When I first started my career in marketing more than 25 years ago, I worked on the marketing side of a sales team. It involved a lot of company research and proposal writing. While I learned a lot from the sales team that I supported, I quickly realized my role was much more sales support than it was marketing. The service I provided for them was exactly what salespeople wanted (and needed at the time), which made sense.
Digital marketing, content marketing, inbound, data-driven decisions and persona marketing didn’t exist. Most of our leads came from cold calls, referrals, educational events and “the good ole boys” network. We were in constant reaction mode driven by sales.
Fast forward several years later, and the market has changed. New competitors, lower-cost options and educated buyers changed how people bought. Business decisions were no longer made by one individual but driven by procurement or a committee of influencers. The sales cycle was much longer, and deep, trusting relationships were key to winning in sales. The marketing team spent a good deal of time creating opportunities for salespeople to foster these relationships.
Fast forward again, and things have changed once more. Buyers are conducting research and reading content to educate themselves on solutions that will solve their problems. Before they even connect with a salesperson, they’re already 50% through the decision-making process and 70% have already fully identified their needs.
Rather than lean on marketing as a sales support function as in days past, sales should be leaning on marketing to be their lead generation function, and aligning the two departments is more important than ever. Follow these sales and marketing alignment tips and start building a powerful lead generation function that gets results.
1. Agree on Goals and Accountabilities
It’s no secret that sales and marketing teams often disagree and get frustrated with each other. By coming together and aligning your goals and establishing clear accountabilities, you’ll eliminate much of the friction that comes when teams don’t understand who does what.
2. Work Together to Create Strong Buyer Personas
Marketing has access to market data and sales gains insights from talking to people in the market. By joining forces, marketing and sales can create stronger buyer personas than if they did this in silos. Not only will they be seeking out and attracting the right customers, but programs and content developed to pull them in will be more effective.
3. Invest In Marketing Automation and CRM Tools
One of the biggest frustrations sales teams have with marketing is getting leads that don’t lead them anywhere. By investing in marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, marketers will not only save time in automating their content marketing campaigns, but they will have more opportunities to analyze data and share leads that salespeople want.
4. Allow Both Sales and Marketing a Seat at the Executive Table
For sales and marketing alignment to continue, it’s critical both sales and marketing have a seat at the executive table. Company leadership needs to understand both perspectives and help to ensure that both departments stay aligned.
5. Celebrate the Wins (and Debrief on the Losses) Together
What better way to build camaraderie or learn from your mistakes than to approach wins and losses as a team. It’s human nature to want to share in the success, particularly if you had a hand in helping to win. Both my teenage daughters play soccer, and it’s clear when watching the game that even though one player may score the winning goal, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity without the rest of the team.