Throughout the pandemic, businesses have needed to continuously adapt as customer needs and preferences evolve. But that quick adaptation is difficult when the business lacks alignment between the departments that most frequently speak to potential customers: sales and marketing.
When sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned, both suffer: In fact, sales-marketing misalignment is estimated to cost businesses more than $1 trillion each year. Why? This misalignment can lead to a lack of trust and understanding between the two departments, which makes every step of working together more difficult and, therefore, slower.
When businesses need to adapt their sales or marketing efforts quickly, misalignment that costs the company a day or two can mean big changes to business outcomes, like fewer sales and lost revenue.
Identifying Alignment and Misalignment
Because of the potential impacts on revenue, it’s important for business leaders to recognize what functional and dysfunctional sales-marketing alignment look like in practice.
Let’s start by looking at misalignment around objectives. Imagine a company’s salespeople are having conversations with leads that enlighten them about their buyers’ changing business operations — and the new needs that are resulting — but they aren’t sharing this information quickly with the marketing team. If the marketing team doesn’t know about prospective customers’ changing needs, they can’t create content or campaigns to address these updated pain points. That means all the sales collateral is outdated.
Misalignment can stem just as easily from the marketing side of the equation. For example, a marketing team might have noticed that the website’s blog posts addressing certain buyer pain points are spiking in traffic as people search for solutions online. But if they aren’t communicating these trends to the sales team, the salespeople taking calls might not know to mention solutions for those fresh pain points — potentially losing buyers.
In both examples, the lack of communication and an effective feedback loop is causing both teams to lose opportunities — leading to fewer sales and less revenue for the organization.
When sales and marketing teams have a system for proper alignment, though, the company will notice a few key benefits:
Aligning Marketing and Sales
A whopping 90% of sales and marketing professionals report misalignment in terms of strategy, process, culture, and content in their organizations, and nearly all respondents of the same survey believe this harms the business and its customers. What’s more, 97% of those same respondents reported difficulties with messaging and content in particular; the top complaints included content created by marketing without the sales team’s input, content focused on pushing products rather than solving leads’ problems, and content that doesn’t move prospects through the buyer’s journey.
To combat these problems, companies can ensure the sales and marketing teams become (and remain) aligned on their shared objectives — and that marketing collateral supports the sales team’s efforts — by implementing the following strategies.
1. Audit the content you have to enable revenue generation.
The pandemic has changed B2B buyers’ behavior, with one third of buyers spending more time on pre-purchase research but one quarter of buyers spending less time talking with vendors. Sales and marketing teams need to think more strategically about the content they’re sending B2B buyers about products and services because buyers are relying more heavily on written information in their decision-making.
The first step in strategizing is to audit available sales enablement content and how it’s being used. First, take an inventory of your content stock so you can avoid duplicating efforts. Make a note of what collateral you have and what content you lack by having your marketing and sales teams work together to answer the following questions:
The goal is to map your content to your objectives so you can see what’s being used well, what’s underused, and what content may not be meeting expectations so you can determine whether your sales and marketing teams need to realign their content strategy.
2. Have marketing team members shadow sales calls.
Cross-department shadowing, such as having marketing team members periodically shadow sales calls, can ensure that your sales and marketing teams are aligned. It can also spark topic ideas for great sales enablement content.
Here’s how you can implement this in your company:
Not only does this help the marketing team learn how they can best create campaigns to aid the sales team; it also allows sales teams to gain an outside perspective on their everyday work. The marketing team might be able to suggest more relevant sales collateral to send leads, uncover gaps in the sales process, and even detect customer pain points the sales team hadn’t considered. All of those insights can lead to a more streamlined sales process.
3. Hold regular brainstorming sessions with sales and marketing team members.
Another way to get sales and marketing into the same room is to schedule recurring brainstorming sessions. The brainstorming goal could be to discuss prospects, shore up gaps in the sales process, or develop topics for white papers or webinars. Regardless, set an agenda ahead of time so both teams can prepare and bring relevant data points. During the sessions, you might discuss questions like:
The goal of these brainstorming sessions is to uncover insights that can help replicate wins and shake loose content ideas that will support future sales.
4. Provide the sales team with knowledge about prospects for their sales calls.
If your marketing team uses marketing automation software, they likely have a lot of information on prospective buyers that the sales team lacks. Create a process to allow the sales team to access key background information on the people they’ve booked phone calls with. The marketing team probably has information on leads that a salesperson would find valuable, including:
Ultimately, getting sales and marketing aligned starts with instilling a shared culture of cooperation by creating processes that remind the teams of their shared objectives and encourage mutual feedback. With that, you can avoid the sales-marketing misalignment that plagues so many organizations and forces them to leave so much money on the table.