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.
What does the sales and marketing alignment do?
Today, marketing means a two-way communication between the customer and the business. It is no longer just announcing that you exist. It is engaging the prospect in a conversation with you and adding value. It is about building a real relationship with the prospect rather than trying to sell them something. For example, the role of the salesperson doesn't end the moment a sale is made. It extends beyond sale into customer satisfaction and discovering how to anticipate future needs. Every post-sale meeting provides the entire enterprise with new data to develop better solutions to customer needs.
In today's business environment, marketing and sales cannot function mutually exclusive of each other. This is where sales-marketing alignment comes into the picture. For a business to be able to reach its ultimate aim of customer satisfaction, an integration of sales and marketing is essential. Sales-marketing alignment allows for sales and marketing to come together to create a superior customer experience.
Simply put, sales-marketing alignment involves bringing the two core functions of a business—sales and marketing-- onto the same platform. This seems logical, given that ultimately, sales and marketing are both working towards a single aim—revenue generation for the company. However, more often than not, each of these functions adopts a different approach towards this aim. A study by the CMO concluded that 30% sales groups polled believed marketing is not in sync with the prospects and hence ignores key areas such as customer acquisition and retention. In fact, only 7% of the respondents said that sales and marketing worked together very effectively. Sales-marketing alignment is all about bridging the gap between these two functions so that traditional 'Marketing vs. Sales' conflicts are not flagged off.
What is the key ingredient in sales-marketing alignment?
The key ingredient in sales-marketing alignment is prospect insight—which ironically is also one of the key challenges. Marketing doesn't have access to real-time data with respect to prospect interaction with the company. There's no way for marketing to assess the prospect's position in the sales cycle or to get updates about the most recent interaction prospects had with sales. This affects the sales team in two ways:
- Marketing passes barely qualified leads—which otherwise should have been nurtured, to the sales team
- Marketing sends irrelevant communication to the prospect or generates sales materials that are not of use to the sales team for that particular stage of negotiation
Sales spend too much time on leads that are probably not even ready to purchase. End result? Sales is frustrated. First, by the lead quality and then by insufficient marketing support.
In order to bring about a seamless integration of its marketing and sales functions, these streams must have a single and complete view of the prospect.
What are the benefits of sales-marketing alignment?
Better marketing support for sales: By aligning sales and marketing, businesses can enjoy better marketing support for sales. A real-time, 360° view of prospects and their interactions with the business will help marketing become proactive. Marketing will be able to anticipate prospect-related sales requirements and offer sales the kind of support they need, on-demand.
Enhanced buyer experience: Well-synchronized sales and marketing functions enable marketing to provide the sales teams with personalized sales materials that enhance buyer experience through a higher degree of relevance, consistency and personalization.
Improved lead quality and shorter sales cycles: With a 360° real-time view of prospects, marketing will be able to decipher which prospects are truly sales-ready and which ones need to be nurtured. As a result, only the best leads would be passed on to sales, while marketing will continue to cultivate others till they are better qualified. From the sales perspective, improved lead quality leads to shorter sales cycles, as the time taken to close a deal is shorter.
Better Lead Management: Sales and marketing alignment promotes better lead management by bridging the gap between the parties involved in lead creation and follow-up. So, if 25% of the leads provided by marketing don’t turn into sales, the company has access to relevant data to evaluate where in the ensuing sales process a lead failed.
Improved Marketing & Sales ROI: Real time prospect insight provides information that helps marketing focus its efforts and resources on the most likely prospects, as a result, increasing the returns on marketing and sales investments.
Personalization: By bridging the gap between lead creation and follow-up,closed- loop marketing yields data that will allow every subsequent follow-up with a specific contact to become more focused.The company will be able to adopt a higher degree of personalization in its marketing efforts and product offerings.
Apart from those mentioned above, studies cite various other benefits of marketing-sales alignment including increased revenue and profit generation, decreased marketing and sales costs, and better customer retention and acquisition.
How can AMP help you bring about sales and marketing alignment?
AMP allows you to bring about sales-marketing alignment in the following areas
Multi-channel marketing & sales materials creation
On-demand sales materials creation for multiple marketing channels:AMP empowers your sales team to generate the sales materials of their choice the instant they need them. Your salespersons will be able to create personalized sales presentations, HTML e-mails, social media fan pages and even personal websites—without depending on marketing.
