As a reflection of their different perspectives, these two functions have been consulting completely separate datasets. And this has only exacerbated their different views over time. In fact, shared data on target accounts was tied for number one as the biggest challenge to Sales and Marketing alignment in Insideview’s 2018 survey, a huge jump from fourth place in its 2016 survey .
Marketers use data management platform (DMP) systems, such as Adobe or Oracle, building and buying giant lists of names and pinging people at scale. Success means achieving a certain hit rate and optimizing for Cost Per Lead (CPL). Sales, on the other hand, is loyal to their customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Success is a closed deal and a strong, ongoing relationship.
Marketing’s focus on CPLs further widens the gap. CPL is a tactic, not an objective, and the product of a cost-center mentality. Most importantly, CPLs are irrelevant if those leads don’t convert to revenue.
Marketing targets broad demographic trends. Sales targets individuals in accounts that are often defined by geography. So while Sales sees Jane Doe from Des Moines, Marketing sees an upwardly mobile agribusiness manager who lives in a small midwestern city. If her name happens to be Jane Doe, well, that’s a complete coincidence.
Given their different filters, Marketing often thinks it’s exceeding its lead generation goals as Sales wonders why they’re not getting enough good leads. In fact, sales folks routinely ignore about half of marketing-generated leads due to lack of confidence in their colleagues’ methods and information. Plus, both teams are missing out on many opportunities to connect with promising prospects.
Simply put, if Marketing and Sales don’t see the target audience through the same lens, they’re greatly misaligned and can’t possibly serve up a seamless experience to prospects. Sadly, on average, LinkedIn sees a mere 23% overlap between Sales’ target audience and Marketing’s target audience in the typical B2B organization.
As a result of these fundamental differences in culture, orientation and perspective, Sales and Marketing are not built for tight collaboration. Most of the time, they don’t even speak the same language. Sales talks about pipelines, while marketing talks about funnels.
The closest many get is a friendly relationship, infrequent joint meetings to update customer personas, and a relatively smooth lead handoff at a specific stage. But, in general, marketers are not incorporating sales data points, such as win rate and opportunity stage, into their models. As a result, they remain focused on their view of the world, while Sales continues to occupy its own slice.
The gap between Marketing and Sales starts with the foundational systems underpinning these groups. Marketing relies on a marketing automation system while Sales relies on a sales automation system (i.e., CRM) to store and manage critical prospect and customer-related data. Organizations are spending lots of money to integrate these systems. However, in the end, this does not enable a more orchestrated customer experience – it simply makes it possible to more rapidly pass leads from Marketing to Sales.
Aligned teams make it a priority to build and share a full view of their prospects and customers. This forms the foundation for effective Marketing and Sales collaboration.
Both Marketing and Sales gather relevant knowledge about prospects as they interact with and observe them on their buying journeys. Cohesive, shared customer intelligence paves the way for higher conversion and win rates. By sharing these insights about behaviors, preferences, interests, pains, and even opinions, both teams are positioned to better identify and engage the most promising potential customers.
In the past, marketing teams could reliably count on advertising to funnel leads into the sales cycle, where sales reps would then progress prospects through the buyer’s journey toward an eventual conversion. It was a very linear view of the world.
The solution is to abandon the broken pipeline and funnel view and commit to Marketing and Sales working jointly throughout the buying journey to both execute and close deals.
What would a joint effort look like in practical terms? Take the Awareness stage, which Marketing typically owns. Calling upon employee advocacy, companies can push content to employees – such as their sales teams – systematically. Sales then chooses which content to share with their followers. Because Sales is passing on the company’s point of view, they are helping build brand awareness. And because the content is coming from them, it’s perceived as more authentic, boosting the odds of a positive reception on the buyer’s end.
Likewise, Marketing can improve efforts at the Close stage. Say a sales rep is engaged with a prospective account’s procurement team. Marketing can share targeted content that resonates with procurement and incentives the team to close the deal more quickly.
When Sales and Marketing combine forces to both plan for and execute all elements underpinning the buyer experience, they create a flywheel effect. As the joint teams pass through the cycle once, they gain momentum that’s invested the next time around, and soon the flywheel spins faster and faster. Without friction, Sales and Marketing realizes continually higher levels of productivity.
