Whether you’re in sales or marketing, alignment between these two crucial functions will be something that you’ve no doubt struggled with. It doesn’t have to be this way. After all, the number one priority for both is the same – to build stronger, more profitable relationships with customers and prospects. As a Chief Marketing Officer, part of my job is to make sure that the alignment between Sales and Marketing is as strong as possible, so I wanted to share some of my experience with you.
Sales and marketing success comes down to driving revenue, which can only really be achieved when the two functions are aligned: a recent research study by Forbes showed that 74% of top reporting companies showed strong marketing and sales alignment, whereas 84% of businesses missing their sales target reported weaker relationships. I know from experience just how important it is for sales leaders to work closely with their CMOs to establish and prioritize shared objectives. A large part of my role, and that of my team, is to help make salespeople’s time with customers and prospects more valuable, so both teams need to understand and agree on what is needed to help sales campaigns progress: one way we do this at Avention, for instance, is by involving the sales leaders in the development of the marketing plan.
While it is traditionally the sales teams who interact directly with customers and prospects, I believe it is also important for marketing to play a role in this part of the process. Marketers cannot support sales if they do not know the industries they are selling into. So ask yourself, when was the last time a member of your marketing team joined one of your sales calls to get a sense of what is going on in the market? Where possible, sales should include marketing in customer interactions so that the marketers can establish what sort of content is considered helpful. By having an external view, marketing will be able to ensure that the content they produce is aligned to your buyers’ needs, which in turn, will drive sales. Similarly, once content has been created, it is helpful to hold live or virtual training sessions for the sales teams to make sure that they really understand the campaign or content, as this will enable them to have more productive conversations with prospective customers.
Forrester research has revealed that executive buyers report that only one in 10 sales conversations is effective – a statistic I think we can all agree is shockingly low. I certainly know from my discussions with executives that they are looking for higher quality conversations, which marketing can deliver through value-added content. The sales team should offer feedback on the insights they get from their conversations so that marketing can create campaigns and content that directly address the problems customers are facing and how their solution or service can solve them. For example, upon learning that case studies related to cost savings and return on investment are most likely to win over a prospective Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the content creators can weave in supporting data points and personalized industry messaging into all campaign marketing assets.
Sales and marketing need to use metrics and KPIs that measure both business results and alignment. Both quantifiable and qualitative data should be used to demonstrate the progress of a marketing team in terms of sales growth: for example, there needs to be a focus on lead conversion metrics, not just lead generation. CMOs need to focus on improving overall performance at the point of conversion and, by using data, they can clearly see what’s working and what isn’t in order to adjust strategies and tactics quickly. Win-loss data is key to informing budget and to ensure that spending is being allocated effectively. For instance, it is generally agreed that investment in marketing content can, and often does, improve sales productivity, but companies need to be sure that they are investing in the right content in order to see a return.
Understanding what moves a prospect through the sales process to completion is critical to sales conversion, and marketing can play a critical role in supporting this conversion. Alignment between sales and marketing can be achieved in many ways, but the best piece of advice I can give to sales leaders as a CMO is to recognize marketing as your partner and let us be part of your process so that we can best support your team’s business goals.