Lesser pressure on your marketing team: Enabling sales team create sales materials on demand, takes the pressure of your marketing team. Marketing can create templates for every piece of sales collateral, and the salespersons can edit the templates to add a personal touch as and when needed.
As a result, your marketing team will be able to support more requests from sales, and serve the sales team with the sales materials they need on-demand. Not just that, by giving editing rights to sales, AMP ensures that the output from marketing is actually usable by sales, while the template-base, database-centric approach ensures that your salespeople don't lose time in making the edits.
Does giving your salespeople the capacity to generate and edit their sales materials cause you to worry about your brand becoming distorted? AMP's brand management capabilities ensure that your brand is not compromised when your sales team customizes their materials. AMP allows your marketing team to retain control over the brand elements. Your sales team can only edit the areas your marketing team allows.
This ensures that your brand is never a victim of the gap between your marketing and sales teams.
Smart sales prospecting & improved marketing support for sales
AMP allows your sales and marketing teams to get behind the scenes with the prospects. Most of the guesswork that goes into creating and designing effective marketing and sales campaigns is eliminated. You get a solid foundation based on a panoramic view of information about customer preferences and market taste. A 360° view of prospects means your marketing and sales teams know each interaction your company has with its leads. Examples include: website visit details such as pages visited, duration of visit, links clicked; interaction through e-mails or social media channels; webinars and whitepaper downloads.
Your sales and marketing teams get a holistic, single view of your leads. Since marketing shares sales' view of the lead, they are on-target when it comes to providing marketing support for sales. Not just that, the 360° view of the prospects make cross-selling and up-selling easy. Your sales persons can stay in contact with their clients even after the deal is closed.
The benefit for marketing—being appraised of every lead movement, which enables them to revive old leads by acting in the right manner, at the right time.
Improved marketing & sales focus through smart contact segmentation
AMP automatically categorizes your leads into different segments, based on pre-defined conditions set by your marketing/sales teams. This automatic segmentation allows your marketing and sales teams to identify who their top contacts are, allowing them to focus on leads that are most-likely to provide business.
Smart contact segmentation helps marketing and sales focus on the most important leads. This improves your sales effectiveness and marketing ROI because the resources—time, dollars and energy are spent only where positive results are expected.
Quality lead generation
By giving your marketing team 360° view of its prospects, AMP helps them generate quality leads. Your marketing team can judge the lead's quality based on its interactions with your company. And not just that, AMP also has scientific lead-scoring capabilities that lend a tangible element to lead quality.
AMP ensures that your marketing and sales teams have a mutually agreed upon definition of lead quality. It also ensures that the lead scoring process is closely connected with prospect attributes and behavior. That means no more guess work from marketing on lead type—no more complaints about poor quality leads from sales!
Social media automation
AMP helps your marketing team create custom Facebook fan pages, profile pictures and twitter backgrounds—tools that help your marketing team enhance your online brand presence while connecting with your prospects and customers. AMP also automates the process of social media updates, automatically posting the scheduled update at the scheduled time.
One of the reasons for the sales-marketing disconnect is because marketing is considered to be far-removed from on-field activities and feedback. Through social media, AMP offers an exciting opportunity for your marketing team to get real-time feedback from the ultimate source—your customers.
Marketing & sales campaign effectiveness measurement
With AMP, your marketing and sales teams have mutual access to customer analytics. Critical prospect data is no longer quarantined within individual corporate units. All information is available for the development of effective marketing and sales plans respectively. AMP allows you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing and sales campaigns. Your marketing team will know what works and what doesn't. AMP generates reports including prospect-customer based report, campaign based report, reports based on marketing/sales material types and more!
When marketing has a clear view of what is successful and what is not, it doesn't have to wait for sales to tell it to them. Leveraging the analytics, marketing can immediately make changes to the necessary sales presentations or other sales materials so that they yield better results—even before sales can complain of them being ineffective.
Sales-marketing alignment calls for processes, technology and systems that break all walls between the marketing and sales teams and the prospect. A holistic prospect view, real-time prospect and sales insight, coupled with strong, consistent communication channels can help businesses bridge the gap between marketing and sales, bringing about the much sought sales-marketing alignment.