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Prevailing Wisdom

 

MARKETING AND SALES ALIGNMENT WHY & HOW - BEST PRACTICE FOR BUSINESS LEADERS

by Peter Strohkorb
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 Prevailer Note - We are honored to have Peter Strohkorb as one our guest bloggers.  Peter is an expert in Marketing/Sales Alignment  and has written the One Team Method

The negative impact on businesses with poor Marketing and Sales alignment has been widely publicized for quite some time: The disconnect stifles sales results, creates poor customer experiences and promotes high staff turnover. Organizations all around the world are unnecessarily putting up with this problem when the benefits of effective Marketing and Sales collaboration are also widely recognized: The most recently quantified benefits are 18 per cent shorter sales cycles and a 26 per cent higher win rates. (source: Altify 2017 Business Performance Benchmark study report, see http://www.altify.com/benchmark2017/)

Even though no two businesses are exactly the same and they in fact require a different set of solutions, I get asked all the time to outline the specific solutions that we recommend. So, in this article I have summarized some salient points for your consideration that drill down further on a previous article of mine, called "The 7 Common Mistakes in Sales+Marketing Collaboration".

Here they are:

1. Align Your Mindsets

Many of the business structures that worked last century are no longer effective. And so it is that in the 21st century Marketing and Sales can no longer afford to exist in separate organizational silos. Instead, they need to morph into one cohesive team, working in unison, helping and supporting each other.

I often say that "Marketing exists to create an environment where sales can occur." But for that outcome to be achievable they must combine forces and - importantly - share a common mindset around the benefits of collaboration.

You can only achieve this outcome if both parties are on the same page and are communicating constructively and regularly. This is not something that individual sales or marketing people can decide for themselves. This outcome requires a strategic and - dare I say - cultural imperative that can only come from the top through good leadership and a clearly articulated vision.

 

2. Align Your Reward and Recognition Programs

In the spirit of Peter Drucker, who famously says that “What gets measured gets improved.” you need to align your reward and recognition program and create a shared, measurable goal for your Marketing and Sales, if you want them to collaborate more effectively.

What should that goal be?

Many organisations have experimented with making sales leads the share goal, but, to me, this is too narrow and short-term-focused. Besides, it can lead to undesirable behavior when lead quantity takes priority over lead quality. It's a fine line, getting a unified definition of what constitutes a sales lead is crucial.

Others have elected to drive Marketing and Sales collaboration through a shared revenue goal. This has often brought initial success, particularly in the context of Account-Based Marketing (ABM), but has not successfully pervaded organization beyond its sales force.

Luckily, the stars have recently aligned in a beautiful constellation that gives organizations the best of both worlds, namely to combine your organization's customer centricity initiative with Sales and Marketing alignment.

What do I mean by that?

If your organization has chosen to compete more effectively by lifting its customer experience (CX) then what better way to create that common goal and mindset for your Marketing and Sales teams than by focusing both on your customer experience? After all, Marketing and Sales are at the same time your most revenue-generating and your most customer-facing parts of your organization. Granted, they may use different channels to reach the customer, but their messaging and language must be at the same time consistent and offer value.

 

3. Align Your Marketing and Sales Processes

If, as I say, Marketing exists to create an environment where sales can occur, then it will be necessary for both parties to agree on who does what, if we want to avoid double-handling and "things falling between the cracks".

Your CRM, sales force automation and marketing automation systems are only the enablers of your sales and marketing processes. It is your people who make them successful, so it becomes critical that the processes by which you want your Sales and Marketing to be judged and measured are defined, documented and agreed by both teams.

Psychologically speaking, they must not be imposed on either party, but should be consensual to avoid lip service and passive resistance down the track.

4. Foster Joint Collateral Creation

If Marketing exists to create an environment where sales can occur, then it becomes important for the collateral and the content to be shareable by both marketing people and sales reps. While it is Marketing's role to lift brand awareness and brand image in order to attract buyers to their brand, it is equally important for individual sales reps to promote their personal brand and subject matter expertise. Conversely, it is important that sales reps are kept informed on what messaging and content Marketing is publishing online and sending out to prospects and customers.

As modern sales techniques such as social selling, ABM and challenger-style selling become more important, the content that Marketing creates must be easily accessible and shareable by sales reps. What we want to avoid is a situation where Marketing creates content that salespeople simply do not use. By working together on content creation and by having an agreed sign-off and publishing process, you can significantly lift the quality and utility of your content.

