A Conversation With James Buckley: Bridging the Gap between Sales and Marketing

By: Teresa Weirich

January 2, 2019

James Buckley, Enterprise Business Development Manager at Cirrus Insight

Sometimes, it’s entering an industry from the outside that gives you a different perspective. For James Buckley, Enterprise Business Development Manager at Cirrus Insight, this meant an opportunity to learn and grow professionally without any outside bias or direction.

“I got my start without any knowledge of marketing, sales, or CRM,” James explained. “When I started my career at Cirrus, I had some door-to-door experience and some retail experience, but that was about it. I found an amazing opportunity in social media to build my own persona alongside our company brand.”

While James talked to us previously about how sales reps can have a keen sense of customer relationships and selling with heart, this attention to his personal brand has made him an authentic voice in the sales industry with an incredible wealth of knowledge and insight. Here, in his second conversation with Costello, James tackles the topic of marketing and sales alignment.

What do we need to keep in mind when it comes to bridging the gap between sales and marketing?

Too often we allow sales teams and marketing teams to be pitted against each other in some kind of competition when the reality is that we are all on the same team. I might create my own content for my social brand that has to do with Cirrus and our brand, but it’s not competing with what our marketing team is doing. It’s complementing it. The key is working in harmony.

Our marketing team creates content that I share with my followers, just as I create content that marketing shares with our corporate followers. In the end, we’re both creating conversations and driving buying decisions, which is the overall team goal.

How can marketers work with sales reps to protect a brand’s message while still giving reps their own voice?

I’ll be honest – this is a pretty sensitive topic in today’s workplace. It all comes down to knowing your strengths and knowing when to ask for help. Basically, it’s putting your ego behind your professional growth. Marketers know how to get attention and this is what they do day in and day out.

When they’re trying to build a personal brand, sales professionals want to get their audience’s attention. So, salespeople, ask your marketing team for help! They can help you learn how to get attention from prospects. And, on the flip side, marketers must be honest with their sales reps about their strengths and weaknesses. Marketers should want reps to grow into their own voice and represent the company in the best way possible.

Again, this is not a competition. A lot of things could go wrong with an inharmonious relationship between sales and marketing. It all comes down to communication. In the age of social media, salespeople need to have a personal brand outside of their company, but they still need to publish content that fits the messaging and voice of the company altogether. It’s a hand-in-hand relationship.

How can sales reps build a personal brand without stepping on marketing’s toes?

My top three tips for building a personal brand are:

1. Consistency! You can’t publish a video and then wait 8 months to publish your next one and expect to have gained thousands of followers. Learn how to work your platform’s algorithm or, better yet, post enough that your consistency overpowers the algorithm altogether.

2. Attach your brand to the macros. Know what large topics gain a ton of traction and connect your personal brand to this content. I started the hashtag #SayWhatSales to relate to all salespeople across all industries. I connected myself to the macro. The same can be said with my other hashtag, #HipHopandSales. It’s tapping into the macro conversation around something I love, hip hop, and tying it back to what I’m trying to convey to my followers.

3. Hashtags! I always tell reps to learn what hashtags are, why they’re important, and how to use them. Create your own hashtags to start your own conversation.

I’ll add a final tip here, too. Simply consuming content can be dangerous. It’s easy to consume information from other sources, but only consuming content makes it hard to come up with a unique view on an established topic. Honestly, my life goal is to come up with an original thought, and I’m still working on it!

How can sales reps align themselves with marketing outside of the leadership team?

Communication, communication, communication! We’re given a ton of tools to speed up communication between Google Hangouts, Slack, email, and more, and even with all of these channels, many companies can agree there are still surprises between teams. And this really boils down to a lack of professional courtesy. If teams aren’t reading from the same manual, then they’re not delivering the same message. Marketing and sales teams must put aside their differences and focus on the only group that matters: prospects and customers.

Sometimes, it also comes down to a lack of trust. Marketers, for example, are paid to manage the company brand. When a sales rep goes rogue and creates a one-pager on their own, this content has the potential to contradict the brand voice, but it was created to fill a gap or need. In a healthy working relationship, the salesperson would go directly to marketing and ask ‘How can I align my personal brand with our company brand?’ and the marketer would say ‘Here, let me help you direct your messaging and create some content to get you where you need to be’. I can’t imagine anything more powerful than this interaction.

What types of insights can you share from your past alignment efforts?

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are two general camps that marketers fall into. First, there are the Gen X marketers that see the marketing function as a faceless content monster that drives brand messaging through content creation and production. This camp is much more consistent and reliable than the other side. On this side, there are the Millennial marketers who have incredible creative personalities that they want to share with everyone. Their messaging and content is incredibly powerful and engaging. But, there isn’t one right way to do it. I like the idea of testing everything at least once. Never put your business into a box.

Also, one tip for marketers would be to keep your sales team in the loop on mass emails! I remember when I first started at Cirrus, I would come in on a Monday to 800 emails. By the time I got through them all, it was already a week or two later, which is too late to be following up with a prospect. There’s nothing worse than being deep into a campaign and having a new one pop up out of nowhere.

Do you have any advice on how sales reps and sales leaders can take the initial steps to start optimizing their relationship with marketing counterparts?

Let me say this: marketers respond best to details, documentation, and data. If a salesperson sees something that leads to a fail, write it down. Don’t just barrel into your marketing team demanding a change or attacking them about a campaign choice. This will get you nowhere. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding between both teams. Marketers need to takes sales feedback into consideration, just as sales needs to take marketing’s efforts into account. Again, you’re on the same team with the same goals. Deliver solutions, not problems.


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    Teresa Weirich

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