Sales is an integral aspect of any organization: manufacturers, service providers, member-driven associations, small business, bureaucratic enterprises… All organizations rely on a steady source of revenue to survive and grow. It is understood that marketing is an important aspect of creating awareness, positioning a brand and essentially creating a positive environment for sales to occur. Unfortunately, how marketing strategy and sales development successfully work together is often not fully considered.
The relationship between marketing and sales has long been a troubled one. Whereas they should be working together in synergy with the common goal of securing relationships to strengthen the organization, they are often actively at odds with each other, oblivious to each other, or embroiled in a cold war of secrecy and subterfuge.
The digitization of the business world and its business development processes has helped bring these two disciplines closer, and many software tools approach the two coherently. However, many organizations still seem to cling to the old ideology that promotes two separate silos with little connection.
To reap the rewards of harmonized marketing and sales efforts, keep the following three aspects in mind.
Marketing and Sales are Distinct Functions
Although I am stressing the importance of integrating them, it’s important to appreciate that marketing and sales have different functions. One focuses on creating awareness, positioning a brand and developing interest. The other is tasked with capitalizing on that interest and closing the deal. Some feel that marketing spends money and sales makes money. Admittedly, it takes resources to mount a successful marketing campaign, but marketing should be a strategic investment. (And, it is getting easier to monitor and track your ROI.)
The difference in approach may often be subtle, but worth respecting. Trying to sell to new leads will probably annoy and scare them away; whereas a well nurtured lead may always be a prospect unless you provide a timely and appropriate buying opportunity. Understanding the difference between the two disciplines guides the role each should play and how they can successfully work together to improve your business development efforts.
Marketing and Sales Should be Aligned
Although marketing and sales are distinct, they should not be isolated from each other. The old corporate structure had separate departments, often with little communication between the two. Internally it was more of a competition as to which department was most valuable to the organization. Fiefdoms and bureaucracy may have been affordable then, but with leaner teams and higher expectations in today’s fast-paced and cost-efficient business world, it is essential to have an aligned and harmonious process that attracts leads and nurtures them to be satisfied customers.
To align your marketing strategy and sales efforts, it makes sense to work backwards. Determining your sales goals and forecasted breakdown is a good way to start. From their you can better identify your target audiences and flesh out buyer personas. Understanding who you will be selling to provides a good foundation for determining your marketing strategy. Where and how will you engage your audiences, what are they interested in, how will you effectively communicate your advantages and benefits, what aspects of your brand will resonate with them… Key marketing decisions that will guide your content and creative start with considering the final sale.
Structuring how leads transition from marketing to sales, with a communication/feedback loop, will allow a seamless journey for your prospects and returning customers. There are many good software tools that assist you in structuring, implementing and monitoring the process. Many (e.g. SharpSpring) help you to automate the process and identify opportunities — making the process itself an active part of the solution.
Integrate Marketing strategy and Sales Plan
You’re no doubt aware that a smart strategy with SMART goals is a smart way to proceed — plan your work, then work your plan. Most companies have a sales plan, it may simply be targets, but they at least have a clear objective to aim for. Many SMEs have a budget for marketing, but fail to have a detailed marketing plan. And I’d wager that an exceptionally small minority actually have an integrated sales and marketing plan. So, how is an organization expected to develop sales and grow with little or no structured guidance?
Sustained growth is achieved and maintained with goals, processes and tactics in place. Defining the strategy and ongoing tactics to reach your goals, and then putting the processes in place is what separates successful companies. Going the extra step to create a joint marketing and sales process will distinguish you even further.
The simple solution to growth is marketing strategy and sales working in harmony with a coherent strategy. The successful implementation is not so simple — it requires a good deal of knowledge and a lot of work, on a consistent and ongoing basis.