Consult Your Sales Team First: 3 Questions For Better Alignment

Published: August 28, 2012

By Tom Jacobs, President, Jacobs Agency

Today, buyers from both worlds – B2B and B2C – control how they consume information. The evolution from one-way communication to more complex, two-way conversations between a brand and its audience gives power to the purchaser. In fact, a McKinsey research study reported that nearly two-thirds of touch points in the active-evaluation phase of consumer decision-making involve audience-driven activities.

That leaves just a handful of touch points in the hands of a typical B2C brand. Nearly the same scenario exists in the B2B world, where recent research from the Corporate Executive Board revealed that buyers wait until they’ve independently completed roughly 60% of their pre-purchase research to contact sales.

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If a buyer wants to cross your brand off the list, they have the opportunity to do so before you ever get the chance to establish a connection.

Bridging The Gap Between Sales And Marketing

Oddly enough, the sales process is an often-overlooked component of a successful marketing strategy. Many organizations are focused first and foremost on getting a campaign to market. But where they fail is ignoring a critical first step: Consulting with the sales team.

Sales people are an untapped resource, full of unique customer insights. By soliciting their input, you not only shape strategy, but you also ensure better buy-in and alignment across the organization. 

Even though the responsibility of ensuring alignment with sales may seem like an organizational headache to some marketers, internal collaboration is crucial. True alignment comes down to asking the right questions and encouraging open lines of communication between your department and sales.

Sales Insights: Your Marketing Team’s Secret Weapon

Here are three questions that marketing should always ask the sales team before embarking on an initiative.

1. What are your sales goals? First and foremost, you must understand what you’re trying to sell in order to craft effective marketing communications. Ask your sales people. As the individuals responsible for actively moving a product or solution, they are uniquely equipped to provide you with necessary input that should help you organize and prioritize your marketing initiatives.

Sales goals or business objectives should always be the primary driver behind the marketing communications initiatives slated for a given timeframe. Marketers need goals in order to develop strategies that have the potential to produce measurable results.

2. Who is your customer? Though an understanding of your target audience’s buying cycle is helpful, new research from ITSMA suggests that knowledge of who your buyer is may be even more valuable. The original school of thought encouraged marketers to use only certain content during specific phases of the buying cycle. Though this may still be pertinent advice when focusing on the traditional B2B buyer (those who do not consult social media during the purchase process), it appears that social B2B buyers want the same types of content across all phases of their buying journey.

Lesson: For marketing to be effective, you must have a solid grasp of who your target audience is. As the group of individuals responsible for interacting with your buyer, the sales team should be able to provide these insights. Another key takeaway: Marketers must ensure all of the buyer’s information needs are met – with readily available content throughout the campaign – and not just fed to them at random points during the decision-making process.

3. What are your customer’s challenges? Customer-focused messaging is the foundation of impactful marketing communications. While it may seem intuitive to organize your communications according to your company’s products or solutions, it’s important to realize that your customers are actually grappling with a specific set of business problems. They might not know what product or solution to investigate. Or their needs might require a sophisticated combination of products and solutions that cause them to overlook neatly categorized marketing efforts.

Look to your sales team for a better understanding of what the challenges in the marketplace are, and then work with your sales people to outline how your organization’s products and solutions specifically address those challenges. Establish advantages. Content that initiates a dialogue around your customer’s issues escalates their urge to address the issues and puts your organization high on the list of potential partners to help them solve their problems.

By working with the sales team to gain deeper insight into your organization and target audience, you will put your organization into a better position to develop more targeted marketing communications that will help the sales team sell. Collaborating with the sales team also ensures better buy-in across the organization, which is an important step towards alignment.

Tom Jacobs is President of
Jacobs Agency, the 15-year old award-winning marketing communications firm based in Chicago. Jacobs Agency helps companies untangle their business problems through marketing communications. Tom can be reached at

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