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Aligning Sales and Marketing: The Role of Training

Companies that continue to miss sales goals should assess whether sales and marketing are on the same page

By JOHN GOLDEN

U.S. businesses are experiencing an epidemic failure to meet sales targets. For sales and marketing teams alike, this reality is a red flag. In response to what could be a disastrous future, it's time to step back and initiate an honest assessment of how these two teams function in their organizations. In many cases, companies will discover that they don’t function as a unified front to meet the needs of existing and potential customers. In fact, in Huthwaite’s recent survey of sales and marketing professionals across the globe, 70 percent of respondents recognized room for improvement in the way they work together.

Companies that act on this knowledge can create a meaningful differential in the marketplace, and training is an effective vehicle to accomplish this goal. By introducing training that aligns marketing and sales with a customer-centric perspective, a common language and a common mission, companies have the greatest opportunity for revitalizing sales and increasing profits.

Perfect Alignment

Marketing is strategic; selling is tactical. Both are needed for revenue generation. This is unchanged. What must change, however, is the organizational ability to bring the strategy of marketing and the tactics of sales into perfect alignment. This alignment is an invincible weapon in today's marketplace. The key is to align both sales and marketing with a buyer-focused perspective.

Imagine a triangle with the buyer at the top vertex. Then, picture one side of the triangle being represented by sales while marketing represents the other side. As the sides of the triangle move up from the bottom, moving toward the buyer, they naturally grow closer together. Thus, by simultaneously focusing both sales and marketing on the buyer, the result is both departments are aligned together. The goal of aligning strategy and tactics has been accomplished.

With a buyer focused perspective, marketing strategy and selling tactics come together based on common principles driven by a mutual desire to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of the buyer. Over time, this alignment contributes to a common language between both marketing and sales associates. This enhances communication and sharpens the overall understanding of the buyer, thus allowing both departments to target limited resources more effectively. Ideally, the end result is a three-way partnership between sales, marketing and the customer. But it may take some training. 

An Integrated Learning Experience: Training That Works

Training is an opportunity to recalibrate the mindset of participants. When it comes to sales and marketing associates, it helps them recognize the rewards of embracing a fresh buyer focused perspective. It's also an opportunity to examine the changing nature of today's buyers as a result of social media and a completely level playing field in terms of product information. Today's buyers are looking for a different experience, not more product information. They want partners who can help them take the lead in their respective industries.

More specifically, it is essential for sales and marketing professionals to understand tactics in order to plan and implement a sound strategy. Thus, the focus of training needs to be on developing both skills and strategy across the two departments. Individually, it is important for marketing to learn to craft messaging that speaks to various buyers at any point in the buying cycle through websites, social media, whitepapers, email, webinars and other means. And sales must be trained to recognize the prospect or customer’s precise point in the buying cycle in order to reinforce marketing's messaging in a way that resonates with that particular individual. Together, they can learn to:

  • Create customer demand, especially in new markets
  • Speak a common language that customers will understand
  • Meet the customer at every phase of the buying cycle
  • Design customer-centric messages and indicators to track success
  • Influence customer decision criteria in favor of their own solutions
  • Maximize timing, relevancy and persuasiveness to achieve differentiation.

In order to accomplish these skills, training needs to establish a common buyer-focused approach, principles and methodology for both departments, thereby creating and reinforcing alignment. Logistically, sales and marketing can be trained together or separate. What matters most is that they are trained on the same principles. To maximize the effectiveness of training, execute it in an active and participatory manner with frequent opportunities to practice the skills and behaviors that lead to success. It's also critical for participants to have the opportunity to work on real-world solutions such as developing marketing collateral for their own organizations. Because the ultimate goal of any training is to change behavior, learning cannot be a one-time event. Effective training consists of reinforcement, coaching, practice and accountability.

Faced with a global economic crisis, increased competition, price-sensitive buyers and an increasingly longer sales cycle, it's imperative for organizations to tap into the power of what happens when sales and marketing working in tandem lock step with buyers. With proper training, teams will learn to create demand by meeting customers at each phase of the buying cycle and influencing their decision making processes with relevant and timely messages that lead to action.  

John Golden is President and CEO of Huthwaite, a leading provider of consultative sales training. For more information, call 703-467-3800 or visit www.huthwaite.com