One evening, some months before the first lockdown, I got chatting to a guy at the pub. He was a keen angler like me, and we bonded over our shared passion. After swapping tales of riverbanks, tackle tips and our favourite spots to fish, we got on to what we did for a living. I told him I run a digital marketing business.His face fell and without saying another word, he picked up his pint, turned his back on me and walked away from the bar. Confused, I followed him to the table where he was sitting. I wanted to know what had just happened and what his problem was.He told me in no uncertain terms – “I work in sales.” I frowned at this and asked – “But, aren’t we in the same line of work?”He drained his pint, looked me right in the eye and said – “If you’d worked with the marketing departments I’ve had to work with, you’d realise what a bloody stupid question that is.” Then he got up and left the pub.
When marketing ignores sales
The sad matter is, I wasn’t even that surprised by his reaction. Many companies have a sales and marketing functionality, but all too often they just don’t align. Marketing and management often make all decisions about goods and services. The sales team have to sell these without one consultation on issues that directly affect their ability to close deals.When the sales team complains to the marketing department about these decisions, their points are often dismissed or simply ignored. If the decisions the marketing department makes don’t work out, the blame is often laid at the feet of the sales team, who are accused of not working hard enough or being incompetent. This can even be the case when members of the marketing team have worked their way up from sales.While this might sound like a simple case of departmental squabbling, in reality it can have a significant impact on the cost of doing business. According to a recent case study, sales and market misalignment is costing businesses worldwide, more than one trillion dollars every year. It is sad to think that this costly state of affairs is completely avoidable.
What are the dangers?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted the three biggest dangers to business from sales and marketing misalignment. The first danger comes when the goals set by marketing are not the goals that the sales force want to achieve. What happens then is that the sales team becomes hugely demotivated because in trying to achieve both sets of goals, they end up feeling they can’t achieve either. This can also reduce their commitment to the organisation that employs them.The second danger is that the sales team start to see the misalignment of goals as an extra set of difficulties that just aren’t necessary. It’s not that they see difficult goals as a problem, it’s just that when they see one set of goals as unrealistic, they don’t see how they can possibly succeed in reaching the goals and quotas they’ve been given.The final danger is that the sales team will find ways to achieve the goals but it will cost them extra time and effort. That time and effort could have been spent chasing down new leads and landing new accounts. So the loss to the business comes directly out of the bottom line.
But when sales and marketing are aligned…
If you take all this into consideration, it’s no wonder that some organisations cite aligning sales and marketing functions as a top priority. Especially when another study has shown that aligning your sales and marketing strategies can increase new revenue by as much as 34%.This is why I believe the sales team needs to be aware of what the marketing department are putting out in terms of messaging and communication. They need to feed what they’re hearing, out in the market, into these key marketing messages. The marketing team, in turn, need to analyse the customer engagement the sales team are reporting. This way everyone will know how the market is responding to their goals, so they can feed those responses back into the sales pipe.If you can get this right, then you have a cohesive cross company team capable of delivering increased revenue, year on year.
So, how do you go about this?
You need to focus on your customer and what their responses to your marketing and sales activity is. Marketing and sales need to agree who their customers, or clients, are and create a single journey for them. This starts with marketing, but is linked to a common strategy that everyone delivers using the same key performance indicators.The sales team are going to collect a lot of customer feedback and marketing need to know this to keep their messages consistent. Marketing has to create assets that will allow the sales team to close deals.But it doesn’t stop at the deal, marketing and sales need to join forces on post-sale growth and retention. To do this studies show that marketing and sales need to replace the ‘sales funnel’ with a ‘revenue cycle’. The old sales funnel approach sorted potential customers into ‘leads’ who became ‘prospects’ that were then converted into ‘clients’.This is one of the practices that kept the sales and marketing teams apart. To deliver the personalised experience that a prospect expects in today’s competitive market, sales and marketing need to come together in a single aligned process that wins new business and keeps existing clients happy.
And this means…
Well, for one thing, it means I can finish a drink with a salesman I just met without being the brunt of his marketing frustration. But it also makes for better business practice and increased revenues. And no-one can argue with that.If you want to discuss this matter more, either over a pint or over the phone, then please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and learn what thoughts you might have on this matter.