Empathy And Collaboration: The Lucky Cards Of Customer Success

Jennifer Schulze

If marketing were a high-stakes poker game, internal collaboration would be your hidden ace. Customer-centric marketing relies on sales, marketing, and customer service speaking with one voice, and for that you need a transparent and collaborative relationship between every department.

Unfortunately, teams often choose instead to hold their cards close to their chests—working in silos and resisting unified perspectives. To get everyone working together takes a concerted effort. Marketers, with their skills in empathetic listening and communication, are ideally suited to the task.

Be the change you wish to see in the company

At many organizations, the relationship between sales and marketing is often described as “lukewarm” at best. Perhaps this is because everyone has a different version of what the other should deliver. But ultimately, reasons are irrelevant—what matters is how you’ll change it for the benefit of all.

Start by listening to your own internal responses when someone from the other side of the business is speaking or presenting. Is your initial reaction one of pushback or resistance? Are you formulating your reasons why something won’t work or can’t be done before the speaker even finishes? Remind yourself to listen to other departments the way you listen to customers—intently and with empathy.

Build a coalition of collaborators

There are people in the other departments who, like you, want to work more collaboratively. Seek out these allies and invite them to your brainstorm and strategy meetings. Return the favor by offering to join their weekly meetings. Reinforce that your goal is to learn more about the department, offer insights or perspective to their challengers, and ultimately create more aligned and effective strategies.

This isn’t just about bridge-building; you’ll find that working collaboratively can deliver unique perspectives and fresh ideas.

Learn their vocabularies

Every department within an organization has its own acronyms, jargon, and inside stories. To communicate better with other departments, study and master these vocabulary differences. It may seem like a small thing, but if you can share an idea in terms the other person already relates to, you’ll find it’s easier to get buy-in. Doing this will also garner respect and demonstrate that you can (or have) walked in their shoes.

Create a shared sense of success

Marketing and sales have been moving toward shared objectives for some time now, but that doesn’t mean we always effectively communicate how our separate strategies work together to deliver success. One way to do this is to reframe the linear customer journey.

The role of marketing used to be nurture a lead until it is ready to be handed off to sales. Today, that dynamic has changed. Organizations must work with an “outside-in” view and deliver a continuous customer experience lifecycle made up of multiple shared opportunities for sales and marketing.

Speak with a common voice when delivering messages as well. A simple way to do this is to use “we” when sharing success stories and always highlight contributions from other departments in external communications, campaigns, and more.

Creating more collaborative relationships between departments delivers greater data sharing and increased transparency. One of the simplest and most effective things we can do is to communicate with more empathy: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Doing so will drive one voice internally and let customers and prospects know we are aligned in delivering their success.

Listening without judgement, valuing different perspectives, and sharing each other’s challenges and successes will tear down department silos, help all work better together, and ultimately, deal a winning hand for customers.

For more strategies that improve workplace communication, see Bimodal People Management: The Key To Driving Creativity.


About Jennifer Schulze

Jennifer Schulze is Vice President of marketing for SAP. In her role, she manages customer marketing as part of the office of the COO. She has over 15 years of technology marketing and management experience and is a small business owner in the San Francisco Bay area.