- 04 Jul
When the topic of "sales and marketing alignment" comes up, you get one of three reactions from the sales and marketing leaders in the room.
"Of course creating alignment is important in this customer-first, connected environment! We must do everything we can to bring sales and marketing together." And then they go back to doing things as usual.
"We're just not ready for making this kind of shift." There's agreement that a change needs to be made, but it's not a crisis so it gets zero organizational attention.
"This is just some nonsense that people talk about on that LinkedIn thing."
There are always a lot of defenders of the status quo. They think that whatever worked when they were coming up in the business is what still works. Why change?
This point-of-view is unfortunate, because numbers keep coming out that show prospective customers are approaching their buying journey with more information, and thus more control, than ever before.
As Jeff Davis, founder of the Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit, points out:
Studies show us that 57% of the buyer’s journey is already complete before the seller is interested in connecting with the buyer. In addition, data from Forrester tells us that 62% of B2B buyers can finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. There are huge opportunities when teams can show a united front to their customers and create a seamless experience for them. The objective of aligning marketing and sales is to create an environment of true collaboration that empowers both teams to leverage each other’s unique skill set to more effectively engage customers and prospects.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Creates Positive Change
Customers need help solving a problem, they don't care how your organization is parsing the sales and marketing work. They want a cohesive and seamless customer experience that removes friction from the buying process.
When sales and marketing teams combine forces:
1. Conversion rates increase. Marketing always complains that the sales team doesn't convert the leads that they bring to them. And sales continually gripes about the quality of the leads they get. When the two are working together, there's a feedback loop that boosts conversion rates. Marketing gets clear and immediate feedback about what sources are bringing in opportunities, and how good those opportunities really are. Sales has a hand in helping target the best marketing messages. Voila, higher conversion!
For Bernie Borges, CMO of Vengreso, both sides should integrate their goals:
In the age of modern marketing and modern sales both have accountability to each other. In fact, the marketing leader’s mantra to the sales leader should be, 'Your number is my number.' And the sales leader should echo the sentiment.
2. People’s workflow gains relevancy. Related to higher conversion rates is an increase in efficiency. With increased communication and interaction, both teams focus on areas that create higher conversion in a shorter amount of time. The feedback loop cuts out programs that create ineffective leads and prevents wasting good leads through inconsistent messaging.
3. It's more engaging. At some point, the antagonism between sales and marketing becomes tiresome and unproductive. It hurts the work environment. Instead of grumbling about the other, both teams can work together to create better results. Everyone is working towards the goal of bringing in more and better customers. Why not enjoy the journey?
What keeps teams from doing this? There are a lot of structural and cultural impediments to creating sales and marketing alignment. But there's one overarching one that stymies most efforts to create change in this area:
Leadership doesn't know what to do.
Even if there is leadership buy in, this is uncharted territory. Sales and marketing alignment is a new concept and practical execution is still in its infancy. How do you to encourage these historically antagonistic organizations to join forces and cozy up with each other?
It’s possible to get past this by putting together a very simple program that will help sales and marketing work together. Instead of putting in new resources and tools, take what’s already there and leverage it.
Use the most current tools in marketing and social selling to leverage the talents of everyone in the organization. Most importantly, get the two sides familiar with working with each other on building and creating a prospect pipeline. It creates a foundation that they can continue to build on.
Step by Step: The Sales/Marketing Actionable-Insight Cycle
The solution is to create a program lets each side shine. The marketing team focuses on creating online content guided by the sales team. In turn, the sales team will be instrumental in pushing it out.
Here’s the step-by-step blueprint to make this happen:
1. Planning Meeting
The purpose of this meeting is to generate topics and outlines for four pieces of written content. These are pieces that the marketing team is going to create. To that end, this meeting will involve two to three members of the marketing team and three to four salespeople from the top 25% of the salesforce (or even one from each team if you are a smaller organization).
The marketing side interviews the salespeople and get the answers to the following questions:
What objections are you regularly facing when meeting with prospects?
What pain points are your prospects facing that our company can solve?
What was a big win that you've had with a customer lately?
What reason did a prospect give for not buying lately?
What negative effects have you seen when prospects don't take action?
This process by itself goes a long way to creating alignment between the two groups. This will last about an hour and ideally will take place in person. If you can't get everyone physically together, you can use video conferencing. It's important to brainstorm and work through these ideas in an environment that encourages trust and makes sharing ideas comfortable.
As Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry, points out:
Visitors on websites convert because clarity outweighs uncertainty. That means answering all of their top questions, and no one knows the prospects questions better than the sales associate. So when sales and marketing collaborate, topics (questions and answers) flow from sales to marketing, and content (articles and high-converting sales pages) flow from marketing to sales.
