Aligning Marketing and Sales

The theme for the upcoming ISA Marketing & Sales Summit “In Search of the Holy Grail: Integrating Marketing and Sales”, and the Summit is running a blogging contest to win a iPod Touch if folks blog about a topic relevant to the upcoming Summit.  So, here’s my “entry”… although I’m not really qualified to win..I just like to get things started…

Integrating marketing and sales is no small task, and often times is dictated by the culture of an organization more than anything.  If a CEO believes and understands the value of marketing for the business, then alignment can happen much more quickly than in organizations where the CEO doesn’t appreciate marketing.

I was fortunate to participate in an organization that did a pretty good job of integrating marketing and sales efforts without a big CRM system.  The key to success was marketing’s ability to adapt the sales cycle to support a buying cycle approach.  We went through some training which taught the marketing organization (at the time) of how marketing’s real role is to leverage the sales process and help make that process easier for sales personnel.  The goal was to shorten each of the steps as much as possible, by providing information that better suited a buyer’s need at that point in time.  We developed a strategic marketing buy cycle model that allowed us to evaluate what buyers wanted to know at each stage of their “buy process” for the technology we were selling. We gathered lots of information…some directly to our customers, we had some win-loss analysis that helped identify some prospect needs, and from this research we developed an entire information-type system that fed buyers hunger and gave sales personnel new ammunition for each sales cycle step.

What changed? There were several benefits that fell out of this:

1.  Marketing finally understood how to support sales, and sales finally understood how marketing can help them.  (BIG win)

2.  We all had a vocabulary that we understood and marketing became much more proficient at developing materials that were useful and helped drive the sales cycle.

3.  Sales personnel began telling us stories of the positive changes they were seeing in the sales cycle.  The approach helped them build stronger relationships.

4.  We began to use the buying model as a litmus test of whether or not we really needed to create new materials.  The materials needed to address something specific in the buy cycle, and it eliminated those 1-off projects that were not necessarily aligned with the new strategy.

5.  Marketing campaigns got much more effective because we had started to learn how to “converse” with buyers early in the buy cycle – before social media was even a consideration.

There are probably more things, but those are just off the top of my head.  All in all it was a very positive experience and has become part of my core approach when it comes to marketing in general.

What are your experiences/challenges achieving marketing-sales alignment?  Past or present?

One Comment

  1. Ruth Winett says:

    One of the challenges for marketing departments is that they need access to customer data to function effectively. However, the sales people regard customers as theirs. They don’t want to divulge names of customers in some cases, and they don’t want marketing people to interact with the customers to obtain information, such as win/loss information. Many sales people regard interviews of losses to be highly threatening. They feel exposed and resist providing names of customers to those conducting the loss studies. These people from sales do not seem to recognize that they can learn from studies of losses. In the end, it is a matter of how the studies are positioned. If management presents the studies as a way to learn and not a way to point fingers, perhaps sales people will be more open to sharing “their” customers for the purposes of learning from both wins and losses.

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