To drive revenues and gain competitive advantage, the two most important functions in any organization are sales and marketing. But over the years, a gap has developed between these two functions creating friction between them.
This wide divide can seriously impact a company's ability to create meaningful customer experiences, drive revenues, and create company profitability. To quote a 2008 CMO study, "The traditional relationship between sales, marketing, and channel groups is more agnostic than synergistic."
If your own organization is experiencing sales and marketing friction, immediate attention toward mending the relationship is critical. Sales and marketing must work together in collaboration to increase productivity for both teams, optimize revenue delivery, and reduce costs. Indeed, these days, companies can ill afford the wasted dollars lack of collaboration creates.
Consider the following facts:
• Upwards of 90 percent of what gets created in the name of sales support goes unused in the field, as reported by the American Advertising Association.
• According to Forrester Research, 47 percent of B2B marketers say sales closes less than 4 percent of all marketing-generated leads,
• According to a CMO Council study, 40 percent of the typical sales rep's time is spent creating presentations and customizing messages.
• Also courtesy of the CMO Council: Some 70 percent of channel partners say their vendor company's marketing campaigns are ineffective or somewhat ineffective in driving their business.
The customer experience falls into the gap between marketing and sales. In the "old days," the roles of marketing and sales were clear:
1. Products were created.
2. Marketing built strategy, created brand awareness, managed product launches, and produced collateral defining features and benefits.
3. Sales took over, working prospects in the field, building relationships, educating customers, and closing sales.
Then globalization appeared, creating commoditization of products and services and forcing differentiation through customer experience—rather than unique product features. Of course, the Internet changed the way customers educate themselves on industry issues, challenges, products, and services. New technologies also allow customers to block out marketing and sales messages, putting the customer in complete control.
The customer no longer relies on the sales rep to educate him, and engages with sales on his own terms. In addition, customers don't want to hear about features and benefits. What they do want today is real solutions to real problems.
Clearly, the traditional product-centric collateral is no longer sufficient to support sales. The marketing teams stuck in this product mode will frustrate sales as they yearn for ready-messages demonstrating solutions for customers.
When a sales team is under pressure to deliver, renegade pieces are created by sales with cut-and-paste precision. Typically, the product-centric marketer responds to sales renegade pieces with equal frustration, believing brand consistency has been compromised.
Sales and marketing groups can break this non-productive cycle by working together on a new model that works within a customer-driven marketplace. The new model must recognize the sales and marketing partnership in the delivery of customer experience and brand strategy. Working together, the sales and marketing teams should define the business outcomes generated with implementation of the new model, and establish shared objectives and goals.
Creating the Customer Experience with messages that work
Sales needs ready messaging that help them communicate how their product or service solves customer problems or supports customer advantage. The reality is that, sales teams piece together messages on their own because they know selling scenarios are unique to the customer and customized messaging is what's needed to advance and close the sale. In today's selling environment, the sales team crafts the customer experience and delivers the brand strategy.
The clear solution to closing the gap between sales and marketing, managing the customer experience and delivering consistent brand messaging is the development of a new model designed by both teams. This new model is the foundation for both teams to collaborate in partnership to develop a consistent brand and customer experience that advances revenues. Authors Riester and Emo in their book Customer Message Management, provide an excellent framework for both teams to follow. The framework they call "message" map describes how the two teams can collaborate to create a full series new of messaging. This new messaging is based on solution selling and is used by the sales teams in the field
Once the model is complete, marketing platforms automate the model and enable the sales field to effectively execute messages. Marketing platforms typically include administration tools to help marketers populate and organize messages, and enable creative teams to design delivery templates that sales can quickly execute.
Advanced platforms include dashboards that measure action against goals, providing progress visibility for both teams. A dashboard is a great way to maintain collaboration, keeping both teams on the same page with transparency that builds trust and fosters greater teamwork. Most platforms run on a single data mart, customized to meet dashboard and analytic requirements.
The key to successful execution of this new model is sales field adoption. This means any platform must be extremely easy to use with strong support and training. The marketing platform becomes the marketing department's tool to manage the customer experience and enables sales to deliver it.
Ironically, the cost of marketing automation contributed to the sales and marketing divide. Indeed, the cost to maintain marketing support of sales in the product-centric model versus the investment required in marketing automation was a major inhibitor of marketing and sales collaboration of a new model.
In a 2007 white paper, Forrester Research reported the number one barrier to marketing technology adoption was the ability to prove ROI: "The cost of marketing technology, along with the scrutiny marketers face for their capital expenditures, limits marketing technology adoption, especially among those firms most likely to adopt new technologies.
"More than half of marketers say that high costs prevent them from using technology to improve their marketing efforts, while 47 percent indicate that the uncertainty of ROI precludes better use of marketing technology."
Today, marketing technologies to support sales and marketing are available in SaaS or monthly hosted models. The investment is no longer prohibitive and the ROI can be proved, even in today's economic environment.
The wasted dollars created when sales and marketing are not aligned captures the attention of the CEO and CFO alike. With an ability to quantify both wasted dollars and improved results, marketing automation technology gives marketers the ammunition they need to address C-level concerns. It also creates access for sales and marketing to obtain budget and initiate change.
Investment in marketing platforms facilitates the delivery of a new customer-centric message delivery system for the sales team. With all this in place, it's just a matter of time until the sales and marketing gap becomes a thing of the past.
Connie Hill is the president and founder of TFC. For more of her views on this subject, download the white paper "Quantifying the Value of Marketing Automation" at www.tfcinc.com/quantifyvalue. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.