Founder and CEO of Fjuri.
Buyers within organizations today have access to a wealth of tools that help them gather the information they need to make a purchase. This has transformed the buyer journey, making alignment between marketing and sales more important than ever.
Before they talk to a salesperson, leads will gather information from a variety of sources, jumping between devices, channels and platforms to conduct independent research. In fact, a Gartner study found that buying groups spend 27% of their time researching independently and just 17% meeting with potential suppliers.
In this context, nurturing leads successfully means offering value at all stages of this nonlinear buying journey. To adapt to this new reality, marketing and sales departments must break down the operational siloes that inhibit collaboration and adopt a shared vision of the customer journey.
This means salespeople can often be the first touch point for brands, while marketers can act as sales enablers. The two functions have naturally become intertwined, but for organizations to grasp the opportunity this presents, they must actively break down the silos between the two and facilitate collaboration.
By adopting a demand center model, organizations can bring multiple pieces of a business together in a single location, leveraging decision-makers to agree on a goal and work toward it.
Three Key Challenges
There are major challenges facing organizations that have failed to more closely integrate their sales and marketing teams to meet the demands of today’s buyer journey.
The cultural divide: In most organizations, sales and marketing are working hard to improve collaboration; however, one big barrier is the incentive to achieve separate goals rather than working together toward a single outcome.
Working in isolation leads to the use of different data and terminology and, ultimately, a different view of the business. Instead, efforts should be focused. Marketing and sales shouldn’t be competing or fighting for credit. They should be complementing each other.
Technical difficulties: As marketing and sales efforts become more reliant on technology, it is a growing challenge to integrate different systems in order to share data and allow the two disciplines to work in tandem. As both areas become more sophisticated, platforms and tools continue to proliferate, adding to the complexity.
Finding a common set of priorities is just as important as integrating different systems when it comes to optimizing data. Successful integration of technology is not just about systems; it is about culture and leadership.
Content consistency: All too often, companies fail to align content between marketing and sales teams. This stems from working in silos and a lack of visibility into each other’s activities. Messaging, tone, look and feel must be consistent and complementary to ensure a smooth customer journey.
Here are 10 practical takeaways for realizing a closer and more productive working relationship between sales and marketing:
1. Invest in marketing operations, or a demand center, as a dedicated function, and appoint a leader. This will turn marketing from a sales support operation into a revenue-generating machine.
2. Document the end-to-end process across marketing, sales and other key teams such as IT, operations and customer support, and be explicit about who is tasked with what role.
3. Arrange sales and marketing into virtual teams that work together and focus on one set of customers. The teams should be aligned around the customer’s experience, needs and journey, as well as the purchase process of a specific solution or product.
4. Ensure that the CEO sponsors the demand center to ensure everyone is contributing, and to offer the necessary support as the organization undergoes change.
5. Schedule biweekly meetings for demand center members where they consider core pieces of governance and make sure KPIs are being met.
6. Ensure that the marketing operations leader has a high-level view of what technology is needed and why, and is able to ensure the right tools are correctly resourced and successfully integrated.
7. Work through the organization methodically to understand specific data needs and the associated business cases, and address these in a series of small, achievable tasks. This helps to drive alignment around data and analytics from the top down.
8. Create and agree upon a cross-functional measurement plan, and create governance from this around data management and treatment. This will help to banish data silos.
9. Cocreate content by aligning sales and marketing around customers’ core needs, integrating both perspectives to deliver the optimum solution. Marketing should own content creation, but sales (and other customer-facing teams) should have major input.
10. Define KPIs, and make them visible to both sales and marketing. Marketing today is data-driven, and this means taking revenue responsibility and having shared accountability for KPIs.
Poor alignment and collaboration can be a major marketing challenge, but enabling sales and marketing to work more closely together is within every organization’s reach.