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How businesses can align sales and marketing

Many organizations are moving away from siloed marketing and sales departments and instead choosing to work more closely, which can both grow a business and reduce costs.

For businesses to be truly efficient, there must be a sales and marketing alignment, with frequent and direct communication between the departments throughout the entire customer journey.

Historically, the role of marketing has been to bring in sales leads for new business. This handoff from marketing -- which captures leads, nurtures them and qualifies them as "sales ready" -- to sales is something that many organizations follow as their standard operating procedures. These activities are generally done within silos, with little communication or follow-up between teams.

Though many businesses are aware of sales and marketing alignment -- aka smarketing -- practices, not all have followed them, and businesses can no longer ignore these misaligned teams. An alignment plan is necessary for business success.

The importance of aligning sales and marketing

Buyers have changed over time, and they are in more control than ever. They are digitally driven, more socially connected, on the move with their mobile devices and empowered to research solutions to their problems.

Potential customers are not waiting for a sales representative to call them with a magic solution to their problems. Instead, they are out researching and coming across content that marketing teams create and promote. While this sounds like a marketing-centric way to drive sales, this approach also enables sales to provide the context for what types of campaign ideas -- such as blogs, white papers, infographics or webinar series -- marketing can create, based on common themes that come up in their conversations with prospective customers.

Sales is still at the front line between the organization and its potential customers. They are prospecting, having one-on-one conversations, and have direct feedback to the pain points, barriers and decision-making habits of their existing customers. This information can be invaluable to a marketing department deciding how to target campaigns to specific audiences and address prospect needs instead of just selling to them.

Aligning a sales strategy and marketing strategy can have a direct effect on business growth, leading to a reduction in costs and an increase in revenue.

Aligning a sales strategy and marketing strategy can also have a direct effect on business growth, leading to a reduction in costs and an increase in revenue.

Collaboration between sales and marketing teams has other ancillary benefits as well. As sales and marketing teams work together, get to know one another and share common goals, this growth will breed more activity and investment in the company. It will also be an opportunity for other departments to have a better idea of what these teams do and mean to the company as a whole.

While sales and marketing departments may be moving away from working in silos, it may not be logistically possible to merge into one team within businesses. But there are still strategies that businesses should heed for the two departments to function more harmoniously.

Necessary components for aligning sales and marketing

Businesses can implement a number of tactics to better align their marketing and sales departments:

Open lines of communication. Marketing and sales should meet regularly as individual teams, with representatives attending the respective sales and marketing team meetings. This effective communication gives the marketing team a better idea of sales goals and gives sales better insight into marketing tactics, marketing campaigns and marketing strategies.

Share marketing campaign efforts with sales. Marketing teams should provide sales with weekly or monthly updates on upcoming campaigns, offers and content that it will use in promotional strategies. Sales can then use that information to reach out to prospects in their pipeline and share some value as a respected thought leader and partner. Businesses might also consider putting a content creation process in place, where the sales team can submit relevant topics they have discussed with prospects and marketing can create specific content to address those needs.

Provide sales enablement resources. The marketing team is responsible for creating content to promote a brand -- and that includes marketing resources for the sales team. One question that prospects always ask on sales calls is, "Can you please send me some of your literature?" By organizing all sales enablement content, sales people can quickly access what a prospect is asking for. This content includes:

  • Battlecards: An overview of a business's products, market and competition;
  • Premium content resources: White papers, infographics, data sheets and research reports; and
  • Relevant offers: Case studies, upcoming webinar information, and event registration and information.

Help sales team establish credibility. Good sales representatives know how to build their own brands. Because prospective customers often view sales teams as thought leaders, businesses might consider having their marketing content teams ghostwrite some blogs for sales. This will help establish more credibility and authority between sales representatives and their prospects. Marketing can also create some sample copy or ideas for social media posts that the sales team can publish to their accounts as a way to create more activity on those channels.

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