Sales and marketing alignmentthe key to creating a new engine for growth

For eight years, the Sales & Marketing Forum has led the thinking on the shape of the sales and marketing relationship in B2B. On 15 October 2015, 40 senior professionals from both sides gathered to align their thinking, led by two speakers that have held senior positions in both camps – Martin Hess, VP at HP Enterprise Service, and Louis Fernandes, Director, Market Development at SAS.

 

It’s fascinating to think that many of the discussions today are the same as they were eight years ago. How does marketing play a driving role throughout the sales cycle? What metrics should we be using? Will Second Life turn out to be a critical marketing channel? Well, maybe not that last one. What has changed is the maturity of the answers we can give to those questions, driven by Martin and Louis’ experiences. Here are the conclusions from the latest Sales & Marketing Forum, which ended with one very provocative thought: it’s very possible that in years to come, the very issue of sales and marketing alignment will go the way of Second Life.

 

Alignment is an opportunity

One thing that sales and marketing alike can agree on. MarketingProfs claim that organisations with aligned sales and marketing generate 208% more revenue from their marketing.

 

Identifying the right opportunities is becoming harder in competitive markets packed with more informed buyers. And harder still to turn into profitable, repeatable business. Sales can expect more from marketing to counteract this – more intelligent demand generation that finds the right deals at the right time and in the right volume – an industrialised yet precise process. That’s provided marketing knows what good looks like from a sales point of view – they can expect more from sales here. Thus, alignment becomes business-critical.

 

‘The death of the salesperson’?

The salesperson accustomed to spending a year hunting down a single megadeal has lost their prey. That slow, lumbering, resource-intensive process has been replaced by the need for an agile one. Opportunities are quick to appear, and even quicker to disappear. The salesperson always needs to be one step ahead of the game, and the marketer needs to keep them there. Forrester’s claim about the ‘death of the salesperson’ may be overly dramatic, but new skills and ways of working are required as a minimum to combat the commercial changes they’re alluding to.

 

How do sales and marketing teams adapt to these changed demands? With difficulty. But also with patience, experience and understanding. “The best marketers are salespeople, and the best salespeople are marketers,” said Martin. Understanding the demands being placed on one another makes us better placed to handle those demands together. And agreeing up-front what we expect from one another, and being held to that, is the only way to do it.

 

Measuring up

Metrics: the Somme of all sales and marketing battlefields.

 

Both sales and marketing need to be dealing with more mature metrics. The changed nature of the B2B sale means it’s no longer just about that big number. Now we’re thinking about the profit margin of the deal. We’re thinking about the value of the relationship as a whole, not the immediate opportunity. We’re thinking about the contribution to the entire business over a period of time, not the cash influx next quarter.

 

But more than anything, we’re sharing the same metrics for the same activities. Measuring marketing’s demand generation efforts on quantified, real demand and order entry. And brand-building investment on its contribution to the brand: which is all about a propensity to buy, not a propensity to tweet about it.

 

Examples of the avant-garde

So what does the perfectly aligned sales and marketing programme look like? There are a few hallmarks:

 

  • Marketing content that challenges the status quo. That is precise, tailored, and understanding of the prospect. Meaning it finds the buyer that is willing to be taught. And the deal that can be shaped. The salesperson has to be able to challenge in equal measure.
  • Agnostic of systems or processes, the sales and marketing teams operate an unbroken loop of insight – campaigns feeding the sales process, and the sales process feeding campaigns.
  • One-off campaigns and bids are a thing of the past. The best programmes are operating in long cycles that retain and reuse insight, making the process highly efficient and effective.

 

For further reading, the charter for sales and marketing integration was created based on insight from TMP’s sales and marketing clients on the topic. It covers suggestions like:

 

  • Sharing detailed commercial objectives
  • Working to SLAs
  • Making demand generation a fundamental part of your business plan
  • Marketing ownership of a defined proportion of sales pipeline
  • Improving win rates by involving sales earlier in the buying process
  • Developing the right sales enablement materials

 

 

By Matt Harper | November 12, 2015

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