5. Adopt Modern Selling Techniques

I have previously described some of these techniques in earlier articles. So, just as a reminder here is a synopsis for you:

Content Marketing

This strategy requires marketing to issue content that entices and compels buyers to our business. This content is usually published to the website and online generally, and complementary material is issued to the sales team. Content may comprise white papers, thought leadership articles, client success stories and lead generation campaigns. The key to success is that marketing continuously monitors the performance of its content and actively seeks feedback from the sales team about how prospects and customers react to it. Equally, sales reps must actively provide their front line intelligence to marketing so that the performance of marketing content can continuously be improved.

Success depends largely on a highly collaborative feedback loop between sales at the customer-facing front, and marketing at the online front.

Social Selling

This is a specialist version of content marketing which is practiced by individual sales reps. The idea is that we want to attract buyers not only to our brand but also to individual reps who have built a reputation of being subject matter experts.

The way it works in many organizations is that marketing provides the right content to the sales force for them to promote their personal subject matter expertise on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. In other words, individual sales reps attract the buyer through their personal brand, as well as their employer's brand.

Again, the success of this initiative largely depends on close collaboration between marketing and sales, if the content is to match the individual, and vice versa.

Storytelling

Storytelling is very powerful. Ever since humans were living in caves we sat around the campfire and told stories. Before the written word was invented stories were the way that we acquired information and learned new skills, such as how to hunt, gather and grow food. Even today, us humans remember stories much better than mere facts or figures.

When salespeople engage with a prospect or client they will have much deeper impact when they convey their information through a story. Storytelling also has the advantage that it doesn't feel like selling. Just telling a story or an anecdote feels less intrusive to both the buyer and the rep. So, go ahead and tell the story of how a past client found themselves in a similar situation to your current prospect and how your solution helped them to overcome their challenges and to succeed.

Your marketing team should arm your sales force with stories to regale your prospects and customers.

Account Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM is nothing new, but modern sales and marketing technology has elevated it to the latest "must-have". The reason is that it can be very powerful, if executed well. Imagine you want to win a new key account or retain a major client that is at risk of moving on to a competitor. Wouldn't you want to give them the attention they need to help secure or retain their business? So, you create a specialist team, let's call them a "hit squad", to identify the key stakeholders in your account, i.e. the decision makers, influencers and gate keepers, and you identify what makes each of them tick, their likes and dislikes, challenges and opportunities. Then you provide each of them individually, through whatever means necessary, with the information that they need to make an informed decision on why they should buy from your organization. This is so that when they all meet to decide which vendor to go with, they will discover that they all miraculously agree that they should go with your business.

This "hit squad" must consist of a multi-disciplinary team, comprised of marketing, sales, product management and communications experts. So, once again, close collaboration between marketing and sales is the key to success here, too.

Challenger / Disruptive / Provocative Selling

I have previously written about this type of selling and why it is not suitable for every rep. However, if your sales force has people with the stature to challenge your prospects' or clients' thinking then it can be very effective. The idea is that you disrupt their thinking with some new information that they either did not previously possess, or that they had not yet considered. Something that stops them in their tracks. The neat thing is that, because this particular insight was brought to them by you and only you, it gives you instant credibility over and above your competitors and turns you into a trusted adviser. It should be easy from there on to close the deal.

Conclusion

Salespeople, now more than ever, need to work together with their marketing counterparts to get their message across and cut through the noise to be invited into a sales conversation, rather than forcing their way in.

Salespeople, now more than ever, need to work together with their marketing counterparts to get their message across and cut through the noise to be invited into a sales conversation, rather than forcing their way in.

Regardless of which of the above sales techniques you choose to go with, much of your sales performance and success will depend on how well your marketing and sales teams work together to engage the Buyer and to differentiate your business from that of your competitors.

Ideally, your marketing and sales teams will collaborate across all levels of seniority, i.e. not just at executive level, and do so right across the entire 360-degree spectrum to include your customers as well, as illustrated above.

If this article resonates with your thinking, then talk to us about your options.

About the Author

Peter Strohkorb is an international Business Consultant, a published Author, a professional Speaker and . He is also a popular Executive MBA Guest Lecturer at the prestigious Sydney Business School.

 Contact Details: 

Peter Strohkorb, CEO, Peter Strohkorb Consulting International Pty Ltd

Ph: +61 411 865 301

Email: pstrohkorb@peterstrohkorbconsulting.com 

Websites:

http://www.peterstrohkorbconsulting.com/

http://www.peterstrohkorb.com/

Social Media:

LinkedIn:  https://au.linkedin.com/in/peterstrohkorbsalesmarketing

Twitter: @pstrohkorb

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/PeterStrohkorbConsulting/

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