Editor’s note: Sarah Collins is a summer intern at Fronetics Strategic Advisors. She is a rising sophomore at James Madison University, College of Business studying Marketing. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Aligning Sales and Marketing helps companies achieve 20% higher annual growth rates and improves deal closings by 67%.
“What do you think you’ll do with that?” is the question that, more often than not, succeeds me stating that I’m a marketing major. Uh, market? I guess? I’m the kind of student that usually has it all figured out. There’s always a game plan, so to speak, but this time around I had some figuring out to do.
That’s where Fronetics came into play for me. I went into my first intern experience looking at it as a giant learning opportunity. As I began, one of the first things that surprised me was that there were sales people in a marketing office. Little did I know, this is the ideal situation in the industry. Finally, the advice that a mentor gave me — “Take sales classes. You’ll thank me later.” — made sense. Marketing and Sales are like the Batman and Robin of the business world: Results are best when they’re working together.
What’s the reasoning behind aligning Sales and Marketing?
Through my research, I’ve learned that aligning Sales and Marketing goes back to a basic business concept, the buyer process: awareness, consideration, decision. The ultimate goal in business is essentially the same across the board. Sell and provide your product or service to your target audience. In order to achieve this, it’s best to focus on what the buyers’ immediate needs are at each individual stage of the buying process, and Marketing and Sales excel at different stages of this process.
It relates back to my economics class. Countries will always specialize in what they have the comparative advantage in because, when those two countries trade, they both end up with more than what they would have produced on their own. So Marketing and Sales specialize in their own stages of the buying process, and, in the end, they’re both better off.
HubSpot gives a great example. It wouldn’t make any sense for Sales to try to sell the product to a lead that has entered the awareness stage. At that point, the lead is only looking for specific information. It’s a strength to know where the customer is at and who is best fit to assist.
Why should you believe me?
According to ZoomInfo, only 8% of companies have strong alignment between their sales and marketing departments. Those that are aligned correctly statistically achieve a 20% higher annual growth rate and are 67% better at closing deals. As Articulate Marketing puts it, people are too informed in this day and age to tolerate even the slightest gap in what different departments tell them. The sales process has changed because the internet has given people access to so much information, and companies need to adapt accordingly.
Marketing and Sales are still two different entities.
While the two departments desperately need to be aligned well, there is no denying that they are, in fact, different. Sales generally has short term, tangible goals — such as new-client generation — while marketers are looking farther ahead at goals that aren’t quite as easy to measure.
The movie The Wolf of Wall Street offers a fantastic demonstration of how Sales works. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio) asks his friend Brad to sell him a pen. Brad simply says, “Write this down.” Mr. Belfort now has an immediate need for the pen. Salespeople have the ability to create this need for the buyer.
In an article by the Tronvig Group titled The Difference Between Sales and Marketing, James Heaton states that, in contrast to Sales, “Marketing should put forth an offer that meets the buyer’s needs right at the place and time of the sales opportunity. The most effective marketing is therefore about communication, not manipulation.” It’s when these differences between Sales and Marketing finally begin to work together that all the bases are covered, and the magic begins to happen.
How should companies align Sales and Marketing?
There are two main ways: strategically and physically.
You can ask Sales and Marketing to collaborate in defining a lead generation strategy. This way the two departments aren’t getting frustrated with each other. Marketo highlighted three ways to do so.
- Lead Scoring can be incredibly helpful in understanding which leads are most interested and how good of a fit their company is for your business. These scores are only helpful if Sales and Marketing have worked together to create mutual understanding of the system.
- Lead Generation Metrics need to be understood by both. It won’t work if marketing doesn’t understand what is qualified as a SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) and SQL (Sales Qualified Lead), or if Sales doesn’t understand what makes up an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead). A mutual understanding will increase efficiency because each department knows exactly what the other is looking for.
- Service Level Agreements can ease the process by outlining each phase of the cycle. For example, when an MQL is handed off to the Sales team, how long does the Sales team have to get in contact? What if they don’t at all? If the system becomes automated enough, you can expect a higher level of performance because the system will provide documentation on how someone became an MQL, and sales will have a record off their contact.
Physical Alignment, aka the Office
The physical layout of the office is also crucial. A study done in 2015 by CEB found that when employees are satisfied with their physical work space, they are 16% more productive and 18% more likely not to quit. Harvard Business Review found the open-concept office, having Sales and Marketing in the same space, resulted in more successful communications. One pharmaceutical company even found that the sales jump was more than 20%, $200 million in revenue.
The statistics are all there showing how detrimental or incredibly helpful aligning Sales and Marketing teams can be.
So have I exactly figured out the answer to my question? Not completely, but there’s still time. What I have learned is that the only choice to make regarding Marketing and Sales is that there is no room for competition between them, and I should definitely be mixing a sales class into a semester or two. Learning early that Sales and Marketing are both essential to each other and gaining experience in both skillsets could be just the competitive edge I need for my future. Lucky for me, there’s three more years of learning to be had.
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