As companies embrace the idea of aligning their decentralized sales and marketing teams, they occasionally make decisions that are counter-productive.
A 2008 CMO Council report, Closing the Gap: The Sales & Marketing Alignment Imperative, spoke of an urgent need for marketing, sales, and channel management to align by changing processes and adopting new technologies. More recent studies show that need has only grown.
Since CMO Council's report, many marketers have believed that simply forwarding leads with varying degrees of qualification or making marketing collateral available to a sales team meant sufficiently supporting Sales. That isn't the case.
In fact, a recent IDC study, citing the 80/20 rule, states that "up to 80% of the content [that] marketing generates is not used by sales, even though a lot of it is specifically created for sales and channel enablement." Ouch. For marketers, all the wasted time and money—not to mention potentially being seen as not adding value—hurts.
Beyond the obvious mistake of assuming that Sales and Marketing alignment means simply addressing when the sales team receives leads, marketers continue to make these five classic mistakes:
- Not listening to the field
- Giving Sales the wrong materials
- Assuming the field will "make do"
- Keeping too much control
- Embracing one technology fix
Although those are not the only mistakes that marketers make in the case of a decentralized Sales and Marketing organization, addressing them will help create the framework for identifying other mistakes and ways to correct them.
1. Not Listening to the Field
Sales, particularly field sales or channel partners, are often "out of sight, out of mind." Marketers need to work harder to better understand their needs. That doesn't mean dropping all planned programs to focus on the sometimes whimsical requests of the sales team. Despite the issues of interpersonal communication, marketers need to admit that people in the field are experts at knowing prospects' and customers' needs and desires.
There are entire books written on interpersonal communication and organizational management, so I won't pretend to address any deep-seated organizational issues. Instead, I offer a three-step process to begin to address this issue:
- Identify what a prospect is, what a qualified lead is, what the complete sales process is, and where Marketing or marketing materials should touch prospects during that process.
- Create baseline or templated materials and campaigns that can be used by field staff as a basis for outreach.
- Measure every aspect of every marketing action. Of course, that means measuring the click-through and conversion or marketing-related leads that hit the sales forecast. It also means measuring which templates are being used and which ones were linked to closed deals. Then, repeat.
2. Giving Sales the Wrong Materials
Because of the lack of dialogue, Marketing often works in the dark and is unaware of what sales really needs. As noted earlier, when Marketing creates print materials independent of Sales, that collateral has only a one-in-five chance of being used. Marketers must realize that one-size-fits-all rarely fits anyone.
The Fix: Talk to the Prospect, Not All Prospects
One upon a time, marketers would send spam, hoping that someone would buy. Next, through the use of databases, marketers started to apply segmentation to their campaigns. That improved the response and conversion rates, but only because the campaigns hit a more qualified group of people.
Now we reach the exciting part, when marketing is personalized—I mean it really speaks to a prospect's preferences, life events, and specific needs, which leads to increased sales. You can best achieve such personalization by giving people in the field the tools they need and the permission to be flexible.
3. Assume the Field Will "Make Do"
There is an unspoken belief that salespeople are going to do whatever they want to. Often, the description of a good salesperson refers to a problem solver who tries to move the process along; the expectation is that she/he can negotiate anything. Good salespersons also know how to assess whether they are wasting their time.
Now imagine what happens when they don't have the materials they believe will support their efforts. The results are frustration, annoyance, and the strong desire to find a workaround. Now, ask yourself whether the sales deck and collateral used in the field—where the selling is actually happening—looks like you think it does.
The Fix: Support Smarter—Realign Your Efforts to Align With Sales' Efforts
By investing more time and resources in helping sales reps and channel partners become better prepared for customer interactions, marketers will gain valuable insight into what is happening in the field.
Although cutbacks in recent years have reduced headcount and marketing budgets, that is not an excuse to ignore the need to properly prepare field sales. Just as providing the most-qualified leads make the sales process faster, so does having a better prepared salesperson. With limited resources, every effort must count more.
4. Keeping Too Much Control
Marketers often make it difficult to share marketing materials because they fear losing brand consistency. It is hard for the marketing department not to be perceived as a bottleneck or barrier to sales when every email campaign, direct mail piece, or offer to prospects must be drafted and implemented by Marketing. By doing so, Marketing moves from supporting Sales to hindering sales.
The Fix: Empowerment, but Not Autonomy
Marketing often has very sound concerns for wanting to control the process. Marketers tend to have a better understanding of the big picture than people in the field do. On the flip side, the field staff tends to know the concerns and preferences of customers and prospects better than the marketer in the corporate office.
Giving field representatives and channel partners pre-approved, templated options—and having an approval loop for customizations—will produce a collaborative approach to field marketing. And concerns about message and brand requirements and personalization or localization in the field can thus be overcome.
5. Assuming One Technology Can Fix Everything
If someone tries to sell you one technology that is supposed to fix every difference in mindset and approach between your broad range of sales and marketing professionals, both in-house and out... run away as fast as you can.
Alignment in any organization, particularly a decentralized one, is not just a question of automating manual processes in one area. The reality is, a cocktail of technologies will be used throughout your sales and marketing organization.
One of the key requirements of a successful implementation of sales and marketing solutions is easy integration. Aligning your marketing and sales data, solutions, and measurements requires systems that together build a more complete picture of the situation. Knowing what is really working, or not, enables refinement that doesn't need to wait for monthly earnings reports.
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The result of correcting these five classic mistakes is a better aligned sales and marketing organization that closes more deals.