These three pointers will help improve the relationship between Sales and Marketing
This is a perennial issue in small and medium businesses. Are sales and marketing different or the same? Should it be different functions or the same? Do companies mean sales when they say marketing?
I am not going to discuss the fundamental differences between these two functions here. I will only say that sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. You need both, as marketing’s role is different from sales’ and it is important to maintain a healthy relationship between the two.
What is the relationship in your company between marketing and sales? How do sales folks rate their relationship with marketers? Bringing alignment between sales and marketing is one of the biggest challenges faced by most SMEs today – especially in the B2B sector. If done right, the benefits are many: Effective marketing planning, lead generation, conversion, and overall results of sales and marketing. Together, they can do many powerful things within the company, commanding better delivery from production, supply chain and other support functions.
When companies examine the drivers to operational efficiency and profitability, they find that a key issue is defining shared processes in sales and marketing. The way content is generated in collaboration with sales and how marketing takes responsibilities for lead generation are important in driving better harmony in the relationship between sales and marketing.
The best of the B2B organisations we have worked with in the past have shown some interesting best practices, which could be of big use to others. For instance, in the best of the companies, more than 46 percent of the sales leads forecasted are generated by marketing as compared to the industry average of 21 percent. Where sales and marketing have been in sync, companies have grown double the industry average. Best in class companies also ensure that sales and marketing have regular meetings every week, at least 50 percent more than the other companies. These companies have demonstrated the regular coordination between the two functions by deliberately constituting joint working groups for special projects such as key account management or a new marketing campaign.
Such organisations also take the performance of marketing functions seriously in that an individual or team will be made responsible. More importantly, these companies share such performance details of campaign success and failures with the key stakeholders. Wherever sales and marketing have performed in sync, there were common templates and data sheets for each to share and collaborate on. They have also built in whitepapers, case studies and CRM data for seamless use between the two functional teams instead of waiting for the other to ask and respond back, thereby saving time and bureaucratic tangles.
These interesting findings bring us the key question: How can other companies become a best in class performer? What do these benchmarks offer companies to shape up and drive sales and marketing together? Here are a few pointers:
> Get marketing and sales to work together by making sales “own” the customer in terms of bringing customer’s views to marketing. This will make marketing to act on inputs that are on-ground, real time and owned by a colleague. This may not completely replace market research but someone within the organisation will start listening to the customer seriously. By doing this, marketing will have to bring in content that is in tune with what sales requires. This along with the shared templates, whitepapers, case studies, collaterals, etc can be very powerful in driving alignment between sales and marketing. More importantly, this will send the right message to all concerned for driving alignment.
> Assign an individual or a team to have responsibility for marketing performance. Most successful, best-in-class companies do this and it has seen tremendous results. This has a high probability of making sales and marketing work together in sync. It is important for marketing to get its act right and this kind of responsibility assignment and monitoring is the first step in driving a good process of working closely with sales. Alignment is a result of such small but firm steps in an organisation. Companies that have average performance should immediately plan this as part of marketing operations in order to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
> Once campaigns are done, make sure that the results are shared across all stakeholders, primarily with sales. More than just measuring and reporting to the CEO, it is more impactful for alignment to share the learning and best practices across stakeholders. This is what best –n-class firms do. Why does it help? It teaches the organisation what works and what does not, what needs improvement and what needs total destruction. Most critically, sales will have more sense of ownership and will support marketing leads to a pipeline.
Once adopted, these three pointers will help improve the relationship between Sales and Marketing, ensuring that the two sides of the same coin indeed work best for the company.