Sales & Marketing: BFFs or Frenemies?

I recently conducted a workshop in Auckland with a selection of NZ’s top brands. We invited both sides of the debate to work out once and for all: what does it take to align sales and marketing?

For anyone embarking on the automation journey, aligning sales and marketing is fundamental. The best customer experiences stem from clearly defined roles and responsibilities across the buyer journey, and from leveraging the insights gathered on both sides. Without the left arm knowing what the right arm is doing, you’re only setting yourself up for the following common scenarios:

  • A whole lot of leads but no-one ready to buy;
  • Time and energy spent developing content that Marketing love, but Sales never use;
  • A disjointed customer experience where either no-one follows up, or prospects get approached from all different angles.

If any of the above scenarios are familiar to you, you’re not alone. Our workshop attendees had relationships that ranged from Frenemy, meaning “we rarely communicate because Marketing don’t understand quality leads and Sales don’t know how to close”, through to Mate – “there’s some work to do but on the whole we work well together and have clearly defined roles along the buyer journey”.

To be a BFF means keeping a constant dialogue between Sales and Marketing – regularly communicating pre and post campaigns – and a clearly defined sales process that is aligned to an agreed customer journey. Sadly, we didn’t have anyone in the room who had a BFF in their Sales/Marketing colleagues.

So, why is this? I think it’s because the landscape has changed and we’re all still trying to adjust…

Before the digital revolution, Sales dominated the buyer journey. It was easy to get face time with prospects because that’s how they gathered information about you. It would often take 3, 4, 5 meetings for prospects to evaluate your company and your products and services.

During this time your highly tuned sales people could determine propensity to purchase through body language. Head nods, interaction and eye contact would often indicate a higher probability of a win. On the other hand, crossed arms and raised eye brows might let the sales person know to spend more time on objection handling.

Now, talking to you is the last thing your prospects do. With research and evaluation done online, purchasers on average are 57% through the decision making process before they are ready to make contact*. As a result, Sales people have less face time and the experience has become more content driven and marketing-dominated.

Real body language has been replaced by digital body language – the engagement on your website, on social media and in email channels are now cues that tell you where in the buyer journey your prospect is and whether or not they’re ready to buy.

If you’re not taking advantage of this shift and measuring digital body language, you’re missing a trick. How can you develop content better than your competitors if you don’t know what works? You can’t simply rely on what happens further down the funnel face-to-face, to establish what prospects need the first time they land on your site.

Gone are the days where website hits impress anyone. Today, you need to know who’s landing, when, what they’re interested in and most importantly who they are. How many opportunities do you create to gather this information? If you’re offering value in exchange for prospect contact details, you can easily convert an unknown lead to a known lead.

Then, you need to engage them while they’re evaluating you by providing the most relevant content that they can easily digest at their own convenience. And, doing this well requires both Sales and Marketing to work together.

Our top 8 tips for Sales & Marketing Alignment

  1. Develop personas in collaboration with Sales & Marketing.
  2. Be active where they are.
  3. Develop content that will engage online and that Sales will actually use.
  4. Agree the automation rules.
  5. Communicate.
  6. Speak the same language when handing over qualified leads for follow up.
  7. Don’t leave measurement until the end (even though I just did here!).
  8. Re-engage, reactivate, resell.

SOURCE: *Joint Google and CEB research project, 2011.