Collaborating

Oliver Smith

8 ways to ensure aligned sales and marketing

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Lucy White

Many organisations may find there is an underlying division between sales and marketing departments. I’ve certainly experienced it in my career and I’m constantly seeing posts on LinkedIn with sales professionals coming together to criticise marketeers who aren’t in touch enough with the customer, or marketing professionals blaming sales for promising the world to customers.

It seems many sales and marketing departments are not always joined up - whereby marketing is just there to generate leads for sales, and sales reps qualify, create opportunities and turn them into revenue. This is an old-fashioned view of how sales and marketing should work together and responsible for a lot of the disparity that embeds itself within organisations.

But why has this changed?    

Today customers are in control of their journey. They are online, socially connected and empowered to research through digital methods. As such sales and marketing need to be more integrated than ever. Sales and marketing are ultimately all about the customer and we should be looking at everything we do through the eyes of the customer.

It’s very common for sales and marketing teams to become siloed within their own departments. This usually happens as companies grow and teams expand. And as soon as communication between sales and marketing begins to break down, the problems can start. Customers start to receive mixed messages as the sales reps decide to communicate their own version of what the service or product does or promise a product before it is even launched! Whilst marketing begins guessing what the customer is looking for, running campaigns that fall flat before they’ve begun.

 

The facts

According to MarketingProfs, organisations that have a tightly aligned sales and marketing function have a 38% higher sales win rate and a 36% higher customer retention rate.

In addition, according to a study by Aberdeen Group, organisations with excellent alignment achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth compared to a 7% decrease in revenue by their less aligned competitors.

 

So how can businesses work to align their sales and marketing – now termed ‘Smarketing’? Here are some suggestions for how both sales and marketing teams can work to ensure collaboration across teams.

1.  Get marketing involved in sales meetings

As a marketeer, getting a slot within a sales meeting can be an invaluable platform to gaining insight on what is going on with customers.The sales team should (hopefully) be feeding back on their customer meetings, discussing the customers’ needs, objections, and any positive feedback. This is such a good source of information for marketing.

 

Ask the head of sales whether a spokesperson from marketing can sit in on the weekly sales meeting to soak up the information which can then feed into the marketing plan and help with campaigns and strategies to help support sales.

Or better still, have a more infrequent (monthly perhaps) joint sales and marketing meeting, with an agenda that includes a customer feedback session and ideas from sales, and campaign plans, updates and results from marketing.

 

2.  Encourage feedback processes

It can often be difficult to get proactive feedback from a salesperson that is busy managing multiple accounts, trying to meet their sales targets, or out on the road working remotely. I have first-hand experience of how much work it can be to obtain this vital information from the sales team, chasing can be time consuming, which isn’t a good use of time for anyone – especially when marketing have their own work to complete!

One of the best examples I have seen of an effective process for communicating customer conversations to marketing is a simple template document that was given as a resource to each salesperson. As part of every face-to-face, online, or phone conversation, they were to fill in the document with information they had obtained from the customer. 

This became embedded in their sales process but only because senior management saw the advantages of attaining this information for the overall sales and marketing strategy. The process was embedded as part of the sales team’s objectives, contributing towards their bonus structure.

3.  Share your marketing plan and resources

Keep your marketing plan in a shared location that can be viewed by everyone.  That way the sales team will have visibility of what promotions and campaign are running and can help push those promotions within their customer meetings.  In addition, it can be useful to save documentation such as flyers, content, T&Cs of promotions, in a shared location so the sales team can utilise these resources in their discussions with customers.

 

4.  Write a blog on their behalf

The sales team often have a lot to offer but little time or incentive to contribute. They are the knife edge of the company and the ones who have direct contact with the customer, so using this knowledge is a great way to generate content that the customers actually want to see.  However, the sales team often have their targets at the forefront of their agenda, so won’t have time to actually develop the content themselves.  It can be useful though to spend 10 minutes interviewing them or creating a template for them to add key bullet points on the chosen topic and write the content on their behalf.  This will empower the sales team to become involved in marketing, whilst removing the time of having to actually write anything, and also showing their leads that they are experts in their field.

5.  Get sales involved with social media

Encouraging members of the sales team, and the wider organisation, to follow and engage in the company posts is a great way to develop cohesive teams, a sense of pride and share the company message.  Ensuring the sales team are involved in the promotion of marketing campaigns, not only helps them sell, but helps builds collaboration between the teams.  Helping marketing will ultimately help selling as remembering that both departments are part of one team with the same end goal and playing to each other’s strengths and working as a team will help achieve those goals.

Some social platforms are making this easier, for example LinkedIn now has a ‘notify employees’ feature. Another method to ensure posts are not missed is to send a weekly plan or update around to let the sales team know what the plan is for the week so they can look out and share where possible.

6.  Adhere to messaging and brand guidelines

Whether we work in marketing, sales, or in accounts and finance, we are all marketers of our company.  How we communicate externally, be it a face-to-face meeting, email or on the phone, will impact how the organisation is viewed by a third party. 

Communication therefore must be in-line with the organisation’s overall messaging, values, and tone of voice. Most businesses will have established messaging frameworks and brand guidelines which inform what we say and how we communicate the brand externally. Having a central, easy to locate place for documents like this, such as an intranet, shared folder, or even on signage on the office walls, can ensure brand consistency and cohesion across the board.

 

7.  Exhibit together

Does your company exhibit at conferences and events?  Often it will be a couple of the sales team that represent the company at the event, but it can be really beneficial for a marketing person to attend alongside the salesperson.  The marketing person will not only be able to get some valuable face-to-face communication with the customer, but also use the opportunity to assess the conference itself, help and support the sales team, make sure the stand is looking good, update social media, ensure marketing materials are available and displayed correctly, PR and editorial opportunities, and whether it is worth the investment for next year. In addition, just being out and about with a member of the other team is great for building relationships.

 

8.  Team activities

And finally, merging team activities into one, whether it be lunch or a team building exercise, it is great to help teams develop relationships with their co-workers outside of the work environment.

At the end of the day, whether you work in the marketing or sales department, we all have one goal – to grow the business. Alignment between these departments ultimately must come from the top with buy-in from heads of department (or perhaps more senior), as well as the implementation and review of aligned objectives that encourage collaborative working and optimum ROI.

 

If you’d like to discuss any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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