Marketing and Sales Alignment – Easier Than You Think

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Richardson is a senior manager with Centric Consulting. Richardson is a senior manager with Centric Consulting.

There was a time, and perhaps you’re still living in it, where marketing is expected to drive sales leads, conversations, magically help close deals, and all sorts of expectations a marketing team can never meet. This period exists because there is a misalignment in those expectations of what marketing should do and what sales should do.

I like to start with the basics. Is your company providing a product or service? Is it easy to sell? Is it cheap? Do your customers buy once? Do you call your buyers customers or clients? How big is your market? What level of “touch” does your buyer want?

Marketing has a side that best aligns with where it can be the most effective. When a product or service is less expensive, has a huge market of buyers, has a short and/or very easy buying process, doesn’t care about the relationship with the customer (as much) and does not need to have multiple touches with the buyer to close the deal, marketing can and should play a huge role in your organization. This is where marketing can shine all on its own.

When your service is expensive, has a limited audience, has a complex conversation around the buying process, isn’t a fit for a huge market, worries about growing a relationship and needs (and wants!) a lot of touches in the buying process, sales shines best.

I usually get a lot of head nods here and everyone at the business table starts to appreciate where their buyer is on the opposing spectrums. And then each person at the table starts to look around because the main thing that is ultimately in each person’s head is this:  “How does marketing support sales, then?” or when they realize, “How does sales support marketing?” (yes, that’s a thing)

Regardless of which you line up with, the other must align with you. Start by being honest with yourself on which truly should take the lead in your organization. If you pick more items from the marketing examples above; your marketing takes the lead and you can perfect and automate it with big success. If you see more opportunity on the sales side, sales take the lead.

In this example, sales will take the lead and we’ll start with the sales process. Write down your sales process, line it up, explain how it works; make sure every sales and marketing person in your company agrees with where you land. Then map your marketing ideas to that process. Let’s say your second step in the sales process is to have a conversation that qualifies your buyer. Marketing supports this process with items like a conversation guide, qualifying questions that each person on the sales team can use to help qualify the buyer, mini case studies for follow up once the buyer has been qualified, steps to setting up an assessment or proof of concept as a next step once qualified, etc. Perfect, beautiful alignment. Do this for each step in your process, including closing the deal and after the sale.

If necessary, take each product you offer and repeat this process – maybe one or two products need more of a marketing lead and a few need sales to lead? Maybe the marketing lead products bridge into the sales lead portion of your offering(s) to grow an account and build on relationships? Alignment between your sales and marketing teams on where each best performs for the buyer is what’s at stake and what is most important.

When your marketing and sales team are in sync and move together everyone wins. Teams that work against each other, try to compete for the buyer, or cause friction in the buying process will not only fail, they will be missing out on revenue and company growth goals. When I have helped facilitate this process, the teams often start as divided and unsure, so don’t expect rainbows and smiles at the start. That said, once the hours roll into the day and this process has come full circle, the teams are engaged, excited and ready to move forward because they know, with confidence, how they need to go to market and they’re all clear on which seat on the bus they’re in to build revenue together.

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