Why is sales and marketing alignment such a difficult thing to accomplish? We all know that when these two critical departments work synergistically, the company sells more, better, faster at higher profits.
According to SalesHub, 50% of sales time is wasted on poor prospecting, 95% of buyers buy from someone who gave them content at each stage of the buyers’ journey, 1 in 4 companies say their sales and marketing teams are either “misaligned” or “rarely aligned.”. Another study done by Kapost stated that 65% of sales reps say they can’t find relevant content to send to prospects.
Consider these facts:
A SalesHub study revealed the following:
- “Tightly aligned” companies achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.
- Misalignment between sales and marketing costs B2B companies 10% or more of revenue loss annually.
- Sales and marketing alignment can help businesses become 67% better at closing deals.
- Only 12% of B2b buyers want to meet in person with a sales rep, and 71% start their process with an unbranded search
- 35%-50% of sales go to businesses that respond first.
The below conversation reveals deep sentiments often harbored by heads of the department but are often disguised to avoid an all-out war between two interdependent departments that are often not perceived as equals.
The company missed its quarterly revenue quota for the second time in a row. A heated conversation ensued between the head of sales (CRO) and the head of marketing (CMO).
CRO: The quality of leads continues to deteriorate, and despite our best efforts, our sales reps are losing the field battle. The marketing material is archaic and uninspiring. We haven’t had any new promotional materials or any compelling digital marketing campaigns in the last 12 months. Our telesales folks are stating that the quality of leads provided is below par. We have a mediocre presence on most popular social media platforms, and we have no brand leverage in comparison with our competitors.
CMO: I believe your sales folks need training. Most of your sales reps don’t have a good grasp of the product they are selling and have a hard time positioning our value propositions to their prospects. Many are not following up with their leads in a timely fashion, often dismissing quality leads without thorough qualification, and without ever attempting to revisit their lost opportunities. Besides, many of your sales reps lack closing skills ability and blame marketing for their inadequacies. I suggest you should focus on developing your sales rep’s skills to an adequate level to leverage our marketing campaigns. My team is continuously engaging potential customers in creating brand awareness, spur desire, and long-term commitment through artful and strategic storytelling. I recognize that we lack manpower and financial resources to become a dominant marketing household name on vital social media platforms, but we’re doing our best to work creatively despite our tight budget.
The above conversation, loaded with executives’ ego and emotions, is pretty typical in the corporate world; many salespeople do not understand the role of marketing, and marketers do not understand the complexity behind sales. Rather than working in tandem and as a united force, they often tear one another and blame one another for their collective failures.
Sales often look at marketing as a support function rather than a partner that drives revenue.
Smart companies know that marketing’s primary role is to attract, retain, and grow revenue from existing and new customers. Marketing performs product and market research to evaluate demand and appeal, prepare and package business solutions, communicate brand value, maintain and expand customer relationships.
Despite having different functions, sales and marketing share similar responsibilities and duties concerning customer engagement and satisfaction, revenue generation, organizational growth, and brand positioning. When marketing and sales work together in complete synergy, companies achieve faster growth, better productivity, higher profit margin, greater employee job satisfaction, and higher customer retention.
According to a study done by Salesforce, when the marketing group and sales group have a disconnected relationship, it affects companies’ revenue negatively and triggers productivity inefficiencies, costing companies globally almost a trillion dollars per year.
Despite the interdependence and the similar nature of the functionality of these two groups, sales and marketing act more as rivals than partners. Missed targets and failed programs turn into blame matches with neither party taking responsibility. Hence, turning what could be a tremendously lucrative partnership into a perennial conflict between two groups whose best option is to work together to survive and thrive.
A study conducted by insidessales.com, where 696 companies participated in the evaluation of their sales reps ‘lead response behavior,’ revealed that sales reps took on average 39 hours before attempting to respond for the first time to a newly submitted web lead. Furthermore, according to lead response management research conducted in 2007, a sales rep is 100 times more likely to contact a new sales lead, and 21 times more to advance that sales lead into the sales funnel if approached within the first five minutes of lead submittal.