2. Marketing Creates Content
From this meeting, the marketing team develops ideas for eight to 10 pieces of content. From that list they will then pull out the top four ideas to work on. This content will usually be articles, videos, or short white pages. They should be short, concrete, and easily shareable.
Greg Mischio of Winbound Marketing shares:
It’s ideal to create content that reaches customers throughout the customer journey. You’re trying to reach them early in the process — maybe even before they’re aware of your product or your solution. That’s why focusing on those pain points is so critical. That’s not only how to start content marketing — that’s how to start your sales process.
It's best to host them on a blog or website that has a clear next step for visitors. It's important that there are clear calls to action. Give prospects and customers an easy next step when they are done viewing the information.
Release this content over the span of four to eight weeks, dripping each piece out every week or two. It's important that the salespeople have time to promote the content and actively use it in their conversations. The goal is to help drive interaction and generate interest over time.
3. Sales Records Video Messages
In addition to creating the content, marketing should also create short (60-second) scripts for the sales team. These scripts should be short "commercials" for the content. The sales team is going to re-engage with the content that they had a hand in developing
Individual sales reps can record these videos and post them to their social media accounts. They should focus on LinkedIn, but any platform where their prospective customers spend time is useful. Tagging three to five people in their network can help it gain traction.
They can also email the videos directly to prospects or customers. Using video email platforms, they can customize the scripts that they get from the marketing team. Tie the content they are sharing with the questions and challenges of their prospects.
This is the fulcrum of the process: salespeople complain that they don't have content that is pertinent to their needs and marketing teams complain that the sales side doesn’t use the campaigns they create. Now they are working together.
4. Marketing and Sales Track Their Results
When the sales team shares videos on social or through email, they are creating double exposure: Some viewers will just watch the video in their newsfeed, while those who are more interested will go to the actual content.
To track the efficacy of this campaign, it's important to track traffic. Use link shorteners with tracking (e.g. Bit.ly or the like) or create a UTM campaign in Google Analytics for tracking. Also, sales should track through which prospects and customers they reached out to directly with their CRM platform.
It's also important to capture non-quantifiable data. The salespeople will often have better conversations, or even be able to start conversations, because of the content. That may or may not be captured in the traffic and CRM data. Take notes on interactions that are influenced by the insights they share with their network.
5. Debrief Meeting
After the content has been published and the video promotions sent, it's time to analyze the data. Approximately two weeks after the last piece of content is published, get everyone together and compares notes. A few things to address:
What was the overall traffic for the new pieces of content?
Which part of that traffic came from salespeople driving visitors?
How many conversations happened for sales because of the content?
What non-quantifiable effects (anecdotal) did the content have?
What are the next areas we can address with content?
Gaetano DiNardi, VP of Marketing at Sales Hacker, shares the practical effects of this process:
Have you ever been wowed by a company's online marketing, only to receive a demo from a sales rep and walk away feeling utterly dissatisfied? This is largely a result of sales and marketing misalignment. When sales and marketing teams are truly aligned, the customer's expectations are adequately met because he/she is likely to receive a higher level of consistency across the buying experience, and therefore more likely to convert.
There will always be new topics and areas to address in the content. The insights that need to be shared will continue to evolve and it's important to continue tweaking the information that the team is putting out.
And after the debrief, go back to Step #1 and brainstorm ideas for the next batch of content. Continue to combine the strategic focus of marketing with the frontline experiences of the sales team to keep the content fresh and relevant.
At the end of this meeting, it's critical that there are four more topics that are primed and ready to work on.
6. Lather, Rinse, and Repeat
It will take a few passes through this cycle to get into a rhythm, but eventually there will be a symbiotic relationship that develops between the sales and marketing teams. It might take time to get positioned in the minds of prospects and customers. The increases in traffic and conversion might come slowly, but they will come.
By continually providing great content to their prospects and overall network, salespeople will become valued sources of insight and trusted experts. And that will lead to more and better opportunities.
Just as importantly: Instead of friction, sales and marketing will be working together to create useful material that will aid prospects and customers in their buying journey. They will be truly aligned as a customer acquisition team.
And that’s a great place to be.
Originally published at LinkedIn Sales Solutions, reposted here with permission from our 2017 & 2018 Sponsor, LinkedIn.
David Fisher. (2018). Surefire, Step-by-Step Instructions to Get Sales and Marketing Teams Working Together. Available: https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/blog/sales-leaders/2018/06/surefire--step-by-step-instructions-to-get-sales-and-marketing-t. Last accessed 4th Jul 2018.