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Should your sales and marketing teams be aligned?

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Ahhh, the age-old question, “should your sales and marketing teams be aligned?” This is a topic that throws up a few heated discussions from both sales and marketing teams.

My background involves many marketing roles from different sectors and I know first hand that marketing can be a difficult entity to shoe horn into another department.

Despite years of differing views there is still a sales and marketing alignment problem. So what are the pros and cons of making a single super selling team?

Reasons for sales and marketing alignment

As much as sales say they don’t need marketing the reality is, they do. Gone are the days of a single pitch over the phone or a meeting to win a sale. Buyers today have access to more information and are more informed than ever before. This where marketing can help nurture the buyers and give them the information they desire before a purchase.

Marketing also has its roots in sales; at the end of the day, the whole point is to persuade the market into buying your product or service. By building demand the sales process becomes easier. Every company I have worked for has prioritized inbound leads and for good reason too. The conversion ratio is much higher as the buyers have made up their mind and are approaching you. Therefore a follow-up call by a salesperson usually results in a high-quality lead. Without marketing and sales working closely it could result in the inbound lead being followed up too late or worse still, not at all.

Sales teams also hold valuable customer and prospect information. They are in constant contact with the buyer and understand the market constraints, wants and needs better than most in the business. This is a resource that is vital to deliver good marketing as messages can be tailored to different verticals to improve interaction.

Reasons against aligning your sales and marketing teams

For every valid reason why marketing should be aligned with sales, there is also one against. Many sales teams feel marketing is solely there to generate inbound leads. This isn’t true as marketing works closely with every department, whether that is creating training material, internal communications/events or general business collateral.

Let’s not shy away from the sales and marketing disagreements either. There has always been a history of conflicts between the two, and for a successful alignment, everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. The cultures between the two are very different, whether that’s commission structures, following up on leads, or the approach taken with the buyer or old habits etc. In many organizations the culture is very much ‘us vs. them’ and it may seem like the two departments are in competition with each other. These barriers alone can scupper any relationship before it has even begun.

The views from a marketing person (me!)

I may get a backlash from what I’m about to say but personally, I think that the two should be separate. Its not because I’m marketing through and through, but what each department ultimately wants to achieve. I believe marketing serves the business as a whole (customer service, training, HR, sales etc) rather than sales alone. Marketing also works towards long-term objectives by nurturing and influencing the market over time until they are in a position to buy. Sales teams, however, influence individual buyers and work more towards short-term goals. Ever here the phrase “a salesperson is only as good as their last months figures.” This implies that even the best salespeople are judged on recent sales success rather than previous wins or what’s in their current pipeline. For a business, however, I think that both approaches are needed.

Where marketing and sales should be aligned is with the messaging. Marketers should understand what happens to their messaging when sales get their hands on it. How do they use it? Where do they use it? How do customers react to it? Therefore the messaging should be created in line with the information sales gathers from talking to buyers on a daily basis. Sales teams insight and a touch of marketing flair is where the alignment should ultimately lie.

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