By: Josie Heskje on May 12th, 2019
Focus On Sales & Marketing Alignment and Watch Your Office Technology Business Thrive!
Office Technology Providers have always been good at listening to the needs of their customers. They are passionate about innovating and developing new solutions that ultimately help their customers succeed. They learn new technologies, adopt new product lines, and develop cutting edge service offerings to address the evolving needs of their customers. Their ability to do this starts simply with one thing - understanding the customer - their goals, their struggles, and their needs.
Consider how the habits of prospects and customers have changed, including the way they seek out information related to a purchasing decision. We’ve all been challenged take pause and re-evaluate the way we do things in order to better understand where our customers are at and meet them there.
With the help of your sales and marketing teams, there’s an opportunity to take this understanding to the next level, but you have to be willing to change the way you think about how these two functions should interact.
The Traditional Approach to Sales & Marketing Doesn’t Work Anymore
If you’re in sales or marketing, you have likely experienced the struggle that sits on the median of these two roles. Traditionally, these two functions have operated independent of one another. For instance - marketing generates content and identifies “warm leads,” which are then passed along to the sales team. It’s here that a complete handoff is made. At this point, the sales team calls on these leads with the hopes of striking one worthy of the coveted ‘close.’
But sales does not have a full idea of what goes on before the handoff, nor does marketing have insight into what happens after. There lies the problem. Rarely is the loop closed. Marketing may not know what successes and failures the sales team encounters or why. Similarly, the sales team may not be aware of the available marketing intel and/or resources available to help support their selling efforts. Even if they know what’s available, they may not have an understanding of how or when they should leverage the marketing assets at their disposal for maximum effectiveness.
This leads to frustration and inefficiencies; On the one hand, the sales team may feel that the leads the marketing team sends to them aren’t of the best quality. On the other hand, marketing may be frustrated with the sales team not fully leveraging the content they work hard to produce for them. The back and forth can go on and on.
This struggle exists because there is misalignment. Ultimately, both teams have goals of growing revenue for the business, but if they don’t work together to establish, define, and communicate a shared strategy to get there, the road will be twice as long and twice as rocky.
What Is Sales and Marketing Alignment?
Sales & Marketing Alignment is the alignment of a company's sales and marketing departments for the sake of improved communication, enhanced collaboration and increased efficiency. Businesses with sales and marketing teams that are aligned will grow faster and be more profitable. In fact, companies who have tightly aligned sales and marketing teams have shown to see 24% faster 3 year revenue growth.
Why Is Sales and Marketing Alignment so Important in Today’s Selling Environment?
This approach is all but a necessity, and that’s due largely to the change in the way consumers research and buy online. Consider for a moment that buyers are over 70% through the decision process before they even speak to a member of your sales team. Buyers want a single cohesive experience and they want content that helps them through every stage of their journey, from the moment they become aware they have a problem, throughout the research and consideration of potential solutions, until finally, they arrive at the decision to purchase.
What Benefits Can You Expect After Aligning?
The goal of a sales team is to grow revenue. The goal of the marketing team is to grow revenue. But the misalignment in terms of what needs to be done to get there is what causes inefficiencies and drives focus to the wrong opportunities. If marketing and sales share not only a common objective, but a mutually understood plan with defined roles, responsibilities and a two-way channel of communication, energy from all parties will be focused on the right opportunities, ultimately increasing close rates and revenue growth.
Enhanced Customer Experience
The concept of inbound relies heavily on the concept of “helping” over “selling.” Dealers place their customer at the center of their world, as they should. The customer experience ultimately makes or breaks the success of a company. If the sales and marketing teams can collaborate, your organization can develop more relevant content that helps the customer self-educate and navigate through their decision making journey.
The saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder!”
If your sales and marketing teams are aligned, you’ll experience higher productivity and reduce inefficiencies. How often does your sales team waste time on leads that aren’t accurately qualified?
When both teams agree on what qualifies a lead as an MQL, SAL or SQL, both teams are positioned for greater efficiency and higher success rates.
What Steps Can Office Technology Dealers Take To Align Their Sales & Marketing Teams?
The office technology industry is beginning to understand the powerful role inbound and content marketing can play in the growth of their business. We’ve seen key industry associations and events place heavier focus in this area as seen most recently at the BPCA, where a sales and marketing seminar was held in April. In fact, Lindsay Bohon and I are presenting on the topic of Sales and Marketing alignment at CDA this week!
So how can you leverage marketing in a way that aligns with your sales efforts? First, know that it won’t happen overnight. It will take a lot of work and a lot of communication between teams in order to develop shared objectives and processes that are aligned and in support of one another. But there are things you can start with now to build a foundation for this change.
Sales & Marketing Can Collaborate to Build Buyer Personas
Sales and marketing have to be united. Sales has their ear to the customer and understands firsthand what challenges they face, what they find to be valuable, and what motivates them. Through collaboration, marketing and sales can extract and communicate information based on customer interviews, surveys, and the first hand experiences sales has with the customer, to compile a buyer persona for each of your target customer segments.
Make sure they summarize the following per persona:
- What motivates your ideal prospect?
- What are their biggest challenges?
- Where do they seek information?
When sales and marketing teams collaborate on this effort, you’ll ensure your personas are accurate representations of the customers you serve, which will make them hyper-useful when you go begin to generate content for them.
Develop an SLA
Teams that are doing inbound find that having a Sales and Marketing “Service Level Agreement” (SLA) helps them to universally define and communicate the nature of the relationship between these two teams. An SLA is a contract between two departments (sales and marketing) that aligns goals and outlines agreed-upon expectations. It creates a universal understanding (and agreement) of the objective and the role each team plays in reaching it.
In an ideal state, an SLA would contain the following:
- Defined Ideal Buyer Personas
- Standardization on Lead Definitions
- Established and Communicated Goals
- Documented Processes (Protocols for Lead Management/Tracking, measurement, & Assessment of Performance Metrics)
- Outline of the SLA Review Process
Share and Use a CRM
Do your sales and marketing functions both have a seat at the CRM? And how accurate is the data your CRM contains? The integrity of your data is crucial for inbound to work effectively. Messaging can only be effective if you can target the right people, and that’s not possible without access to clean data. Have an open discussion about how each team uses your CRM. Make sure both sides communicate the WHY behind their processes as it relates to their use of the CRM.
Sales & Marketing Alignment Benefits All.
The concept of sales and marketing alignment can be put to use for the benefit of all – not just the sales and marketing teams, but the entire company – and most importantly, the customer.
Sales will enjoy a shorter sales cycle, warmer leads, and insight into intelligence they can leverage to drive successes. Marketing will be enabled to understand the customer on a deeper level, create content that really speaks to them, and more accurately show ROI for their efforts.
If your sales and marketing teams interact in a productive way, you’ll establish your company as a thought leader and, in turn, drive business. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to join forces with one another so you can conquer your goals--for your customers, for your company, and for each other!
Josie Heskje is Director, Strategic Marketing for the Office Equipment Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services. Using over 20 years of marketing experience, she helps guide the strategic marketing direction of the Office Equipment Group, and is responsible for the marketing and public relations planning and execution for the business unit. She is the former Marketing & Communications Chair of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) (and current committee member) and was awarded a 2018 Global MPSA MPS Leadership Award for "Outstanding MPS Contribution" for an individual. She was also named an industry "Difference Maker" in ENX Magazine in both 2015 and 2017.