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Aligning Sales and Marketing Around Industry Thought Leadership

By March 25, 2020 No Comments
Sales and Marketing alignment

Marketing starts conversations, but sales has to carry them on.

That’s why it’s so important for sales and marketing to be closely aligned from the beginning of the buyer’s journey, through the top of the sales funnel, all the way to closure and beyond. The messaging you provide should synthesize the best of what sales and marketing have to offer, and should manifest as thought leadership that’s useful to both sales and marketing for a wide variety of activities.

It’s a two-way street: Both sides have something to give, and both sides benefit.

What Sales Needs from Sales-and-Marketing Alignment

In my experience, sales people and sales leadership will start to make things up if marketing doesn’t tell them what to expect – and why.

I’m not saying that’s all bad: They have an entrepreneurial mindset, and for good reason.

But when they go off on their own, they generally don’t set themselves up for discussions that take advantage of a company’s unique differentiating features, and they often follow buzzwords for buzzwords’ sake. That’s not thought leadership: It’s too reactive and, most likely, will not align well with what your company does best. The result is opportunities that have a lower likelihood of closure, along with wasted effort, frustration, and employee turnover.

By getting information from sales and providing more information to them, you can:

  • Make sure they know why they should emphasize key talking points
  • Identify for them the thought leadership content that is mostly likely to help them in various situations
  • Help them understand the reason their target personas should be interested in the kinds of content you’re providing
  • Show them how you best fit into the context of key buzzwords so they don’t blindly pursue buzzwords for their own sake

Although sales has a lot to gain from sales-and-marketing alignment, I think marketing gains even more.

What Marketing Needs from Sales-and-Marketing Alignment

There’s an old saw, attributed to US department store merchant (and more) John Wanamaker (1838-1922), that says, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” He’s not wrong, though today we might say “marketing” in place of “advertising.”

Alignment with sales can help. While marketing has an industry-oriented view of your company’s products and services, your sales organization gets information in real time about people’s interests. As a result, they can provide valuable feedback on questions like these:

  • Does a given analyst report affects clients’ opinion, or does it fall flat? How many people are buying into that analyst group’s terminology and product vision?
  • Do prospects really care about the product differentiators that marketing has chosen to emphasize?
  • Is the messaging simple enough for account executives to carry and for target personas to understand?
  • What kinds of details do prospects care about in conversations and marketing materials?

Account executives probably won’t think about these questions very much unless you ask them to – and then come back for follow-up over time. Consistency is crucial here.

By leveraging the boots-on-the-ground knowledge available from the sales organization, marketing can sharpen its focus, shorten the time of any false starts, and more closely identify with target personas. The result will be thought leadership that really leads, pulling people to

Using the Knowledge Gained from Alignment

All of this information is precious, as long as you know how to use it. Here are some of the ways I’ve used it to guide my marketing efforts.

  • Creating blog posts targeted to specific accounts. A while back, an account exec to show a client that we understood they issues they were concerned about, so he asked me to write a blog post addressing those specific items. Without alignment, it would have been a waste of time. But because we were aligned, we both knew that I could write a post with agreed-upon messaging, that our differentiators and talking points were important to the prospect, and that the account exec knew how to follow up on the topic. We didn’t address the prospect by name, of course, so the blog was effective for our marketing efforts overall, and not just that client.
  • Creating ideal third-party thought leadership. As sales and marketing align, certain areas of strength will come into focus. As I’ve previously discussed, that’s crucial for creating the kind of content that will maximize the throughput of your sales funnel. The objectivity and clarity of vision that comes from third-party content is ideal for creating the kind of content that marketing can use in campaigns while salespeople share it with prospects and clients.
  • Creating sales training that speaks directly to current opportunities. When marketing is based in part on client needs, sales training will be targeted precisely to what account executives are hearing. But because the training can take a market-level view, it’s more flexible and strategic than tactical sales training would be.

There’s a ton more, of course, but these are some of the most important. They’ll help make sure that there’s a minimum of finger-pointing between marketing and sales, a maximum of cooperation, and good selling all the way around.