams. These should be one of the first things you do at the start of the day, and everyone should know it’s a priority they should plan around. “During times of stress and anxiety, rituals serve a touchstone to calm anxiety and create community – both sorely needed right now,” Forbes says.
The more consistently you can host cross-departmental meetings, the easier it’ll be to align sales and marketing. And when you align sales and marketing, you’ll create a culture of collaboration and transparency where everyone on your teams feels comfortable working alongside each other.
Create Content to Support the Sales Team
Your sales team knows what your customers are going through better than anyone; they’re on the frontlines, after all. Have them pass on the things they’ve heard from customers (old, new, and in the pipeline) to the marketing team and launch marketing campaigns that speak to the specific needs of that audience.
Having your marketers create sales content is an excellent way for you as a leader to bring your two departments together. People are naturally curious, and your teams probably want to work alongside each other. Creating a space where that happens organically will help your company produce better work and promote a healthier, more collaborative culture.
“The solution is to unite people in their efforts and goals as valued members of a cohesive team,” HBR says. This means any activities that bring your marketing and sales departments together are worth pursuing. They will help you create the kind of camaraderie that will help your team persevere through this crisis and beyond.
Setting an Example
Collaboration and strong company culture are essential at all times. But during a crisis, they can become a lifeline that keeps your company aligned, motivated, and able to adapt quickly to whatever the changing world around you demands. If you want to see your company align itself, you have to be an example.
If you’re asking yourself how to align sales and marketing as a leader, the key is to approach your various departments from a place of help. We’ve said this a thousand times before, and we’re going to keep saying it because it works. Creating sales content and hosting cross-departmental meetings are great tools to align sales and marketing, but if the foundational objective isn’t to help, then your efforts may miss the mark.
“People need to know that you truly care about them before they start to care about what you know. It is critical during times of crisis to begin every communication with empathy,” Forbes explains. When you approach sales and marketing management and your crisis management techniques with empathy and care, you’ll be setting an example that will encourage alignment, productivity, and ultimately, generate better results from both your sales and marketing teams. That’s what leading through a crisis looks like.