It came up in conversation at a recent industry event. I was listening to a seasoned sales professional describe the daily struggle to break into new accounts, so I asked about the support he gets from marketing. He said his technology company spends a lot of money on marketing. Yet, everything the marketing department gives him in terms of sales support is – in his words – “worthless”.
It’s a trillion dollar problem.
Unfortunately, his perspective is not unique. According to the American Marketing Association, 80–90% of marketing collateral is seen as useless by sales. That’s why many sales professionals, like the person I spoke with, end up creating sales materials and value propositions all on their own. This frustrates marketers, wastes time and money, and confuses customers. It’s a big problem. According to one estimate, the resulting lost sales productivity and wasted marketing budgets cost companies $1 trillion a year.*
Why the disconnect?
There’s a lot of talk about sales and marketing alignment right now. Companies are trying everything they can to bring the two sides together – using shared metrics, holding regular meetings, defining lead terminology, and even appointing a “Chief Revenue Officer”. These things all help. But they’re internal. What happens in the field? What about the words that prospects hear from your sales teams and read in your marketing materials? That’s where the real disconnect lies.
Alignment happens when everyone’s on message.
Here are a few ways to get sales and marketing aligned on your core messaging.
What marketing can do:
- Involve sales in the creation of corporate messaging – Grill your sales teams for insights. When does the lightbulb go off when they’re talking with a prospect? What pushback do they get most? What’s the word on the street about your company?
- Translate corporate messaging into field-ready conversations – The last thing sales wants is “marketing speak”. Translate high-level messages into the language of your target audience using specific, concrete examples. Keep in mind that what works works well in writing doesn’t always sound good face-to-face (and vice versa).
- Lead with insights – Leverage your macro perspective to identify industry-specific trends, shifts, and challenges that may not be part of the current sales dialogue. Look for ways to challenge your prospects’ thinking with new insights.
What sales can do:
- Speak up – If you never use the presentations and materials that marketing creates, tell them! And tell them why. But don’t stop there. Tell them what you would use instead.
- Be the ears of the company – Listen closely for which messages are resonating in the field and which ones aren’t. Then circle back with marketing so they can align the messages they’re sending at the corporate level – as well as the sales support materials they’re creating.
- Share the stories – You have a unique opportunity to capture real-life customer stories. If you hear a great story in the field, don’t worry about writing it down, but do phone it into marketing. They can write it up and share it with both marketing and sales so everyone can retell it.
What this will do…
Imagine if, instead of hearing one thing from marketing and another thing from sales, prospects heard the same compelling message at every turn. That’s what real alignment looks like. That’s what moves the revenue needle. And that’s when marketing becomes the best friend sales ever had.
*SOURCE: The B2B Lead, presented by ReachForce and Marketo
Michael Halbert says
Great article that calls out the dynamic tension that seems to always exist between sales and marketing.
While it’s reasonable to think that sales and marketing teams whose work is interconnected could find and leverage synergy between the two organizations, this is sadly not the case in most organizations.
I think companies should make efforts to align compensation between sales and marketing in a manner that forces a team to develop. Once an alliance between “Sales and Marketing” has been established this new team will produce the desired synergy and achieve all metrics for success. If a company can successfully achieve the goal of getting sales and marketing to successfully partner the result would create more value for the company and for customers.
Ben Reed says
Thanks for the comment, Michael! Yes, it is sad to see how rarely the two sides are truly aligned. Interesting idea around tying compensation together. Would love to hear from companies who have tried this and find out what their experience has been.
All the best!
Kevin L. says
I am a DSM. The problem with our marketing team is very few of the Market Managers know our products well enough and very few bother to spend the time to learn. They simply search the internet for prospective customers and then send us contact information. They don’t even make the contact. In my 17 years in sales I have not gotten one good lead from Marketing. Every lead and customer came from referrals or former customers who have joined other companies. After a few years, these Market Managers then move onto other positions in the company while taking credit for sales growth on their LinkedIn pages. We then get new clueless Market Managers. We have 5 Market Managers in our companies so we are wasting at least $1 million in salary and benefits alone.