Astonishing true tales of sales marketing alignment
Alignment between Marketing and Sales is potentially the largest opportunity for improving business performance today.
Can’t we all just get along? Sales and marketing misalignment is a stubborn issue. It may seem like a remnant of traditional sales and marketing silos, but lack of alignment remains all-too common in the digital era. Despite general agreement that sales-marketing alignment around revenue goals can be a game changer, survey results like these from LeanData are not unusual:
- 65 percent of salespeople rated the overall quality of leads they receive as average, poor or terrible.
- 68 percent of marketers said that up to half of their leads are either ignored or disqualified by sales.
- 51 percent of sales professionals said they disqualify up to half of the Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) handed over by their colleagues.
Welcome to sales marketing alignment
My own introduction to sales-marketing alignment was As a new marketing director in a demand generation role, I had the opportunity to do a ride along with the organization’s very top salesperson.
The top salesperson was a tall, outgoing Texan who indeed had a personality and sales achievements as big as the Lone Star State. She swore and drank with gusto, and called everyone “Sugar.” A large plaque in her office read Home of the Closer.
I was excited to sit in on a live demo and observe The Closer in action. My focus was on finding qualified prospects and creating marketing assets that would encourage them to raise their hands and eventually convert to customers. Initially, there was not a lot of focus beyond generating qualified leads that would enable sales to set up demos.
Before a customer demo of our software, I shared my marketing strategy slide deck with The Closer. It was rather lengthy, with lots of infographics and citations for supporting research. We were about four slides in, when she said it:
“Well, damn. That’s not gonna work.”
I started out in denial, and she started out being polite. But when I pressed for some candid feedback, she basically told me that the way I planned to sell our software was not the way people actually bought it.
She added that sales usually ignored the assets supplied by marketing and created their own presentations. The Closer basically told me I was building the mechanism before figuring out the message. And reminded me of an important equation: Wrong message = no sales.
Um, OK. So what’s the right marketing message? She said:
- Bad news, is, there is no single right message. Depends who you ask.
- Good news is, there are just three things to know: Your audience, your place in the market and your unique value
They look something like this:
Know your audience is the first rule of most marketing strategy frameworks. And with good reason. Without knowing your audience’s motivations and goals, every subsequent decision you make could off target. This includes customer messaging, the ability to improve your services through customer reviews to identifying high-value prospects and decision-makers.
Market research may have been a separate function in traditional marketing, but in today’s data-driven world, it’s built into every campaign. Each prospect and customer interaction produces data that can bring deeper audience insights.
Marketers should seek sales feedback to learn the audience. In particular, Marketers whose audience interactions are limited to digital channels have to take extra care that to stay relevant. It only takes one tone-deaf marketing message in a series to make customers ignore your future attempts at engagement.
Industry knowledge is a key area where organizations can benefit from better sales-marketing alignment. Often, it seems like marketers learn a lot about early stage prospects and then may know less about how prospects as they become customers, repeat buyers and referrable accounts. In a world that’s moving toward SaaS and platforms customers success and retention is more important than ever.
Brand differentiation becomes more important through each stage of the buyer’s journey. Later in the sales process, The best sales / marketing teams If salespeople don’t know how to answer questions about how their products stack up against competitors, they are unlikely to become closers.
It’s tempting to call this tip of the triangle “Product knowledge” but that may be setting the wrong expectations. To some degree, all marketers know that customers really don’t want products, they want solutions to their problems and better outcomes. Likewise, customers probably won’t buy based on a comparison of product features.
They will buy based on perceived value and it’s the joint responsibility of sales and marketing to create that value. Sounds a lot like a Unique Value Proposition (UVP), defined by ConversionXL as:
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.
A successful UVP will tie together all sides of the triangle. You know what your audience wants, how to communicate its value and how to differentiate from competitors. That’s sales marketing alignment.
Back to the audience:
Customer centricity and user experiences are the keys to modern marketing.
Figuring out whom you’re trying to reach and recognizing their diverse needs is just the start. Knowing their goals and what challenges and motivates them is the key to conversion. On this particular sales call, the segmentation was role-based.
Back to the sales call: The team we were meeting was a real estate brokerage, and we were offering our marketing platform and data services.
As we set up for the meeting, the Closer pulled up the CRM and wrote a quick reference chart like the one above.
As we began, she greeted everyone by name, mentioned something they had talked about before. The fact that she knew the owner had flown in early to golf and the VP of finance was a new employee cemented her credibility.
During the demo, she cracked jokes and spoke to the Broker-Owner about competitive advantage, and to the Finance guy about volume discounts. The Trainer asked if she could automatically import listing data and was told, “Well, only if you click right here.”
It was easy to see that the closer was talking to each participant according to their particular role and goals. For the Broker-Owner, a chance to grow the company.
At the next monthly sales call, I saw the deal had closed for a 70-user license. I imagined The Closer pouring herself a shot of tequila and letting out a big Whoop in her office.
The bottom line: Sales marketing alignment is closely related to revenue. It’s the True North around which to create shared objectives.
Digital marketers often focus on digital conversions. This learning experience was a great reminder that there is always a human on other end of the channel.