Let’s start by going back to basics: sales is about persuading a potential buyer to buy. Marketing is about persuading potential buyers to listen to sales. So it stands to reason that sales and marketing should be fully aligned and work together at every stage of the sales process. And yet all too often this isn’t the case. Sales and marketing are frequently misaligned, out of step and even out of touch with each other. The result of this misalignment is, quite simply, that they’re not delivering. A recent survey throws up an alarming statistic: 47% of UK ICT leaders believe that sales people are failing to hit their targets because their sales and marketing resources are not aligned to the stages of the buying cycle.
The fact is that very few companies have marketing and sales teams that are really working together in a co-ordinated way to create suitable prospects and keep profitable customers. Part of the problem is that there is a very mixed picture of what ‘good’ looks like; there is confusion over what marketing should actually be doing. This is often exacerbated by core activities, such as PR and website management, being outsourced to third party agencies that don’t fully understand the market. This all leads to tension and wastes time, resource, and money. It’s therefore essential that marketers really understand and clearly define their role within the sales process, as well as choosing their marketing partners carefully and briefing them properly.
Essential to this is understanding that the way buyers buy has changed, and so marketing’s strategy has to adapt to this change. Today, 9 out of 10 UK ICT leaders believe that buyers have increased their use of the Internet to help them choose potential suppliers—the third year running that this increase has been noted. And yet many marketers have not adapted to this shift or seized the opportunity to turn it to their advantage. This again leads to underperformance. A key driver in this change is the Internet’s ability to share knowledge about a company—good and bad—with potential buyers. This ranges from a positive website with easy to use information on products and services, to reviews of a company by its users.
Here it becomes crucial that marketers really understanding what people are saying about their company. Many buyers will ask around for independent recommendations and references from their peer group. Marketing must take control of these conversations. By understanding how they happen, who is involved and what is being said, marketers can positively influence the outcome of such exchanges. An effective way to do this is for marketers to present their company in a way that is easily remembered and easily repeatable by anyone—inside or outside of the business.
A real problem for many businesses is that their marketing is all about output rather than outcomes: about what is produced rather than what impact it has. A lot of marketing focuses on creating impressive-looking websites, slick videos and glossy brochures. However, what is all too often missed or ignored is the essential matter of: What are these assets meant to do? Who are they aimed at? What do you expect to happen when a prospect comes into contact with them? What do you actually want the prospect to do? When it comes to driving sales it really is the outcomes that matters, not the output.
Marketing is still often unaccountable. It is not asked to demonstrate the revenues it creates or prove its impact on ARPU or share of wallet, or even to explain how it is creating and fine-tuning a database of prospects with relevant information that helps sales people to sell. As a result sales people become disengaged from marketing, and marketing is unlikely to be serving the right content for buyers researching online. Indeed many companies complain that the contacts created by marketing are rarely relevant enough, or of high enough quality, and as a result sales people are not following up on leads generated by marketing. If marketing is measured only on quantity of contacts rather than on quality and quantity of contacts, then it is not aligned to the buyer and will not be delivering.
Why is this so important? Put simply, companies where marketing and sales have common objectives and work together to create and nurture relevant and profitable leads always outperform their peer groups in revenue and profit. This is clear in the following data from the Aberdeen Group:
The figures are inspiring. Where marketing and sales are aligned marketing is delivering twice as many sales forecasted prospects than average, and the companies are enjoying over four times as much year-on-year growth in annual revenue than poorly performing companies—twice as much as an average company! That’s a powerful reason to align marketing and sales in any business.
The fact is that by the time a buyer contacts a sales person, their purchase decision is almost over. B2B buying behaviour has changed: today’s B2B buyers are much more informed about the challenges they seek to overcome, the benefits they require and their potential supply options. Sales leaders and marketers should understand and adapt to this, even turn it into an opportunity. Aligning marketing and sales is a fundamental and highly effective way to achieve this, driving the right prospects to an engaged sales team looking to maximise performance and increase company revenue and profit—even in the toughest markets.