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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 10, 2010 • Issue 10:05:01

Sales and marketing: Allies, not foes

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

One of the greatest opportunities for improving business performance is to integrate sales and marketing. When the two are properly aligned around business and revenue goals, they can produce dramatic improvements in sales productivity, marketing return on investment (ROI) and most importantly, revenue growth.

The words "sales" and "marketing" are often used interchangeably, and many people mistakenly believe them to be synonymous. So let's start off with some basic definitions. Sales is everything you do to close business and get a signed agreement or contract, while marketing is everything you do to reach and persuade prospects that your company and its products and services are what they want.

Marketing prepares the marketplace and prospects for a sale of your products and services utilizing tactics like brand awareness, public relations, advertising, communications and lead generation through vehicles such as tradeshows, direct mail, email marketing and so forth. Sales efforts consist of any activity that engages prospects on a personal level. It involves a series of interpersonal interactions like networking, cold calls, one-on-one meetings and presentations.

While closely entwined, sales and marketing are two different processes. Marketing supports sales to move prospects from cold to warm and then hot, making it easier for sales to close.

Where did we go wrong?

Ultimately sales and marketing should be harmoniously integrated, pursuing common growth and revenue objectives. Unfortunately, all too often, the two suffer a dysfunctional and sometimes even antagonistic relationship.

Recent Miller Heiman research confirms the void between sales and marketing is a serious issue. Only 37 percent of the organizations surveyed believe their sales and marketing teams are adequately aligned. They also note that best-in-class (BIC) companies that outperform their peers do a much better job at aligning these two critical functions. Aberdeen Group Inc. research indicates that 56 percent of BIC companies consider the alignment a target for improvement.

Core issues revolve around lack of synergy, communication breakdowns and just plain viewing things differently. Salespeople think they are the only ones in the company worried about making sales quotas, while marketing personnel believe they are the only ones thinking strategically. Those in sales wonder why they have to generate leads when marketing should be doing it, while those in marketing wonder why the sales team can't seem to follow up on the leads they receive from marketing and close deals. And so on.

In the book Escaping the Black Hole: Minimizing the Damage from Marketing-Sales Disconnect, author Robert Schmonsees identifies symptoms of sales and marketing misalignment with telling details:

  • Twenty-five percent of all marketing and sales resources are routinely wasted.
  • Seventy to 80 percent of leads generated by marketing are never followed up.
  • Twenty-nine percent of a salesperson's time is actually spent selling.
  • Eighty to 90 percent of marketing collateral is considered useless by sales.
  • Salespeople spend 30 to 50 hours per month searching for and recreating customer-facing content.
  • Eighty to 90 percent of customer-facing content created by salespeople is inaccurate and dilutes the brand.
  • Fifty percent of salespeople do not achieve their sales quotas.
  • 90 percent of sales opportunities don't close as forecasted.

Mending and moving forward with a plan

To break down barriers and move your sales and marketing teams into alignment, try developing a holistic approach with a concrete action plan.

Here are 10 steps for aligning sales and marketing:

  1. Integrate sales and marketing teams as tightly as possible in terms of goals, reporting structure and office location.

  2. Although they serve multiple masters within the organization, impress upon marketing professionals that their first priority is to serve the sales force by helping them sell more; make it clear to salespeople that although their job is to serve the customer, they must follow through on the company's established marketing direction regarding positioning, messaging, communications and campaign efforts.

  3. Get sales and marketing teams to collaborate on common goals and objectives, and even the definition of what constitutes a valid lead. Salespeople are the beneficiaries of initiatives that marketing implements, and when the sales team buys in, the work of marketing is much easier.

  4. Link key sales and marketing metrics to share ownership and overall accountability.

  5. Create a feedback and reporting system between sales and marketing to address and resolve issues quickly.

  6. Make sure your company's value proposition is clear and provides differentiation from the competition, in terms of the business itself and for each of the respective products and services it sells.

  7. Develop customer-relevant messaging and strong marketing collateral for each stage of the sales cycle. Make sure your message is delivered consistently across all communication channels, which will enable salespeople to focus their time on selling with even greater impact.

  8. Empower marketing professionals to nurture early stage leads using multiple touch tactics that provide prospects with education and information upfront. This typically requires seven or more meaningful touches to make early stage leads qualified and ready for sales team efforts.

  9. Implement a formal lead qualification and management process or technology system.

  10. Provide incentives, praise and rewards for both sales and marketing teams.

More revenue in view

With the goal of driving revenue and business performance in sight, your company must embrace the differing capabilities, expertise and functions each team brings to the table. Collaboration between sales and marketing will produce much better results than when teams work independently toward the same goal. Properly aligned, your company will realize substantial benefits such as improved productivity, shortened sales cycles, reduced costs, better marketing ROI and increased revenues.

So take a look at your marketing and sales teams and ask, Are we in alignment or do we need to make adjustments? If you're one of the few companies that are adequately aligned - congratulations! And if you're one of the many companies needing improvement - you're a step ahead of those that haven't recognized this opportunity, and you have a basis for making sales and marketing alignment a competitive advantage. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson is the founder of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS Acquiring Solutions for more than five years. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com

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