There's no question that closing the gap between sales and marketing translates into real numbers on the bottom line. Aberdeen Research concluded that the companies that are best-in-class in merging sales and marketing have been able to post a 20 percent growth in revenue, while those that have fallen behind have seen a 4 percent decline.
Sales reps have traditionally been taught that their only priority is reaching their set quota. However they can get it, for the penalty of failure is high. Marketing, for decades, has been taught to stick to strategy, branding tactics and overseeing the creative direction of the company. The two of them have rarely worked together.
If your organization is struggling to bring these traditionally separate players into alignment, here are five relatively easy adjustments that can be put into practice today to begin making a measurable improvement.
1. Train sales reps in social branding
“The first thing every sales person should do is start a social presence,” says Sales for Life's managing partner and social selling expert Jamie Shanks. “People do and will always buy from people. Use social as a means of building trust.” Social branding is generally considered marketing's area of expertise. Social selling is a natural connection point where the sales and marketing teams can collaborate.
2. Establish a unified definition of “qualified lead”
One of the biggest sources of friction between sales and marketing is the hand off point for qualified leads. Marketers work hard to find leads that sales consider lukewarm at best. The secret to easing that friction is to sync up your sales technology and marketing automation with unified lead scoring and grading methodology. One of the best is a scoring system based on BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing). Leads that fail to make the grade can go directly into a lead nurturing program.
3. Collaborate on fleshing out buyer personas
Sales enablement depends on compiled data from both sales and marketing to create a comprehensive buyer persona. These should go beyond basic title and industry reviews to include their biggest obstacles, pressure points, long term goals, and the types of brand messages that connect with each persona. Take a look at this infographic, a basic step-by-step guide on how to do this.
4. Organize a “cognitive relaxation” event for sales and marketing
Stress can be a killer. Shanks credits some of his most creative breakthroughs and innovations to a complete break from work that lasts at least 48 hours. Shanks advised, “If you’re reading this as a sales rep, sales leader, or business owner, take my advice. Follow the Bill Gates method and shut your brain down at the end of a quarter or year. Bill Gates has been known to take a 'Think Week' off each year to reflect on his business. No distractions.” When sales and marketing reps share this kind of experience, it will set the foundation for a solution-oriented team that crosses divisional boundaries.
5. Measure your customer experience across channels
According to PWC, 63 percent of CEOs identify “rallying around the customer” as a top investment priority. Customer focus breaks down the traditional silos of sales, marketing, and customer service into a unified team with a common goal. Social media is a good place to start gathering data on how customers experience your brand, but an accurate measure also includes data from customer service, CRM, marketing channels, experienced sales reps, and Web analytics.
Time to Align
Long ago, there was a similar great divide between product design and manufacturing. It seems crazy now, but coming up with new products without an understanding of the limits of practical production was standard operating procedure. That alignment became enormously valuable for both customers and business. We are at that stage with sales and marketing today. Companies that have made it work are already pulling ahead of the competition. Today, with increased global competition and new sales channels opening up through social networks, it's time for these rivals to put aside their differences and start pulling together.