Let’s walk through it. As Sales and Marketing go through the execution phases (on the right side of the graphic above), they learn a lot about their target audience. They figure out who’s responding to awareness campaigns, which roles are engaging and when they get engaged in the process, the kind of content each role cares about, and how to best sequence it.
Imagine injecting all that information into the planning process (on the left side of the graphic above), starting with account propensity modeling. Based on closed deals, Sales and Marketing knows the kinds of companies that respond. Using lookalike algorithms, they can identify more of those companies.
They can next define territories based on the sales pros with connections into those accounts. At the account planning phase, Sales and Marketing can apply all the valuable information about personas to create a compelling plan that enables them to engage those buyer circles in a sophisticated way.
The next time through the cycle, Sales and Marketing get even smarter and are more effective, gathering even more valuable information that drives higher levels of efficacy across the joint team.
Our research supports the belief that Sales and Marketing must work in concert to shepherd leads and opportunities across the finish line. But what precisely is it about Sales and Marketing alignment that helps drive better results? Here are the seven impacts:
A clearer understanding of the buyer. It’s much easier to arrive at a shared vision of the target buyer when teams are working as one.
More realistic view of the buyer journey. Sales and Marketing alignment gets rid of the artificial funnel division between Marketing and Sales and instead aligns each to a holistic view of the buyer journey from start to finish.
More feedback about prospects. Both Marketing and Sales uncover interesting knowledge about prospects as they interact with and observe them on their buying journeys. Cohesive, shared customer intelligence paves the way for higher conversion and win rates.
Better activation of buyer insights. When Marketing and Sales work collaboratively, they are more likely to respect and respond to shared knowledge.
More support from company leadership. When the executive team sees a commitment from Marketing and Sales to orchestrate their efforts, they are motivated to help ensure the success of that alignment.
Better results for Sales and Marketing. When Marketing and Sales join forces, they amplify the impact of their efforts.
A more strategic go-to-market approach. The organizations with aligned Sales and Marketing functions tend to be strategic and big-picture oriented.
Establishing a connection with prospects before they are even in the market for a solution increases the likelihood of staying top of mind once they do start their purchase process.
A prospect that has been nurtured by the Marketing team is more receptive to that same company’s sales reps. In fact, LinkedIn members exposed to a company’s marketing on the platform are 25% more likely to respond to a Sales Navigator InMail from that company’s salespeople.
Similarly, LinkedIn members who have been nurtured by a company are 10.7% more likely to accept a connection request from that company’s LinkedIn Sales Navigator users.
It’s clear that Marketing can aid the Sales team on the LinkedIn platform, but salespeople can also help spread their company’s marketing messages on LinkedIn. Members who are connected to one sales rep in a company are 2.2X more likely to engage with that company’s Sponsored Content on LinkedIn. This drives more prospect engagement and can increase the number of sales-qualified leads. It can even shorten sales cycles. In fact, salespeople who regularly share quality content are 45% more likely to exceed quota.
Our customers are benefiting right now from this tightly aligned approach to Sales and Marketing. The impact we’re driving is real and measurable.
We’re not saying Sales and Marketing alignment is easy. And we’re not saying we are going to solve the entire issue or that all your Sales and Marketing efforts should take place on the LinkedIn platform. But we are saying LinkedIn has the data and tools to help your company position itself to better target its sweet spot, understand its buyers, and engage buyers from start to end of the buying journey.
Sponsored Content and Sponsored InMail are paid advertising options to amplify organic content, helping build awareness. Marketers can pair these with LinkedIn Lead Gen forms that come pre-filled with accurate LinkedIn profile data, streamlining the process of collecting quality leads.
A newly empowered Sales team shares marketing-generated content directly with customers through the consideration stage via LinkedIn Elevate. Elevate is a custom-built employee advocacy platform for social media that streamlines the process of curating and sharing content across social networks.
Education and Proof Stages
Use Matched Audiences to target saved leads and accounts in Sales Navigator.
Using Sales Navigator Account and Contact Targeting, access a single consolidated view of prospects that enables sellers to quickly act on the strongest signals coming from Marketing, Social and CRM. Plus, When using Sales Navigator Account and Contact targeting, you can measure marketing’s direct impact on revenue at the opportunity level via CRM Sync.
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