Advances in marketing and sales automation continue to accelerate, offering new tools and strategies to bridge the longstanding marketing/sales divide. Yet in many organizations, the latest technologies don't seem to have transformed the uneasy alliance into one of mutual respect and appreciation.
Much of this tension stems from the different perspectives, charters, and timelines under which the two teams operate. Although marketing and sales share similar goals – increased revenue – they do business in different ways and rely on different metrics. While marketing takes a big-picture view of customers by segment, sales looks at each customer by name, account, and individual preferences. In the end, neither has a perfect understanding of how and why customers choose products and services.
In spite of differing vantage points, there seems to be agreement on the causes of this disconnect. According to DemandGen & Inside View, nearly half of marketing and sales professionals rate the main challenge as communication followed by broken or flawed processes (42%), use of different metrics (40%), lack of accurate data on target accounts (39%) and reporting challenges (27%).
The revelation that communication is the standout issue between two organizations is certainly ironic considering both rely heavily on those skills in their respective roles. But that’s also good news, since each team has the fundamental talents needed to join forces and align. Before we get to the ways in which to achieve alignment, let’s look at the benefits to an organizations’ bottom line.
The Benefits of Alignment
Observing the reasons for the marketing/sales divide isn’t just an intellectual exercise. Misalignment significantly impacts revenue with lost sales and wasted marketing outlay costing companies $1 trillion a year. Furthermore, lack of alignment leads to the waste of 60-70% of B2B content and a failure to convert 79% of marketing leads into sales.
There are, however, encouraging statistics for companies moving towards getting their sales and marketing teams on the same page.
- Aligning sales and marketing could generate 208% more marketing revenue for your company.
- Companies that ensure sales and marketing teams align are up to 67% better at closing deals.
- Organizations that successfully align sales and marketing achieve 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher win rates.
For companies that do align effectively, there are transformative results with an average growth of 20% in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in those that are misaligned.
So, what’s the magic formula? The fact is, it’s as much an art as a science. Following are five ways to help harmonize the two departments.
1 - Involve Sales in Content Marketing
Many marketing professionals have found that educating customers, rather than just promoting products, brings positive attention to their brand. For sales professionals looking to engage customers and convert sales, relevant and high-quality content has proven very effective.
In fact, research has shown that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads. For organizations who have chosen to go down the interactive content route, this approach has proven 93% effective at educating the buyer, and 88% effective at differentiating brands from competitors. No mean feat in the competitive online world where customers are swamped with information.
Content marketing is a great way to bring in ideas from the sales team. By finding out what’s happening in the field and what actually works to win and retain customers marketers can tailor content that targets specific audiences. A salesperson's insight can clue marketers into what type of content will spark customers’ interest and turn awareness into revenue.
B2B sales and marketing teams need to prepare their reps to have high-value conversations with prospects. This includes tailoring collateral and content to meet the needs of new buyers so that sales reps are providing answers to the questions buyers are asking at each stage of the buying cycle.” Kurt Anderson, Executive VP of Sales Enablement and Marketing, Savo Group
2 - Promote Collaboration
Real collaboration requires regular discussions and a mutual sharing of knowledge. Weekly meetings between marketing and sales will ensure consistent messaging and keep each team apprised of what campaigns are ongoing. Is your sales team always on the road? That’s not a problem with today’s communication channels! Schedule conference calls, create a message board and use all resources available to enable collaborative solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
This collaborative tactic was one that produced great results for software supplier Vidyard growing their business by more than 1,000% over a two-year period. In a process coined as ‘smarketing’, Vidyard aligned their sales and marketing team’s objectives on qualified opportunities, pipeline and revenue.
This was achieved by ensuring both departments were part of the conversation when defining what the ideal prospect looks like and what actions should trigger conversions from one stage of the funnel to the next. This resulted in both teams working together throughout the customer cycle to make sure leads were stronger but also ensured sales received the marketing support they needed through programs and processes.
3 - Use Effective Sales Enablement Tools
Marketers work hard to develop sales enablement tools such as leaflets, presentations, brochures, and infographics, but that doesn’t matter if the sales team doesn’t use them.
A historic leader in innovation, General Electric continues to transform itself from one of the world’s largest industrial companies into a digital industry leader. With their digital sales team looking to reach new heights of sales readiness, the company worked towards aligning their sales and marketing teams. A key to their success has been the leveraging of sales enablement tools that produce high-value content their teams can easily distribute and track. By knowing more about how their content is received and digested sales team discovered how and when content was used, the buyers’ level fo engagement and how and when particular content is impacting on the sales cycle.
To adopt this in your organization, ask sales if your enablement tools hit the mark and whether they are easy to access. If not, put your heads together and get creative! Consider developing sales enablement kits that appeal to different types of customers or investing in new tools that measure how and where content is accessed. Then provide them in digital form for online access and printing. When a new marketing tool is available, make sure it is accessible to the sales team.
4 - Embrace Social Media
Digital technologies have made social media one of the most powerful channels for marketing and sales. As social selling emerges as a powerful tool for sales professionals to develop relationships, build trust and drive sales, marketing plays an integral role in the content that can engage and influence potential customers. After all with 82% of prospects active on social media and 72% using it to research their purchase decisions, the opportunities for customer influence through these digital channels is huge.
Encourage team members to share information for your social media platforms. Provide your followers with links to press releases with the latest offerings, and articles with tips and tricks on how to get the most from your products and services. This will raise the personal profiles of individual contributors, as well as for the company brand.
5 - Create a Listening Environment
When points of view or communication styles collide, listening is often a casualty. Creating a listening environment means that everyone can offer ideas and insights. Through brainstorming sessions, a safe space can be established that looks at challenges and solutions from a variety of angles. The aim of regular meetings that encourage listening is that everyone in sales and marketing feels empowered to offer suggestions and feedback, which is used to make decisions and improve things.
It would be naive to think that the departments are going to agree on everything but ultimately sales and marketing want the same thing are part of a wider team. Therefore when decisions are made, voices are heard. From both sides, teams should not be too quick to dismiss a suggestion that challenges viewpoints. Creative solutions often require a new perspective.
"Ultimately, this age of the hyper-educated, constantly connected consumer requires that marketing and sales work more closely together than ever before." Mick Hollison, CMO at InsideSales
With so many moving parts, it’s clear why the task of finding the right solutions to address everyone’s needs can seem overwhelming. However, failing to do so has obvious and measurable consequences. Going forward, best- in-class organizations will strive to create an environment that brings marketing and sales into alignment to generate revenue and ensure long-term growth.
The research clearly points to a significant conclusion: marketing and sales teams must have a meeting of the minds to drive long-term revenue growth. With increasing emphasis on automation, many companies assume an investment in technology will solve all their problems – and are then surprised when it doesn’t.