Sales and marketing teams have a unified goal: to improve the balance sheets and prospects of companies and brands. How they go about it, however, is quite different, as are their incentives. That disconnect can sometimes result in clashes.
If sales drop, marketers sometimes accuse the sales team of failing to execute on a carefully planned campaign. Sales may counter that the marketing mix (price, product, promotion, and place) is to blame, and that they pushed for results but the consumer just wasn’t interested in what they were selling (or not willing to pay the price being asked for).
It’s a perennial conflict for many businesses but one that can be addressed strategically by leadership that encourages greater cooperation between sales and marketing.
Organizations that take proactive steps to better coordinate these vital departments and teams reap significant benefits. According to HubSpot, proper alignment of sales and marketing can net an incredible 208-percent increase in revenue and 36-percent better customer retention.
Do We Want to Grow Today or Tomorrow? Yes.
The biggest disconnect between sales and marketing is, perhaps surprisingly, temporal. Salespeople are focused on the current fiscal quarter or promotion and hitting their performance benchmarks. Marketers don’t have that luxury, they need to consider the health of a company, product, or brand in the long term.
Just because sales are booming right now doesn’t mean that trend will continue without new investment and innovation. Marketers understand that even the most well established brands are not self-sustaining.
“Proper alignment of sales and marketing can net a 208% increase in revenue and 36% better customer retention.”
If Coca-Cola stopped advertising and promoting its flagship beverage tomorrow, sales wouldn’t nosedive immediately, but they would assuredly fall over time and Pepsi would pick up the market share. Brand managers are tasked with carving out a competitive advantage by safeguarding and building brands through the years, not just this year.
In truth, both sides are right and both viewpoints are necessary. Salespeople have to keep the customer in mind at all times. They understand all too well how fickle modern consumers are. There is a wealth of information and options available online. One false move, one tiny deficit in the customer experience, and their business can be lost.
Marketers are likewise correct in not losing the forest for the trees, that is not allowing the details to distract them from the big picture. No matter how great the current sales figures are, building brand awareness and instilling durable and positive brand associations will always be an ongoing mission.
The First Step is Identifying the Problem
Because marketers are required to look at the bigger picture, they are often aware of the sales department’s needs and pain points. But sales, which has to stay focused on the customers and their immediate goals, is not always informed about what marketing is up to and how they can help.
Research by Kapost, a B2B content marketing platform, found that three in five marketers say they understand what sales requires from them. Yet, only one in three salespeople say the reverse is true. That issue won’t ever be resolved so long as the two groups are entirely segregated, yet Harvard Business Review reports that a full third of sales and marketing teams fail to meet on a regular basis.
Customer research firm InsideView surveyed sales and marketing professionals and found the top reported obstacles to aligning the two departments:
- Lack of accurate/shared data on target accounts and prospects (43%)
- Communication (43%)
- Use of different metrics (41%)
- Broken/flawed processes (37%)
- Lack of accountability on both sides (25%)
- Reporting challenges (21%)
These issues, particularly those related to breakdowns in communication, not only prevent smooth and efficient operations overall, they end up resulting in lost opportunities for brand and revenue growth.
Aligning Goals and Opening Lines of Communication
Salespeople, who spend their time interfacing with the customers, know better than anyone what the brand’s target market wants, how it expects to be treated, the channels and touchpoints it prefers, and what it takes to build a lasting relationship. This is all information that marketers would very much like to know. There needs to be incentives for the sales department to share that knowledge with the rest of the company so that marketers can use it to better inform key decisions.
“Three in five marketers say they understand what sales requires from them. Only one in three salespeople say the reverse is true.”
Communication, however, isn’t free. It takes up time and energy that the sales team would likely rather devote to the customers. Management should be mindful of their limitations and create flexible but regular opportunities for sales and marketing to meet and compare notes. Marketers, for their part, can make life easier for salespeople by designing and promulgating short, easy to use forms and surveys to collect information from sales on a more frequent basis.
Above all, some effort should be made to align the goals of both sales and marketing. If all the marketing team cares about is driving traffic to the website, and all the salespeople want is to close sales, neither side is incentivized to help the other.
Additionally, modern marketing is incredibly analytics-driven, but there is still a need to more directly link advertising and promotional efforts to revenue generation. That data should be investigated and used to make the case to salespeople that a competitive advantage in the marketplace and strong brand associations will ultimately make their jobs much easier, an awareness that promotes greater collaboration across departments.
No More Silos
87-percent of sales and marketing leaders told LinkedIn they believe that collaboration between the marketing and sales teams enables business growth. A similar number said that aligning the two departments is the single best opportunity available to them for improving the overall performance of their business.
Those beliefs are well founded. Aligning sales and marketing goals and improving lines of communication ultimately benefits everyone: Sales cycles are shortened, the customer experience is more consistent and rewarding, the buyer’s journey has less friction, barriers to entering new markets are lessened, and the cost of individual sales drop.
There’s simply no reason not to pursue greater alignment of sales and marketing and every reason to make it an enduring priority.
Hanlon is a trusted, agile, and expert partner to leading companies, helping them better align their sales and marketing operations to accelerate brand and revenue growth. Reach out today to learn how we can help your organization.