Corporate structure can be both a strength and a weakness for any organization. The fact that you have skilled strategists in your C-Suite, best-in-class marketing minds creating your marketing messages, and a top-performing sales team ensures your business will make the right marketing and sales decisions. Right?
Corporations have the right idea in departmentalizing the work that makes them profitable. The C-suite strategizes. The marketing team communicates and builds your brand. The sales team follows up on leads, building relationship and closing the deal. It’s like a well-choreographed dance, beautiful to watch when it’s done right.
The problem is, it’s rarely done right. According to a study by Aberdeen Group, only 20% of organizations have aligned their marketing and sales efforts to achieve profitability in a down economy. According to the study:
- Real integration of marketing and sales results in increased year-over-year revenue growth. Companies without well-coordinated marketing and sales are 90% less certain to achieve increased annual revenues.
- In organizations with well-aligned marketing and sales, marketing has a direct impact on profitability. In these companies, 26% of closed business deals occurred from a lead generated by the marketing department. In less-aligned organizations, sales are made from marketing-generated leads only 5-15% of the time.
In a perfect world, strategy, marketing and sales coordinate to create a laser-sharp corporate focus on the activities that will solidify your brand, differentiate you clearly and make it easy for your sales team to close.
In reality, these three departments tend to operate in their own silos, distrustful of the other two and often unwilling to share information or credit for successes. Rather than a coordinated, efficient flow of energy, conflicting objectives tends to tie up projects and prevent any department from being able to do its job well.
Certainly, most organizations shoot for well-aligned sales and marketing. The challenge lies in turning strategic intent into tactical steps that ensure the goal can be met. In this effort, it’s important that every player is seen as a valuable part of the team.
Strategists, marketers and salespeople are equally important to corporate profitability. As long as each understands their function in achieving peak performance, growth can occur. Otherwise, it’s sure to stall out.
Four tactics you can begin implementing now
The Aberdeen Group study found four areas where best-in-class organizations differ from other organizations.
- Marketing activities are tightly aligned to sales objectives and goals. Best-in-class organizations understand that sales and marketing activities feed off one another and, therefore, aim for synergy between the two departments.
Review your marketing plan to determine how well it generates leads for your sales team to follow-up on. Look at your corporate sales goals, then determine whether your marketing department has the resources to develop communications to support those goals.
- Marketing and sales share the same definition for what constitutes a lead. Remember, a fourth of closable leads are generated by marketing in well-aligned organizations. This can only occur if marketing and sales are on the same page.
Marketing and sales managers need to be comparing notes on a regular basis. Begin by agreeing on what the ideal prospect looks like and where he’s most likely to be found. Then define a qualified lead for your specific product or service.
- Marketing and sales know their role in lead generation, nurturing and closing. Successful organizations have a formal process in place to ensure good communication and work flow between the two departments.
Review lead nurturing activities, then determine whether they should fall to marketing or sales. Your goal is to make sure no lead falls through the cracks. Consider whether additional communications are necessary to begin building relationship with prospects before they’re ready to talk to a salesperson. Would new content or collateral shorten the sales cycle?
- Sales and marketing are both involved in prospect nurturing and communications. Well-integrated communications must occur throughout the sales cycle and beyond. When marketing and sales work together, they can build on the other department’s activities, not interfere with them or, worse, try to reinvent a process that’s already in place.
Ideally, you should map the sales cycle for each product or service you provide, including the average length of time from first contact to close. Then a communications map can be drafted to provide regular “touches” throughout the sales cycle. This is especially important since most relationship nurturing is done through online content, newsletters, special reports and other touches before the prospect speaks to a salesperson.
Once all automated touches are in place, sales can request specific communications to be developed for special needs that arise later in the sales cycle. This requires some flexibility on the part of marketing and sales, since many of these communications won’t be on the annual marketing plan and may need a short turn-around time.
The goal is business growth. The key, of course, is information shared equally among all players. It’s important to remember that strategy, marketing and sales are part of the same equation. When well-aligned, they result in profitability. When not, well, you get the idea.
Marketing and sales alignment is a challenge for any organization. But given its impact on year-over-year growth, I’d say it’s a challenge worth addressing. For ideas on how to integrate your marketing and sales efforts, contact me today.