Strive for sales and marketing alignment

Here’s why it matters more than ever

September 15, 2020

Strive for sales and marketing alignment

The stress test. An age-old tool which can help you understand how robust your processes are during times of high pressure. Generally speaking they can cover any scenario, but very few businesses will have tested for the six months of turmoil that 2020 has brought along.

Nevertheless, in 2018 the Harvard Business Review put B2B sales and marketing through a series of scenarios to establish just how important it was for each department to be properly aligned.

They found that misaligned goals could be a significant burden. For example, when marketing managers set a price that the sales force felt was unrealistic, it reduced their motivation to achieve something they considered too difficult and resulted in salespeople committing more resources to achieve a sale.

Despite new disciplines such as growth marketing becoming increasingly popular, the disconnect between marketing and sales is as pronounced as ever. Last year, only 21% of B2B companies said they could source more than half of their annual revenue to marketing.

And if alignment mattered in the relative comfort of 2018 and 2019, you can bet your socially-distanced-self that it matters now.

As we point out in our latest guide to content marketing in times of uncertainty, your recovery from the impact of the pandemic is inextricably linked to your customers’ revival, which is why every relevant stakeholder needs to be pulling together to achieve that objective.

This year, we commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey European sales and marketing professionals on the topic of alignment.  Nearly 9/10 managers and directors agreed that alignment meant they were better at meeting customer needs, improved the customer experience and enabled critical business growth.

Despite both sides feeling confident in their own alignment, the study highlighted four key areas that were preventing them from delivering maximum customer value:

  1. Sales and marketing are measured in different ways by different people
  2. The processes and systems they use are different
  3. Each department creates content without the other’s input
  4. The day-to-day relationship is too passive

These findings are also backed by a 2018 study. But while progress in easier times was slow, in many cases the current situation has forced sales and marketing to work together more effectively.

The COVID impetus

Marketers have had to react extremely quickly to the fast-changing landscape, adjusting their messaging according to what organisations can realistically deliver and then working with sales to help them set – and deliver to – adjusted customer expectations.

Similarly, sales teams have been the ones listening to their customers’ needs and then relaying that feedback up to marketing to allow the business to try and help meet them more effectively.

This symbiosis may have been forged in the heat of a pandemic, but it underlines what our study with Forrester Consulting found: better collaboration makes for a better customer experience.

Giving sales a seat at the table is crucial for content marketers when it comes to pivoting strategy or creating customer-first content. They know first-hand what’s going on with customers and prospects – they hear it day in, day out.

There is a reason why 5 in 10 organisations across EMEA are planning to implement or expand initiatives in the next 12 months for marketing and sales to:

  • Work on a full-funnel strategy together
  • Take joint ownership of the bottom of the funnel
  • Share KPIs
  • Report to the same leader

The more both sides collaborate on plans, attend each other’s meetings and investigate gaps in pipeline together, the more effectively they can identify common problems and come up with a shared approach.

With a single leader qualifying and directing strategy, both departments can be confident that the new direction will address the issues they have detected together.

Buying behaviour requires better collaboratio

The pandemic is leading B2B buyers to increasingly rely on digital self-service channels, meaning the responsibility for sales is moving away from sales reps and further into the realm of traditional marketing channels.

With expectations rising amongst B2B customers for consumer-like experiences, improving the customer journey experience can lead to up to a 50% increase in likelihood to retain or upsell.

Combined with the need for sales reps to be available for support during complex interactions, this increased fluidity means that any new-found collaboration between departments is unlikely to be temporary.

So whichever side of the sales or marketing fence you sit, it’s time to start knocking those barriers down permanently.

To learn more about how to reach B2B buyers in the current climate, download Content Marketing in Times of Uncertainty.