Back in 2015 we wrote a blog on sales and marketing alignment entitled Sales & Marketing: The Peace Process, I re-read it the other day and it got me thinking about how much has really changed in the last three years. Does the disconnect still exist?
Are the lines between sales and marketing still blurred?
And importantly, are customers still being let down by inconsistent experiences that are a fumbled mixture of marketing and sales?
Have sales and marketing stopped colliding and started collaborating?
Have these two disciplines come to realise that working in silos offers little benefit to the customer, and as such offers little benefit to themselves?
And if so what is driving alignment?
Why is sales and marketing alignment so important?
At our Connections conference a few years ago we discussed the topic of integrated sales and marketing, and a few members of the audience suggested that there should be no more sales and marketing but instead they should be combined and re-named ‘Smarketing’, or The Department of Revenue! Two rather humorous suggestions, but ones that perhaps have merit.
Sales and marketing alignment is still as much on the agenda in 2018 as it was three years ago. In just the same way we all still continuously to talk ourselves to death about how we are living in the age of the customer, one in which they expect and demand superior experiences on a consistent basis.
As Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing Agency puts it so well “It’s hard enough to get your buyer’s attention in today’s crazy busy, buyer-centric, and channel-crowded world. And if you go at those buyers with conflicting messages from sales and marketing (let alone conflicting and siloed campaigns within marketing) you’re making your own job much, much harder.”
The unescapable fact is that with buyer expectations so high, it’s no longer acceptable to have sales and marketing running separate playbooks. Marketing and sales need to stop thinking of themselves as different teams – perhaps ‘Smarketing’ isn’t such a silly idea after all…
The separation between sales and marketing needs to be retired, and businesses must come to realise that in an age when customer experience is one of the most important factors in business, creating relevance and consistently valuable experiences must be a shared responsibility.
The proof that sales and marketing alignment really makes a difference
Businesses that have embraced the challenge of integrated sales and marketing strategies are realising the benefits. By building aligned sales and marketing ecosystems between (and indeed business development and customer success), and measuring sales acceleration and customer experience as a combined goal they are reaping the rewards in terms of revenue generation and customer retention.
To quote some recent sales and marketing alignment statistics:
• According to an Aberdeen Group study highly aligned organisations achieve an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth – while their less aligned competitors see a 7% decrease in revenue.
• A Sirius Decisions report suggests that organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations are achieving 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth.
A similar pattern exists when looking at customer retention. Sales and marketing aligned businesses are achieving not only 38% higher average sales win rates, but also 36% higher customer retention levels (MarketingProfs).
Intelligence and insight – The driving force behind sales and marketing alignment
As one marketing automation specialist I recently saw quoted so rightly puts it, marketing and sales need to have the same view of the customer journey in order to deliver the right message at the right time. I agree, it’s always going to be challenging to align sales and marketing without access to high-quality intelligence and insight.
As B2B Marketing Strategist Ardath Albee says “Customers want answers and information on demand. This means the better we know our prospects and customers, the faster we can respond in ways that resonate to orchestrate productive engagement”.
Technology is definitely making it easier for businesses to achieve that single view, therefore making sales and marketing alignment more accessible, and collective responsibilities easier to manage.
Understanding: Machine learning and predictive analytics are allowing sales and marketing teams to dig deep by furnishing them with real time insights into customer needs.
Knowing the customer better and understanding their individual persona, goals, pain points, sentiments, and where they are in their buying journey, enables sales and marketing to work in unison to improve experiences.
When sales and marketing know the customer better they can align by uncovering synergies in their skill set to ensure every engagement is relevant, personalised, timely and most importantly consistent.
Lead Generation: As the intelligence and insight delivered by AI-powered tools enables sales and marketing to build a deeper understanding, they both become more knowledgeable about potential leads than ever before.
Often the biggest pressure point between the two teams, who hold longstanding debates over whether lead quality (or lack of it) is the result of sales and marketing teams not knowing enough, AI is able to go through thousands of client leads and separate the useful ones from those which aren’t as valuable.
Sales and marketing strategies can then be aligned to target and engage with the customer segments they are most likely to win. A Harvard Business Review study found that companies using AI were able to increase leads by 50%.
Conversions: Historically there’s been a longstanding tension between marketing and sales when it comes to lead conversion. Sales tend to resent marketers for not passing them high quality leads making conversion difficult, and marketers tend to begrudge sales reps for low conversion rates. AI has the potential to rectify this longstanding tension.
Machine learning and predictive analytics offer the ability to determine which leads represent the best targets for inbound and outbound marketing initiatives, whilst at the same time equipping sellers with the intelligence and insight to engage with prospects, create more personalised content, and conduct targeted outreach.
By pinpointing leads most ripe for conversion AI is doing the heavy lifting, eliminating tensions, and providing a unified strategy that serves to strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing.
Retention: According to research from Bain and Company, just a “five percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25-95%, why on earth then would sales and marketing not align when they have such as obvious common goal?
Retention programmes are vital to long-term success, and therefore harnessing technology to reduce friction between sales and marketing is imperative in successful execution of nurturing programmes.
Seamless experiences across the entire customer journey is often hindered by a lack of visibility across an organisation, AI can bridge the gap.
Businesses using analytics to provide a single view of the customer are generating more opportunities to engage, and build customer playbooks to support sales and marketing efforts by predicting the next steps in the customer journey in order to move it along and consistently add value.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
When marketing and sales don’t speak the same language or tell the same story, everyone ends up working harder while achieving less. Marketing can no longer body-swerve revenue generation, and sales can no longer consider marketing as merely a fluffy element to awareness generation.
They must measure sales acceleration and customer experience as a combined goal, and in doing so help each other and better serve the customer.
Technology is rapidly transforming the sales and marketing landscape. Smart use of intelligence and insight tools can improve understanding of the buyer, improve lead qualification and prioritisation, aid successful conversions and pinpoint new opportunities to engage and add value throughout the customer journey. But more than this smart use of technology can bring sales and marketing teams together for the long-term success of the company!
“Alignment drives the best performance. Think about ‘that guy’ at the gym who lifts weights every day while wearing his baseball cap backward. He only does upper body work and ignores leg days. His upper body is chiseled and built, but his legs are skinnier than my teenage son’s. The gym rat doesn’t have alignment in his weight program and he’s only achieving 50% of his potential. Without sales and marketing alignment, powered by enablement, an organization is only achieving a 50% of its potential. Don’t skip leg day.” (Brian Hansford, Vice President, Heinz Marketing Inc)
Try an instant demo of Artesian sales acceleration platform and immediately see closely alignment between your sales, business development and marketing teams.