Marketing & Sales: Rethinking the Relationship for Success in a New Era

The following is a preview of the topics discussed during the October 1, 2020 webinar on Sales and Marketing Alignment. View a replay here.

Here’s a statistic that is guaranteed to make marketers nervous: some 80% of content that marketers create goes unused by sales. The beautiful eBook you created? That product brochure that took so much time and was a triumph of compelling copy and innovative design? The microsite that won the Lucite trophies that you display by the coffee machine? Prospects may have never even seen them.

Not only is that fact discouraging, but it’s also a wake-up call. In a time when c-suite leaders are going through budgets with a fine-toothed comb, any department that is wasting money on ineffective initiatives will be at the top of the list for cuts.

How did we get here? Marketing and sales are supposed to work hand-in-hand. But the reality is that in a lot of enterprises, marketing and sales function (or dysfunction) as separate entities. They work on different floors. They have different goals. And they don’t collaborate much.

But salespeople are pragmatists. They use what works. They know that the prospect’s attention is the most precious resource they have. If a slide deck, brochure, or other deliverable doesn’t connect with a prospect, it gets tossed.

It’s time to flip the script on that dynamic. In this “new reality,” sales and marketing need to get back into alignment. And it’s on marketing to make it happen. They need to relearn how to give the sales team the air cover it needs to move prospects through the sales cycle and prepare them for success. Here’s how they can do it:

  • Reevaluate the brand – Only a handful of brands have the clout to make their story all about themselves. If you’re the brand team at Apple or Amazon, you can tell your story your own way. But the rest of us need to refocus on the customer and their needs. Instead of emulating those top-tier brands and striving to be more like them, you need to tailor your brand and messaging around the customer’s reality. All that time and effort spent building aided/unaided brand awareness, defining differentiators, and maintaining consistency goes to waste if their customers’ needs and perspectives aren’t front and center. The customer should be the hero of the brand story, not just its audience. The ability to generate a multitude of customer hero stories is a critical skillset.
  • Share the risk — and the reward – In theory, marketing and sales have the same mission: driving higher revenue for the organization. In practice, they have different incentive structures that lead them to pursue different goals. Instead of incentivizing marketing on how much they produce or how many awards they win — or even metric-driven goals like brand awareness — their incentive program should closely mirror that of their sales counterparts. When one group succeeds, so does the other. When one has a down year, both groups share the pain.
  • Stay focused on what matters – Ultimately, marketing’s job is to help sales generate revenue be it through driving short term performance or building longer term brand growth. However, it’s not possible for marketing to claim to have done a great job in a year when revenue suffers. We’re seeing more companies adopt this attitude with the emergence of the Chief Growth Officer (CGO). By one estimate, 14% of companies in the United States have a CGO, and 29% of companies have a VP, director, or head of growth. In many enterprises, marketing reports to the CGO, which shows how companies are rethinking marketing’s mission and its relationship to sales.

One of the silver linings of the rise of remote work is that it clears the field for closer collaboration of sales and marketing. The separation of the two teams in most offices was more than a physical barrier — it also underscored how many businesses saw the two as separate entities. Remote work can help overcome this mindset. It’s easier to connect the teams and easier to collaborate. Smart marketers should take advantage of this opportunity and use it to forge closer ties with their colleagues in sales.

View recording of the October 1, 2020 webinar here.

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