Sales-Marketing Alignment—An Introduction
Sales and marketing alignment is one topic that commonly comes up in any discussion related to improving marketing and sales effectiveness. Traditionally, businesses functioned with the single goal of selling. The Sales function was the core of all business operations. The role of a traditional marketer didn't extend beyond drafting creative advertisements or copywriting. Now, prospects are at the core of any business and all other corporate functions revolve around them. CRM collects critical data, marketing generates leads and tracks client and prospect behavior, and every salesperson acquires critical input from prospects about their needs. Sales-marketing alignment is the recognition that all of this data must be continuously integrated if the business is to respond effectively to its core mission: satisfying customer needs. A lot has been written about this subject in the recent years, and even as studies on the subject conclude that marketing-sales alignment is imperative for company success, companies are wrestling with various challenges when it comes to implementing it. This article explains why aligning sales and marketing is important, how it can benefit your company, and how you can go about achieving it.
Why the sales-marketing alignment is imperative?
A study by Aberdeen Group revealed 88% of companies that perform best are the ones which implement closed loop marketing and leverage technology to aid its marketing functions. For a company to be able to provide value-added services to customers, it is essential that both marketing and sales integrate the knowledge they acquire from their day–to-day interaction with the market, and then use it to continuously refine each prospect interaction. Sales-marketing alignment bridges the information gap between marketing and sales. For example, suppose the marketing team knows the exact mode and time of communication a prospect prefers. It will be able to easily pass that data to the sales team. The process of supporting this on-going information flow is the heart of true sales-marketing alignment.
A study of UK-based B2B firms reinforced that companies with positive collaboration between their sales and marketing functions performed better than those without it. Here are some key reasons.
Powerful buyers: Buyers today are more informed and in control of the buying process than before. Thanks to the internet, your buyers have instant access to all the information they need before making a purchase decision—including information about your competitors. This scenario warrants that marketing is in close-contact with prospects from day one. Marketing must be aware of every website visit, every download, and every form sign-up by the prospect. Even after the prospect is passed on to the sales team as qualified lead, the marketing team must be aware of every prospect move that will help them determine the prospect's position in the sales cycle.
Competition: With competition becoming more intense, companies are looking for ways to build a better relationship with their buyers. A study by MathMarketing concluded that the businesses with greatest degree of sales and marketing alignment grow faster, close 38% more deals and lose 36% fewer customers than their non-aligned counterparts. Better marketing and sales alignment enable companies to enhance customer experience, allowing the business to approach prospects with relevant offers and communication materials—at the right time. This wouldn't be possible if marketing is not cued in on the interactions between sales and the prospect.
Increased pressure to improve ROI: Both sales and marketing are under a lot of pressure to cut costs and improve revenue generation. By aligning sales and marketing functions accurately, companies can improve marketing ROI, and boost sales effectiveness. A research by CMO Council and Wall Street Journal revealed that sales leverages less than 50% of the materials created by marketing while spending around 40% of its time on preparing buyer-specific sales materials; and only 20% of salespersons are actually successful in doing so. An accurate sales-marketing alignment would mean that marketing is always in the loop as far as sales and buyer requirements are concerned, making the right sales materials available at the right time—thus reducing wastage costs on marketing front while improving sales effectiveness by allowing salespersons to concentrate on what they do best—selling.