Next Step For Sales And Marketing Alignment: Content To Drive Sales Conversations

Published: May 21, 2014

Collaboration among the extended sales team — which includes sales, marketing, marketing ops, and sales ops — is one of the critical attributes of a world-class sales organization, according to the latest research from Miller Heiman.

“Being able to provide perspective for the buyer as to how your solution addresses their challenges is a major behavior that differentiates the world-class sales professional from the sales person,” said Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer of Miller Heiman, at the recent 2014 SAVO Sales Enablement Summit. Citing the 2014 Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study, he said there is a 25% performance gap between world-class sales organizations and others.

Galvin pointed to “conscious collaboration” — the deliberate and automated sharing of knowledge, data and resources — as being a key element present in high-performing sales organizations. Collaboration requires a framework that defines winning customer management strategies, Galvin noted. Following this framework, the extended sales team is able to focus on the customer instead of continuously adapting to random, judgment-based tactics based on the “gut feel” of an individual sales rep.

In the study, 91% of world-class organizations reported that they collaborate across all departments to close large deals, while only 53% of all organization collaborated on large deals.

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Content That Helps Guide The Sales Call

So where do organizations start when looking to bridge the collaboration gap? A key place to start is with consistent and relevant messaging throughout the sales cycle.

“The role of the marketer has changed forever,” said Kurt Andersen, EVP at SAVO. “Marketers used to think about their role as providing messaging, branding and driving awareness until they handed off the lead. They can’t just stop there anymore. They have to collaborate with the sales team until the deal is closed and beyond.”

Marketers need to work with the sales organization to help guide conversations with buyers, Anderson said. “When a human being is introduced into the conversation, that is really the point where the buyer will depart the process or continue on. It all hinges on the sales person being able to articulate why the buyer needs to move from the status quo in the first five minutes of the conversation. If they can’t do that, they lose someone, but if they can, they pick up the momentum.”

Anderson suggested that marketers do role playing and put themselves in various sales scenarios to understand how conversations unfold and the objections that buyers raise. “That will help marketers as they develop scripts and materials to be used to drive those conversations. You also want to look at how your high-performing sales reps are handling the sales conversation and replicate their successes.”

Tim Riesterer, CMO of Corporate Visions, noted that there are three types of sales conversations: Ones that create value, elevate value and capture value.

“We used to think developing qualified leads that were accepted by sales constituted alignment,” Riesterer said. “Now marketing has to be focused on the quality of the content and what the sales person says once they get to have that conversation. Initial conversations should deal very little with product features and be more focused on content that creates an urgency for change.”

Going Beyond The Product Message

The traditional product-oriented structure needs to be adjusted, Riesterer explained. “We’ve been marketing by product and creating content around that strategy. That has created a chasm. Marketing needs to equip the sales team to have a more general solution-oriented dialogue rather than a discussion about the specific features and functions of their particular product.”

Riesterer offered some factors to consider when developing customer-focused content to support sales conversations:

  • What emerging trends are creating the potential need or even risk that this product resolves?
  • What strategic initiatives does that trend fit into and how does our product map to that?
  • What business change is going to result? Review the current state, future state and business change, and focus on the value story.
  • What is the financial impact of making a change versus staying with the status quo?

Agreeing On Metrics

While sales and marketing can further alignment by collaborating on messaging to drive sales conversations, standardizing on metrics is also crucial.

“Until you agree on some standard KPIs among the sales and marketing teams, you are going to continue to have misalignment,” said Jim Brodo, SVP of Marketing for Richardson. He noted that it is important to get some agreement on metrics related to demand generation, account management and revenue growth.

Working toward a common goal also boosts alignment, Brodo noted. “You need an overarching overall goal, such as to drive revenue 25%.”

Timely reporting also is critical to keeping sales and marketing working in lockstep. “The relaying of timely information in the correct way on a common platform makes sure everyone knows where things stand,” noted Meghan Steiner, Director of Marketing for Richardson. “If everyone can see where the gaps are, they can devise a strategy to work together to meet their goals.”

But businesses shouldn’t solely rely on the CRM system for your metrics, observers cautioned. “The CRM system will simply provide trailing indicators, and at that point it is often too late to take action,” said Bill Johnson, CEO of Salesvue. “Marketers need to know if the assets they are producing are working to further the sales conversation and if they aren’t, how they can work with sales to correct course.”

While putting objectives on paper gets the process going, there has to be a system in place to follow through. Johnson added: “The process for delivering on the goals is one place where sales and marketing alignment often runs out of gas.”

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