Why It’s Time To Check Your Sales And Marketing Alignment
As the buyer's journey continues to shift, it's more important than ever that marketing and sales teams work together to learn from each other and improve the overall business strategy, says columnist Claudine Bianchi.
I recently presented to a group of marketing types about the alignment of sales and marketing. I was stunned — I mean absolutely stunned — that many had never had a discussion with their heads of sales. Some didn’t even know who the person heading sales was!
I guess I would be less surprised if the group were all recent college grads, but there were some very seasoned marketers in the crowd — I could tell they were seasoned because, well, they wore reading glasses and were obviously getting their hair “restored” to its natural color.
In my opinion, the most important relationship in a business organization is the relationship between sales and marketing. I’ve never seen a successful organization where this was not the case.
You can have a wacky CEO or a nitpicky CFO, but the CMO and the VP Sales had better get along, share goals and share accountability.
The finger-pointing between marketing and sales should be nonexistent; if something isn’t working or numbers aren’t being met, it shouldn’t come down to the usual argument:
VP of Sales: “Marketing isn’t giving us enough quality leads, so I can’t hit my number.”
VP of Marketing: “Sales never follows up on the leads we give them — they’d rather be playing golf.”
And the relationship shouldn’t just be around the board room table — sales and marketing folks need to be working together at all levels of the organization.
Marketing, Meet Sales
I was very lucky early in my career — a sales person told me I didn’t “get it.” After the initial sting, I realized that she was right — I never put myself in a sales person’s shoes, dealt face-to-face with prospects or had to bear the weight of an ever-looming quota number hanging over my head.
I started going on sales calls; at first, it was odd — for me, anyway. Most of the prospects we were visiting thought it quite novel that a marketing person would sit in a sales meeting “to learn.”
But, learn I did. I gained more knowledge about who our customers were and what the sales process was through those sales meetings than all the analytics and market research in the world could tell me.
Suddenly I understood why a sales person would need a particular piece of content — whether a data sheet or a white paper — to help move the deal along. I had thought they were using the collateral as “a crutch,” when indeed they were responding to the prospects’ desire for more information.
I finally understood why all the leads I had been generating weren’t meaningful to sales because the probability of them closing was so low. When you have a quota you have to hit or you’ll lose your job, you’re only going to go after the leads you know will close.
And unfortunately, at that time, those were the leads the sales person generated herself — not the ones marketing had uncovered.
By working closely with sales, in understanding the hurdles they faced in turning contacts into customers, I became a much better marketer. Almost 20 years after my first sales call, I’m still doing sales calls.
And more than ever, I’m working closely with the sales team — literally and figuratively. We sit right next to each other in a very open office space, so I have the ultimate luxury of hearing, every day, the pitch, the negotiation, the close.
I can hear what messaging is working. I know which contacts are turning into prospects, then leads, then opportunities, and finally, customers.
Don’t Forget: The Buyer Is Running The Show
Granted, the buyer’s journey is changing — drastically. In fact, I would say that buyers today are in control of the process — both the buying process and the selling process.
Buyers dictate when they will connect with a brand or take a salesperson’s call. And when a sales meeting takes place, it’s the buyer running the show.
Now, more than ever, sales and marketing must be aligned and create a united front. Not to recapture control of the buying process, but to make the buying process better for all involved.
An empowered buyer is exactly what a sales and marketing organization should be targeting. Sales and marketing should unite to determine who their ideal customer is and how to reveal their latent pain and to move the customer to a place where they are more successful because of the product or service being offered.
Marketing cannot do this alone. Sales cannot do this alone.
But together, they can create an environment for the prospect that increases the prospect’s propensity to buy. And when there are deals being closed, everyone wins.
Easier said than done, of course. But start now. If you don’t know anyone in sales, go introduce yourself.
Learn about their world. Understand the overall sales strategy. Get comfortable with the numbers; know the target accounts; get very familiar with the pipeline.
Understand their comp plan and what motivates them. Help them help you.
Sales is on the front line every day. As marketers, we should be right there with them.