Maintaining alignment between sales and marketing functions is a challenge. Especially for many business-to-business (B2B) sales organisations.
Marketing and sales are in different disciplines. They need different skills and follow different career paths. I have heard suggestions to merging the two functions into one. At first, that may sound a sensible approach. That is until you realise these are two very different types of people. They each have different behaviours. This debate is heading in the wrong direction. There is no need to merge departments into one. We need to align our goals. Doing so requires us to step back and ask three quite simple questions:
- What is our business?
- What does our business get paid for?
- How do we meet the needs of our clients and add more value?
There it is, your focus. If there is conflict, step back from it and ask yourself these three questions. Doing so allows you to see the conflicts as symptoms of a problem not being handled well.
Your business must focus on either creating new clients or keeping existing ones. For many, it is both. The real challenge is who holds power. Do you think you do? Whether you are in sales, marketing, pre- or post-sales, product management. Any function within your business. You are contributing to the challenge if you think you hold the power.
Over the past ten years, there has been a power shift from the seller to the buyer. Ten years ago, sellers would control access to information buyers needed. Today that information is available to everyone. Search the Internet, and you’ll find what you are looking for. Social media reviews, feedback from your happy or not so happy customers. Technical details, commercials, sometimes even confidential information. It is this power shift that has been the reason for the following statistics:
- 92% of buyers start with an information search.
- 53% of buyers find going online. They consider researching is superior to interacting with a salesperson.
- 75% of buyers depend on social networks to learn about choosing the right vendor.
- 90% of buyers will not take a cold call.
We expect marketing to generate leads that fed into the top of the sales pipeline funnel. They measure their success by the number of qualified leads they create then pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Sales further qualify these leads and develop them through their sales process to closure. All this time sales leaders rely on sales pipeline reviews to check on the health of these sales leads. Based on these insights and pipeline reviews they present their sales revenue forecast to management.
The challenge for sales is their window of opportunity to win the sale. That window to win leads’ trust and confidence have shrunk. Remember buyers are already 53% through their buying process. If you are selling a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, that figure is closer to 57%. By 2020 research predicts it to be closer to 80%.
If you are tracking sales and marketing recruitment, you will have noticed an increase in demand for experienced field marketers. Successful companies understand field marketing’s role is changing. It is a critical function supporting sales teams. They help sales manage the power balance with buyers. Think of these field marketers as a hybrid between sales and marketing. They have worked with sales leaders and their teams supporting sales lead generation and managing nurturing campaigns.
A new breed of field marketeer is developing a new set of materials. These materials help their sales colleagues manage an evolved sales process before buyers contact the seller. They are working with pre- and post-sales teams, and product management. Together these teams are orchestrating and curating materials. Sales are relying on these materials to build confidence to win buyers’ trust often before they have talked to the buying organisation.
If you have a conflict between sales and marketing functions, look at the behaviour of those in each function. The sales, supporting sales, marketing and product management teams.
- How well are they collaborating?
- Do they understand and focused on supporting buyers along their buyers’ journey?
- Do they know how the buyers’ journey maps onto the sales pipeline?
- Or are they working as siloed functions?
Go beyond field marketing. Look at your other marketing teams influencing the sales process. The teams who are responsible for your social media, search engine optimisation (SEO), and the Web Site. Are they aligned with the buyers’ path and the sales pipeline?
This is the reason I believe the term Smarketing has become relevant. It is not just a blend of words between sales and marketing. It means both the sales and marketing functions are working together, focused on closing more sales revenue.
Feeding the sales pipeline with sales leads is no longer enough. Marketing and sales also need to adapt if they are to remain competitive. Be aligned with the buyers’ changing behaviour. Field marketing has a key role to play here to make sure your business remains relevant during their buying process. Relevant before a sales lead ever contacts you. This means you must support prospective buyers through their buying process.
If the sales pipeline is the beating heart of your business, sales pipeline reviews are its regular health check. Consider using a sales prospecting tool. It will allow Marketing to understand better the conversations occurring with sales leads. Having the right conversations means sales will close deals when forecast. Align your different marketing teams with the buyers’ journey. Doing so will help the business strengthen all your buyer and influencer touch points. Do that, and you will be grooming sales leads long before they reach out and connect with you.
It gets more challenging. You also need to consider the different roles within the buying organisation and their needs along the buyers’ journey: the researchers, the gatekeepers, champions, user influencers, and financial influencers. We have developed a sales prospecting tool to help you manage this challenging sales process, we call it the Conversational Solution Sales Scorecard. It breaks these conversations into bricks to simplify a complex solution sale. Doing so allows marketers to better collaborate with sales and other supporting functions focussing how to support each distinct conversation. The Scorecard supports Marketing to strengthen what information supports the buyers’ journey to remain relevant before sales lead decides to contact you.
If you want to know more download our Guides. The Sales Pipeline Guide for Sales Teams & Business Owners. Within this guide, you can also download another Guide – Using Sales Prospecting Tools to Improve Sales Pipeline Reviews.