The State of Inbound 2017 report from HubSpot tells us there is still a clear misalignment between marketing and sales departments. I mean really...still! In fact who am I kidding, of course there is.
Staggeringly, only 22% of companies surveyed describe their sales and marketing relationship as ‘tightly aligned’. For many the relationship is defunct.
In all the years I have been in this marketing game I have often seen a disconnect between marketing and other departments. I’ve seen it when working with clients and it was very evident when I was client side myself.
Yep, I was that marketing person who was sometimes referred to as “a right pain in the arse” by other departments, especially in IT (or IS as it was called). And I even remember being introduced to someone as ‘the bane of my life’ by a senior manager in operations once too.
Nice!! Good job my skin is thick.
But when it comes to marketing and sale’s affinity for the each other, this divide is properly damaging. Both are striving to achieve the same goal - namely business growth. But spend half their time ignoring each other or trading blows
Historically, marketing existed to generate awareness. Sales would then target prospects off the back of this awareness and control the buyer relationship from that point on.
But things have changed. The world has changed. Buyers have changed.
And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that businesses need to change too.
It’s time to wake up, fast.
Get your shit together…
Like it or not, marketing now plays a much stronger role in the path to purchase.
Today’s buyers have often completed up to 90% of their buying journey before they even utter a word to a sales person. That is a massive opportunity for marketing.
Using content to engage and influence buyers during this research phase can play a pivotal role in driving business growth. But the true value of this can only be realised if companies bust silos and get sales and marketing collaborating properly.
Old school thinking is so last year
The buck stops at the top.
If the CEO or MD is still stuck in an old school mindset, old school practices will prevail.
But if someone more forward thinking is at the helm - someone who understands the new world order, and gets the fact that structurally and strategically the business needs to change accordingly - companies can align their marketing and sales functions.
In the words of Mike Skinner: “Common sense. Simple common sense.”
It’s imperative to share - and this is a drum we keep banging
Such alignment is at the heart of successful inbound marketing because its whole ethos is about attracting complete strangers, converting them into leads and nurturing them into customers - who then become advocates.
In order to make this happen (yep, you guessed it!) sales and marketing need to work together - and this is a drum we keep banging. And this is incredibly important for us at SupaReal because we need to deliver results for our clients. Otherwise what’s the point?
One client we began working with had a number of sales teams that didn’t talk to each other at all! Each team used separate systems and didn’t share data. Individuals had a very "keep it to yourself" attitude, fuelled by commission and targets.
It was the culture and the structure of the organisation that was fundamentally the problem.
Well, that and the complete resistance to change.
And so, when asked where to start with this inbound thing, we insisted on getting everyone together in the same room right at the outset.
Senior managers, the directors, and the key people from both marketing AND sales.
We spent an afternoon running a very lively educational workshop to explain the ethos and methods of inbound marketing. But most importantly of all, the context and the benefits to each department and role.
Sales would get a good understanding of the customer and higher quality leads. Warm leads they could focus on closing. While marketing would get a better understanding of what is actually working, enabling them to deliver the leads that sales need.
And senior management, of course, would start to finally see the numbers in detail - what specific investments delivered return.
It sounds pretty good to me - and when we explained, it sounded pretty damn good to them too. Needless to say, we got buy in from everyone, and then the real job began (as well as the long list of new challenges that comes with any form of transformation).
Great content gives the sales team a powerful reference point
It’s not rocket science: inbound marketing starts with defining the buyer, then creating content for the buyer.
It’s essential for salespeople to read that content and understand where the leads have come from so they can have a conversation within the right context.
Waiting for the penny to drop...
We frequently kick things off in this way through a workshop and, in some scenarios, a series of one-to-one meetings.
And yep, that thick skin I developed has come in bloody handy! People often start by pushing back: it’s change, it’s different and people feel they are relinquishing control.
But all growth requires you to step outside your comfort zone and accept the new. We let them push - and then we dish out the facts. And there is rarely a single relevant argument as to why they should not embrace the change (and ongoing change) that we want to deliver.
Let the numbers do the talking - well, some of it
We always support our rationale with numbers.
It allows us to demonstrate the impact of inbound marketing and show tangible benefits and results. People soon realise that they need to adapt to this changing world, because they are going to be so far behind if they don’t!
With one particular client, it was a painful process that took time because there was lots of change taking place in the business.
Yet within 10 months we generated a multi-million pound pipeline.
These are exactly the kind of results inbound can deliver if sales and marketing put aside any rivalries and talk and plan together - working as the ultimate tag team to deliver the most effective results.
55% of respondents expect their sales teams to grow in the next 12 months.
The level of predicted growth is hardly surprising.
The State of Inbound 2017 report looks solely at companies who are practising inbound marketing. If they are doing it well, their companies should be growing off the back of it, and growth spawns growth.
If inbound is working really well for a business, they will need more salespeople to service the leads. No shit Sherlock.
It’s a bare faced lie that inbound marketing will replace salespeople
Salespeople often get frightened by inbound and think it will replace them. That’s about as likely as me becoming a City fan. It just won’t happen.
Businesses will always need human engagement - to carry out the final negotiations, respond to an RFP (Request for Proposal), or finalise the terms of a contract.
Not to mention building a relationship at a human level!
The emphasis of a salesperson’s role will change, undoubtedly, but the role will remain. They will simply spend more time responding to warm leads, and developing relationships, rather than spending a lot of their time trying to kick doors down and carry out cold prospecting.
And that’s a bonus in my book.
Not addressing the divide will have consequences
Misaligned sales and marketing teams could easily end up pulling in two different directions. It means sales teams aren’t going to focus on the most valuable aspect of what they do, which is nurturing and closing leads, and marketers will get frustrated that the work they are doing appears to be disappearing down the pan.
As the State of Inbound 2017 report warns, “When Marketing and Sales resort to a blame game, the customer stops being the priority.”
So team up and dream big…
Great inbound marketing is reliant on teamwork. And when two strong teams pull together the results really can blow your mind!