By Bridget McCrea
Publisher’s note: It’s time to face facts. Your sales team and your marketing team are probably not on the same page. The marketing team has pored over piles of research and countless product selling points, and it can’t figure out why the sales team isn’t using that information to help sell more. Your sales team is wondering why the marketing guys think they have all of the answers without actually grinding out the sales effort in the field day after day. The interesting part is many distributors and manufacturers in this supply chain have people at the executive level with the title “Director of sales AND marketing.” So how do you get everyone on your team working together? We explore the best practices in a two-part series.
– Scott Costa
If it sometimes feels like your distributorship’s sales and marketing teams are operating in different orbits—and in complete opposition of one another—you’re not alone. Sales and marketing alignment is a much sought after but often elusive “Holy Grail” for companies of all sizes, and across many different industries. That’s usually because both teams have different goals and different expectations of one another.
“Aligning sales and marketing teams is a problem as old as the corporate structure itself. For most companies, marketing’s job is to generate leads, and sales’ job is to turn those leads into clients,” according to the American Marketing Association’s Four Best Practices to Ensure Sales/Marketing Alignment. “In practice, though, marketing and sales need to work in tandem, aligning their roles and goals to ensure that ROI becomes the responsibility of the whole organization, not individual teams.”
The issue is especially prominent in the B2B space, where good sales and marketing alignment can help shorten sales cycles and link return on investment (ROI) directly to marketing materials, according to the AMA. In other words, the more that sales and marketing are on the same page, the easier it will be to close your sales cycles.
Measuring the Payoff
The good news is that getting your sales and marketing teams onto the same page does pay off. The not-so-good news is that achieving that goal will take a little elbow grease, some solid communication, and a commitment to teamwork on both sides. By putting in this effort, and by getting marketing and sales to focus on the same revenue-generating goals, distributors can more effectively address market challenges while shortening sales cycles and achieving their ROI goals.
John Lorince, an outside sales representative with Leff Electric in Cleveland, says he noticed the divide between sales and marketing as soon as he came into the industry as a marketing professional. Hired to help support the company’s sales team, he says there were some communication gaps between his department and the sales department. At the recent AdVenture Conference, Lorince spoke about this divide and challenged his audience to dig down deeper into the issue and come up with ways to better align their sales and marketing teams.
“I asked how many attendees had ever been out on a sales call with one of their company’s sales reps, and I wasn’t shocked by the answer because, as a marketing professional, I’d only gone on a sales call one time,” Lorince explains. “I think this is something that marketing and sales should be doing together all the time. How else can you understand your customers’ needs if you’re not out there in front of them?”
The bottom line is that every customer has different needs, wants, and expectations—not all of which can be easily and simply conveyed by a single salesperson who is juggling numerous accounts at once. When important information slips through the cracks, the marketing team is left to guess at the best way to, say, develop a customized marketing campaign that reaches a specific customer segment.
“When you get the creative marketing person on the same plane as the salesperson who is out there in the field every day,” says Lorince, “the results are much better than if both are just working on their own projects or plans.”
Success Strategies for Distributors
Getting sales and marketing on the same page sounds straightforward enough, but actually making it happen is another story. According to the AMA, the first step is to make sure the goal comes from high within the company. “It takes some executive commitment at the C-level of the company, then an agreement with your marketing and sales leaders that this is something that’s important,” the AMA points out.
Face-to-face meetings are another way to get everyone on the same page, and namely because it pushes people to learn about one another’s jobs, form relationships, and open up new lines of communication. When a marketing employee attends weekly sales meetings, for example, he or she comes away with an inside view of the quotas, goals, challenges, and other issues that the sales team deals with on a day-to-day basis. To ensure two-way communication, marketing can use some of the meeting time to discuss upcoming offers, campaigns, and content that it’s promoting for the upcoming week.
This “sharing” strategy is especially useful for distributors, most of which have a wide array of customers, each of which has different wants and needs. “From the marketing perspective, you can’t just produce one piece of content for them. You have to be very specific not only on the customer segment in question, but also the sub-segments,” says Lorince. “One video or flyer isn’t going to work for everyone.”
For example, Lorince says Leff Electric uses a “trip promotion” for its larger electrical contractor customers. Throughout the year, those customers earn points against purchases. At the end of a 12- to 18-month period (depending on the promotion), the company earns a free trip. “That’s a pretty powerful tool for a sales person, who can use the promotion to push their contractors to take the steps necessary to earn points faster (e.g., by buying a specific brand),” says Lorince.
“Using this promotion, we’ve been able to help our sales team steer certain customer behaviors and, hopefully, encourage a customer who may be buying from several distributors to give more of the business to us in order to earn the trip,” says Lorince, whose distributorship is taking a happy bunch of customers to Hawaii this month. “There are a million different strategies like this which you can use, but the bottom line is that it has to be a joint effort that involves your executive team, sales staff, and marketing staff.”
Lorince says team-building exercises and solid communication across all departments can both help create better sales and marketing. But whatever strategy you choose, he says the most important move is to stop talking about it and start doing it. “Consider all of the different parts of the machine and how they work together,” he advises, “and then come up with ways to get them aligned and focused on similar goals.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
Tagged with B2B, distributor, Leff Electric, marketing, sales, tED