Marketing & Sales Misalignment…the Impact

It’s as as inevitable as death and taxes…marketing and sales misalignment. More often than not, each department is operating in their own world, chasing their own goals, and measuring themselves on completely different criteria. In fact, it’s not uncommon for marketing personnel to have never even met one of their sales representatives, much less had a conversation regarding common goals and beliefs. The issue goes much deeper than conflicting goals, and has far greater impact on a company’s bottom line than you may suspect.

shutterstock_100022270If your company’s sales and marketing organizations are not in alignment today, here a few of the consequences.

  1. Content is ineffective

If the marketing organization is producing lovely, glossy, well-written white papers and collateral without talking to the sales organization, how does marketing know whether or not the content is actually assisting sales or converting prospects to customers? It doesn’t.

While it’s certainly true that content created for the early stages (Engage stage) of the buying process doesn’t need an eagle-eye review by a sales rep, it is critical that content meant for later stages (Convert stage) meets sales’ needs.  For example, are the product brochures conveying the messages that are resonating with buyers? Are product brochures even the format that sales reps want when they’re out in the field, meeting with prospects and trying to close deals? Who better to know what is resonating with buyers than the sales people who speak with them each and every day. Marketing should be exploiting sales’ knowledge of their buyers to helping to produce content that convert prospects to loyal customers.

Furthermore, we all know that content isn’t cheap to produce, especially if it’s produced externally. In reality, everything from hiring the writers to printing eats away at the marketing budget.

Driving alignment between marketing and sales to ensure the right message and format is incorporated in marketing content will not only improve sales conversions, but also improve the bottom line.

  1. “Leads” are rejected

It’s the most obvious of symptoms and yet still so common. Marketing sits in its own world patting itself on the back for all the “qualified leads” they’ve passed over to sales. Meanwhile sales rejects the bulk of these leads or, worse yet, doesn’t even bother to open any marketing-generated leads based on a mentality, driven by history, that marketing never delivers anything of value.  Marketing continues to spend time and money generating these so-called leads for sales and because marketing is measured simply on the number of leads, versus the quality of them, never realizing there is a serious lead conversion problem. Again, wasted time, effort and money.

Luckily, the solution isn’t that complicated, but it does take hard work and a commitment to defining a solid closed-loop process. First, start with a conversation between marketing and sales. Agree on what the definition of a “qualified lead” is. Once that is decided, marketing should be measured more by the quality of leads generated than the quantity. Additionally, sales in turn should be required to provide feedback on marketing-generated leads (via CRM processes).

  1. Lack of respect

Issues #1 and #2 above only serve to perpetuate a lack of respect many sales organizations have for marketing. And so, even if or when marketing does change the way it produces content or the means by which it qualifies a lead, the efforts are ignored by sales. It’s often an uphill battle for marketing to gain back the respect it deserves. And it requires ongoing efforts until walls are broken down and old perceptions are forgotten. However, one of the things that marketing can use to showcase their results is data. Sitting down with sales on a quarterly basis to review what’s working, what’s not, what’s converting or what’s not…..even if neither side like the answers…will help drive alignment. Not to mention, that much needed respect. Data doesn’t lie – it enables an honest assessment of the marketing and sales process and a discussion on ways to improve upon it.

  1. Unhealthy brand or poor user experience

When sales and marketing aren’t speaking the same language, it presents itself in everything from product brochures, your website, to face-to-face visits. If sales can’t find the content they need, they’ll create their own. And odds are, it will be completely off- brand. And who can blame them? They’re simply trying to close deals and make money. Sales reps don’t have the time to search for usable marketing content and frankly speaking, they shouldn’t be spending their time searching for it, much less creating it. It’s marketing’s job to ensure the brand is protected at all times. That means the look, feel, messaging and tone must be consistent across all prospect and customer communications…whether it comes from sales OR marketing.

Driving alignment between the sales and marketing organizations can truly start with a conversation. In today’s global and largely virtual organizations, it can be hard to get people together in-person, but open communication is key.With consistent conversations, good listening and honest feedback , both marketing and sales can get what they want. They can each stop wasting time and money, and most importantly, be better equipped to meet the bottom-line revenue goals of the company. Marketing and sales misalignment doesn’t have to be inevitable like death and taxes…it can and should be a great combination, more like peanut butter and jelly.

Author: Jennifer Harmel @JenniferHarmel2 is VP of Strategy, ANNUITAS

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