By Peggy Bekavac Olson
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com
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