Interdependence Requires Harmony
Marketing and sales are separate functions within most organizations. Marketing and sales don’t always work in harmony together. Marketing often blames the sales force for its poor execution of an otherwise brilliant marketing rollout strategy. The sales team will blame the marketing department for being out of touch with customers’ demands, inferior quality leads, outdated marketing materials, and lack of awareness of competitor’s superior offers.
Marketing will blame sales for their inability to follow up and close good qualified leads and lack of understanding of products sold. Besides, sales is way too focused on individual customer demands, rather than looking at the whole market and taking into consideration future trends that may affect the industry. In short, these two groups tend to undervalue their contributions rather than build on them to create team synergy.
When marketing and sales are not aligned, revenue and employee morale suffer.
Conversely, when marketing and sales work well together, we see significant improvement in key performance indicators ranging from shorter sales cycle, lower cost of sales, faster conversion rate, better market data sharing, higher employee morale, and greater customer satisfaction.
A Harvard Business Review study revealed that companies that contacted potential customers within an hour of receiving the lead were seven times more likely to connect with a decision-maker than those who waited two hours or more, and 60 times more likely than those who attempt after 24 hours. Web leads have a short life span; response time matters.
This study highlights the fact that marketing efforts (generating leads) work best when sales teams (close the deal) work with a sense of urgency and purpose.
There are two significant reasons why marketing and sales struggle to work together.
Economic reason: Senior management allocates a yearly budget to the marketing and sales department. Marketing departments spend their budgets on pricing, promotion, and product. The marketing group sets the pricing in a specific way that will allow it to meet its revenue goals. The marketing group sets pricing guidelines and instructs the sales group to sell the asked price as opposed to lowering the margin to makes more sales. Salespeople, facing market reality and intense competition, often recourse to reducing the price as an incentive to meet customer demands, facilitate negotiations, shorten the sales cycle, and speed the decision-making process. The marketing group has the power to set pricing guidelines. However, the sales team ultimately decides on the selling price.
The vice president of sales often reaches out to either the senior vice president of finance or the CFO for pricing consideration and exceptions when the requests are below marketing specific guidelines. This ability to override marketing pricing guidelines often creates friction among these groups.
Promotion cost: Marketing groups spend money creating ads and promotions on different social media platforms, billboards, television advertising to generate customer awareness, create interest, build preferences, and a desire for the product. The vice president of sales often feels that television ads and billboard advertising rarely produce value, and when they do, they often cannot be measured. A better investment would be increasing the size and quality of the sales force, and its impact is usually measurable and immediate.
Product: Most product releases come with some level of needed improvement. Salespeople’s job is to sell the product as it is rather than how it should be. Salespeople often sell a promised outcome to their customers, and they are expected to deliver on it. Customers get irritated when the product lacks some needed features, has a poor design or fails to achieve the outcome that was guaranteed by the sales rep. Dealing with angry customers, major escalations, buyer’s remorse, and having one’s reputation tarnished is often a subject of great frustration for salespeople. Salespeople’s worldview is often shaped by the needs of its customers, while the broad appeal shapes marketing’s worldview.
Budget issues are always contentious. Marketing requires considerable economic powers to buy space to promote the company brand and its business solutions value. Most of its impact is intangible and long-term. While an investment in the sales group can generate a tangible, short-run effect on the company bottom line. Salespeople view their marketing counterparts as bureaucrats sitting behind a desk, surfing social media, and using predictive analytics to gauge marketing project performances. Salespeople see themselves as doing the hard lifting, field prospecting, presenting, overcoming obstacles, building relationships with their customers while testing, and evaluating the product appeal and areas of deficiencies. It easy to see why these two distinct groups have difficulty working together toward a common goal.
This is part I, Please Read Part II on this article.
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