Marketing as a function is designed to support revenue growth and therefore will often directly support a sales team. Which is why it’s concerning that in some organisations the two departments can still be found to exist in complete isolation of one another. And because of this, a common side effect is that both departments tend to feel the other side is letting them down. Whether sales feel they’re not getting sufficient volume or quality of leads, or marketing is frustrated that 50% of the leads they generate are not being followed up. The good news is that things can get better. In fact, if sales and marketing are not fully aligned then you have a huge opportunity at hand. So what can be done and why is it worth the bother?

Nobody understands the customer like sales and account managers

Marketers may find themselves engaging customers with great regularity, but this can often be one-way traffic. The reality is that nobody understands customers better than our client-facing sales and customer services colleagues who talk with them throughout their customer journey. When it comes marketing messaging and approach, successful organisations are increasingly focusing on the problems that customers are facing. This ensures businesses are better able to engage with their target audience by showing that they understand their customer’s challenges and are directly addressing them.

We recently interviewed Bob Apollo, Founder of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners (and specialist at improving sales and marketing performance) for our recent guide on effective lead generation, who pointed out that when it comes to demand generation there has been a welcome movement away from the scattergun broadcast marketing, to a more narrowly targeted issues-based approach. In order for marketing to produce content that will truly address customer challenges it is critical that they work with sales, and any other customer-facing team, to share their knowledge and expertise.

Involve key client-facing folks in as early as possible

Don’t wait to bring in your sales team at the point of campaign execution, or even worse at the lead follow up stage. Instead, identify the right client-facing individuals or teams and work with them as early as possible in the strategic decision-making process. The type of intimate customer insight which can be gained from a good salesperson can really help to shape the route from organisational goals to client aquisition. It’s worth noting here also, that by inviting input from sales folks at this early stage you’re likely to see a far greater degree of buy-in and support from them at the other end, when you are taking the campaign to market (whether that’s in the form of lead follow up or social media sharing, etc).

Ignore the 57% statistic and work together to shape the prospects vision of the solution

Most sales and marketing people place too much faith in the statistic which claims that buyers are at least 57 percent of the way through the purchase cycle by the time they engage a salesperson. Yes, buyers are increasingly researching online but they may not always be as far down the line as you (or even they) think.

Many large vendors have complex sales processes with multiple stakeholders on the customer side that make up the purchasing team. While the individual who made the sales enquiry may have thoughts they were advanced in their purchase process, due to the complexity involved there’s often an awful lot of heavy lifting still to do.

But what does this have to do with the sales and marketing relationship?

Three-quarters of buying decisions went to the vendor that first helped them shape their vision of a solution.

It all comes down to understanding the buying cycle and working together to ensure you’re addressing the key points with relevant content. Even if the customer feels they are close to a purchase decision, with the right approach (and the right content) there’s likely to be a clear opportunity to re-frame things inline with the strengths of your organisation – or as Forrester put it, to “shape the prospects vision of the solution.” Interestingly, Forrester also concluded that three-quarters of buying decisions went to the vendor that first helped them shape their vision of a solution…all the more reason for marketing and sales to work together to engage across the buying cycle!

ABM, marketing automation and social selling may be doomed to fail without collaboration

We mentioned earlier the comments from Bob Apollo about the importance of a customer-centric strategic approach. This should be done holistically across all marketing activity.

Take account-based marketing for example. As marketing departments up and down the country continue to roll out and refine their ABM strategy, those who are doing it most successfully are those who work with their sales teams to connect with customer across the the buying process. As Bob pointed out, while the marketing function is more likely to run the ABM programme, it must do so with a mindset similar to that of their sales colleagues, by considering the accounts to target, how to engage with them, how to bring them on board and how to generate revenue from them. Of course the very best way to get this right is to lean on sales colleagues.

Similarly, when it comes to the creation of marketing automation activity it is more important than ever for sales and marketing to be aligned. Not only can the sales insight help shape the content and workflows, good collaboration here will again encourage greater adoption of the programmes by sales after launch.

Another example of where the two teams should work together is that of social selling. While a sales rep can connect and form a relationship with a prospect through social media, they will be relying on marketing to provide various types of content that suite the social medium of communication. Sales and marketing should collaborate not only on the content required, but also on the approach as many marketers will equally be able to give valuable tips and insight to those sales colleagues who are less socially sophisticated.

TIME TO Kiss, make up and enjoy future success

There will always be differences among sales and marketing teams but at the end of the day neither can succeed without the other. If there are any ‘challenges’ between your sales and marketing departments, it’s time to address them so you can work together and start plotting your success!