Today, the buyer is in control. The internet puts all the information in the world at their fingertips. They can gain a huge amount of knowledge about you and your competitors with minimum effort, and without you even knowing it.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to provide a consistent customer experience at all stages of the buying journey.
Customers will engage with both marketers and sales people in various ways, whether it’s reading a blog post or making a phone call, from the top of the funnel to the bottom. It’s vital that all the messaging and content comes from a single voice, whoever or whatever they’re engaging with, and it needs to be at the right time and place.
And that means sales and marketing need to be aligned. Businesses always work better when there’s synergy between departments anyway, but it’s especially true when it comes to sales and marketing.
Yes, you’ve heard it all so many times before, because it’s true. But are businesses listening?
Well, yes, actually. According to LinkedIn’s survey of over 3500 sales people and over 3500 marketers, 79% agreed that collaboration exists between their sales and marketing teams.
You know there’s a ‘but’ coming. It’s this: only a quarter noticed significant advances since the year before.
With 58% saying that sales and marketing alignment delivered improved customer retention and 54% linked it to a boost in financial performance, both sides can clearly see the benefits. They’re just not getting it quite right.
You’ll also need strong alignment to produce successful account-based marketing programmes. ABM requires a strong target list and your sales team will already have their own. Working together on this means that sales will actually follow up on leads generated through marketing’s activities. The knowledge that the sales team will already have on these targets can give marketers a good head-start to creating personalised content. You can read our 5-step, foolproof guide to ABM to learn more.
Since both sides already know the importance of alignment, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to actually make it work.
Agree what a qualified lead is and how to handle them
A common complaint from marketers is that the leads they pass on to the sales team aren’t followed up fast enough, if at all. Yet the sales team complain that the leads just aren’t good enough.
So agree on a shared definition of a ‘qualified lead’ and set up a process for handling them that everybody sticks to. Then there should be no arguments when marketing passes leads to sales.
Only go after leads that actually convert
I get it, marketers have their quotas. They need to generate so many leads to show that they’re doing their jobs properly. But if those leads aren’t converting into sales, what’s the point in continuing to spend time, money and effort on them? Don’t be afraid to drop channels that aren’t converting prospects into sales.
In their survey, LinkedIn found that 45% felt that regular meetings involving both sales and marketing teams helps to drive sales. It gives both sides the opportunity to understand where things are going well and where marketers can step in to help the sales team. And it gives the sales team a chance to pass on any feedback from customers on your products and services.
Marketing and sales leaders should meet regularly too – alignment only works if it goes all the way from top to bottom.
Turn your sales people into thought leaders
Marketers can help the sales team become known as experts in their field by creating content such as blogs and whitepapers for them. The sales people can then share the content through social media and use it as conversation starters. It can be particularly beneficial in social selling – a sales person can promise to share a relevant piece of content when requesting to connect with a prospect on LinkedIn, for example.
Get marketing and sales together in a room to brainstorm content ideas. Sales people have regular contact with prospects and customers so should have a good idea of the challenges they face. The content should help to solve these problems.
Create a shared marketing platform
The content for the sales team doesn’t always need to be written for individual sales people. You could create a platform that gives sales people content relevant to different situations. It could include, for example, an email to promote a product which can be used at a specific part of a buyer journey, with customisable fields that enable personalisation.
To really unify the team, you need to get to know each other on a more personal level. Organise social gatherings for marketing and sales to spend some time together on a more personal level. It should help to create deeper connections, and hopefully act as a reminder that marketers and sales people aren’t in competition.
For alignment to really work, there has to be a continuous process of improvement in place. Read my blog post on Kaizen marketing to learn how to go about it – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t apply to sales and marketing alignment too.
I hope my tips steer you in the right direction – if you’d like to talk about sales and marketing alignment in more detail, please feel free to get in touch.