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Sales and Marketing Alignment
Blog / Sales & Marketing Alignment / Sep 18, 2018 / Posted by John Golden / 1112 

Sales and Marketing Alignment

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Sales and marketing are two areas of sales that have long struggled to unite. This article provides actionable insights on how to unify the sales team and marketing team to create better results, and move buyers through the sales funnel more swiftly and effectively.

Why Has It Been So Difficult?

Sales have embraced revenue responsibility forever, but marketing hasn’t. Historically, marketers have struggled with the idea that they are going to be measured on something that is more than just clicks and likes and leads. Marketing continues to focus on metrics that are not aligned with the sales organization’s goals. That alignment is critical moving forward. It’s more than just reporting and objectives; it’s a larger cultural problem that needs to be addressed and overcome to ensure that these two entities work in a more closely aligned way. It’s marketing’s opportunity to step up and become more of a part of that. But, there are also behaviors from salespeople that have prevented alignment. Salespeople often view marketers as the people who create content and leads. They don’t see marketers as being experts on the buyers, and that’s because a lot of marketers aren’t. We know from doing research and data that the better marketers know their buyers, the more they communicate directly with buyers, instead of just asking salespeople to be a mediator.

  • Marketers need to step up and own responsibility, and not be so afraid to talk to customers and prospects.
  • Salespeople need to stop being bounces that put up barriers to marketing having quality conversations with buyers.

The Importance of Alignment:

Although there has always been a need for alignment, there’s incredible pressure to align these two forces in the current era. Customers are doing so much more of their own research, and are becoming more in charge of the buying process. From the time they start doing research, to when they engage with a salesperson, to when they actually make a purchase, customers have more expectations about their relationship with companies at every step of the process. Their expectations make it a mandate for sales and marketing to get better. It’s also more important now because we have such transparency on what’s working and what’s not working. We have data that shows what activities are contributing to sales and revenue, which puts more pressure on both organizations stepping up and uniting to work towards the ultimate goal.

  • Visibility on disjointed behavior is heightened as we get more metrics on what’s happening.
  • The increase in customer expectations creates more of a need to provide a unified front as an organization, which includes the unification of sales and marketing.

Changes in Buyer Behavior:

The changes in buyer behavior have influenced the dynamics between sales and marketing. Historically, there was more of a split in the sales funnel. The marketing team was responsible for securing leads and getting the attention of prospects at the top of the funnel, while the sales team was responsible for leading the prospect through the rest of the funnel to the close. The complexity of buying has changed this split in the funnel from being horizontal to being vertical. You can now split the funnel, and the responsibilities, in the middle. If the process isn’t united, it creates a confusing experience for your customers that might push them into the arms of contributors. Also, more and more people are looking for authenticity in both marketing and sales approaches. People can tell the difference between “sales-y” content and authentic content. That authenticity, where people don’t want to be sold to, necessitates a change in behavior on the organization side.

  • Buyers don’t want to be sold to. Sales and marketing have got to start confronting this idea of authenticity in a significant way because that is becoming more and more relevant.
  • You have sales and marketing engaged at every step of the buying process; beginning, middle, and end.
  • Buyers want a conversation. Sometimes business people become too automated and reliant on tools, which is a turnoff for potential customers.

Technology’s Impact:

In this digital era, technology has made an undeniable impact. The more technology we have, the more opportunity companies take to think less about the customer conversation and more about trying to automate the process. Another impact of technology is that there is a blurring of lines between sales and marketing responsibilities. This can be a good thing, though. It forces change and produces a little bit of chaos that can be a catalyst for people to figure out the new best practices.

  • It’s easy to get lost in technology. Often times, we don’t need new shiny tools, but rather we have to use our current technology appropriately.
  • Set expectations in writing for both sales and marketing. Technology allows employees to create triggers of activities based on what is happening, or alerts for when things go wrong. We can operationalize the behaviors that we want using technology, formed around the written expectations.
  • Technology can’t tell us what changes to make, but it can help us make changes that we deem appropriate.
  • Create a strategy first, and leverage technology to help enable the strategy.

The Future of Sales and Marketing:

Many people believe that the solution to alignment is to have sales and marketing report up to the same infrastructure. There are a lot of good arguments for this. However, the practical reality is that this isn’t in our future. Sales and marketing are different disciplines that do different things. Instead, create a similar mission between the two, and encourage communication and other forms of alignment to get both sides working as effectively as possible. The answer is not necessarily to make these two groups into one single team. A lot of it also has to do with culture and accountability. If you have an organization that understands the importance of driving sales and revenue, you will find alignment in this shared goal, even as separate entities.

  • We need to have shared goals and a shared vision for where the company is going, and then let people do their jobs independently but in a coordinated way.

How to Start:

  • Have marketing start measuring and be held accountable for the amount of time that buyers are spending in each stage of the buying process. Whatever the buying process is for your product and service, measure how long people are staying in each stage, and hold marketing accountable for shrinking this time.
  • It’s on marketing to take the first step forward. Many marketing organizations are focused on marketing qualified leads as their primary metrics. Shift the focus shifts from marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads. This will drive a level of behavior and think inside the organization that makes it a little easier to accept the cultural and accountability changes that are to come as sales and marketing become more aligned.
  • Find a way to incentivize salespeople to help in the creation of marketing content.

Information for this article was sourced from this top sales expert panel discussion, hosted by John Golden, with expert insight from Matt Heinz, Samantha Stone, and Tony Perzow.

    About Author

    John is the Amazon bestselling author of Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World's Greatest Military Victories and Social Upheaval: How to Win at Social Selling. A globally acknowledged Sales & Marketing thought leader, speaker, and strategist. He is CSMO at Pipeliner CRM. In his spare time, John is an avid Martial Artist.

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