Why can’t we all just get along?
Like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s or Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, sales and marketing professionals have often not seen eye-to-eye. Salespeople complain about bad leads or lament that marketers don’t really understand their customers. And marketers forever disparage salespeople for not executing on the data-driven strategies that took months to formulate and they wonder, “why don’t they just use the stuff we give them!?!”
Clearly, sales and marketing are the odd couple. Is there hope? Is it just in the DNA that these two groups of professionals are forever sentenced to their silo’s, never to meet in the middle?
In order to compete in today’s marketplace, it is more important than ever to align sales and marketing. And not only is it possible, many companies have done so and in the process, created a competitive advantage within their industries.
It’s not just stress and frustration - it’s real dollars
B2B companies who suffer from sales and marketing misalignment are losing an average of 10 percent or more off their bottom line revenue. And we also know that companies that figure out how to work together see great returns on their efforts. In a recent survey of Sandler clients who sell in the B2B space and have ideal sales and marketing alignment, we saw a 36% higher customer retention and a 38% higher sales win-rate.
It’s not just about getting along in the sandbox. There are real financial and customer implications!
Today, in some ways, it’s more difficult than ever to align the marketing and sales funnels. The business world is rapidly changing. Social media and modern technology have changed how customers interact with businesses. Some studies show almost 60% of the buying process takes place before a lead contacts the business. Marketers find themselves talking to customers and sales can market themselves on social media. The lines have blurred.
Is there a path forward, or will we always be at odds?
The good news is there are things that companies can do to get these two important functions on the same page. Below are 5 steps to help align sales and marketing to ensure tighter collaboration and to spur business growth.
#1 Define Your Ideal Client
Many of the sales and marketing disagreements stem from an unclear picture of who is the ideal client and what should be the core messages. Start by identifying which of your existing customers are most profitable and which most value your points of difference. Try to segment customer groups by industry, size, geography, or other defining characteristics. These are your “target markets.”.
Next, go deeper together to understand the individuals within your target markets with whom sales generally interacts and create “ideal client personas.” Clarify their pain points, personality type, values, and behaviors. The more precise you can be, the easier it will be to develop materials and pitches oriented toward them. Salespeople will also better understand their buyer’s journey and what it takes to move them through the funnel.
#2 Agree on what makes a sales-ready qualified lead
Nothing is more frustrating for a sales rep than spending time meeting with a prospect who is not a good fit or not ready to buy. It’s important for everyone on the sales and marketing teams to have a common understanding of what makes for a qualified lead. Some people have an interest or curiosity for your products but don’t have a need for them right now. Thus, meeting with them is a waste of time and resources.
At Sandler Training, we implore our clients as early in the sales cycle as possible to qualify prospects based upon need, budget, and decision-making processes. Qualifying hard makes closing easy.
#3 Know who owns the relationship and controls the conversation
As leads are passed to the sales team, it is important for marketers to relinquish control of the conversation with the prospect. Confusion over point-of-contact, duplication of effort, or mixed messages can tank a deal! The sales team should have a clearly defined sales process, ask the right questions, and provide the right information when it comes time to present. Marketing should support the interaction by providing information and materials and by presenting the sales person as an expert consultant.
Remember, today’s buyers are coming to the conversation already well-educated about their needs and the options that may fit their needs. However, you need to be able to meet them where they are and work with them to design an ideal solution. The job of sales is to guide the buyer’s decision process and ultimately, help them make the right choice.
#4 Agree on the follow-up steps and hold each other accountable for execution
Once a lead is passed to the sales team, there should be a common understanding on the steps that will be taken to convert the prospect. It is easy for marketing teams to blame the sales team for not following up on “hot leads,” while the sales team blames marketing for not passing along leads of prospects who are ready to buy.
#5 Plan presentations wisely around customer needs
Too many presentations are wildly unfocused and akin to throwing jello on the wall. When sales is in front of a qualified prospect, there should be a clear understanding of the buyer’s specific needs, budget, and how they make decisions. The presentation should be laser-focused on the prospects pains that have been identified through the sales process. Marketer’s should refrain from highly-detailed presentation material but rather, provide templates that sales can easily modify and customize.
The path forward
Creating an atmosphere of cooperation - and a business development process for your sales and marketing teams to work together - can be an enormous asset to your organization. Evaluate your practices and how they align with the steps above. Help your business thrive by improving communication, coordination, and efficiency, and see what a difference they can make to your business development efforts.
Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., an award-winning training center, in Richmond, VA.