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I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again – an overall lack of communication and alignment between sales and marketing. This breakdown does not discriminate – I’ve seen it in industry after industry and in both B2B and B2C environments. As a marketer, your sales team should be considered your most valuable and powerful asset available and sales should have that same perception of marketing.
Marketers should grow and nurture this relationship and utilize the wealth of knowledge the sales organization has from speaking to prospects and customers on a regular basis. Take this knowledge and further refine your marketing strategy. This open line of communication helps to ensure you are making the most of your spend, have the right products in your portfolio, and are distributing them through appropriate channels at a competitive price.
To drive alignment, here are five key questions you should ask your sales team on an ongoing basis:
1. What are you seeing from the competition?
One of the easiest ways to keep tabs on the competition is to ask your salesforce what they are seeing. This is just one of many ways to stay on top of trends in your industry. I recommend holding monthly/bi-monthly meeting with sales to allow them to share any changes they have observed from the competition. Focus on a Who/What/Where/How approach.
Who – Who are the main competitors in your region? Are there any new to the market or struggling?
What – How do their products/services stack up against ours? Do they have a robust offering? Are they introducing new products? Have they changed their pricing structure?
Where – How are they getting their products to market? Are they selling direct, online, through distribution?
How - How are they marketing their products? Consider both channels utilized as well as messaging and positioning.
2. How are you pitching our products/services?
I love this exercise. Marketers spend so much time and research on the value proposition and positioning of products, focusing on the strategic messages to convey through each marketing channel. Often there is a disconnect between how sales pitches the product and how marketing is positioning the product through advertising. Have your sales team walk through their pitch to ensure it aligns with the story marketing is telling. Drive consistency in messaging by providing ongoing visibility into the monthly advertising plan and key products/messages that are being showcased.
3. What tools do you need to get the job done?
Marketers often develop “tools” for sales to use when meeting with prospects – tools such as presentations, product sheets, leave behind brochures, etc. Instead of assuming this is what sales needs, ask them how they communicate with prospects. In a formal setting in a conference room? Over video conference? Out in the field? Each of these scenarios may warrant the need for a different tool. Don’t waste the time and money on developing tools you “think” will be beneficial to sales – maximize spend by providing the right tools with detailed input from sales.
4. Do you have any customers that would be an ideal case study?
If there is one thing I have learned about sales reps – it’s that they love talking about their great customers! Their faces light up and a sense of pride comes through when describing the relationship. These are the customers that are ideal to showcase in case studies, and often time sales reps are thrilled at the consideration. Not only does it allow the sales rep to shine, it acts as a credibility factor when talking to prospects. Being able to exhibit real life customer scenarios is one of the best ways to win over a prospect. Talk to your sales reps and ask them if they have any customers who they would feel comfortable approaching for a case study – you may be surprised by the number of options you have as a marketer. Work closely with sales as you craft the story of the relationship and be sure to get permission from the customer to feature them in the various channels you plan to utilize. Credibility is king.
5. Will you help us measure results?
I am always surprised by the lack of traction marketers have in measuring the results of marketing spend. Although it can be hard to pinpoint a direct ROI on marketing campaigns, any insights that can be gathered to directionally provide feedback should be noted. The more data driven strategic marketing decisions that can be made, the better you are at maximizing spend. Sales should play a crucial role in collecting insights – especially in the B2B world. Encourage them to utilize their CRM systems to track what “tools” they shared with which prospects – with the long-term goal of directionally measuring ROI by the tools used for that prospect. Data driven marketing spend is the best way to optimize budgets.
In summary, the relationship between marketing and sales should be viewed as a partnership that is mutually beneficial. Nurture this relationship to further optimize marketing spend and drive sales.
As a marketer, here are 5 questions you should ask your sales team