Grow Your Business Through Sales and Marketing Alignment
Whether you’re an entrepreneur just starting out or you’ve been leading a business for a while, you understand that sales is key to growth. You don’t have to have all the answers to everything before you start your business, but if you can consistently close sales, you can buy yourself time to figure everything else out and scale for the future.
To do this, your sales reps probably rely on a variety of tools and productivity hacks to help them get more done. But, if you’re not also using content marketing to help, you’re missing out on a major opportunity. In fact, the right content can enable every member of your sales team to spend more time selling and less time answering the same questions and addressing the same objections again and again. To get your sales team those resources, you need to bring marketing and sales together to create sales enablement content.
Advantages of alignment
I’ve heard a lot of different sales speakers over the years, and a trend they all preach is the importance of aligning sales and marketing. When they’re aligned, sales teams see 38 percent higher win rates, and marketing teams see a 200 percent increase in marketing-generated revenue. These are huge wins in themselves -- but what’s especially valuable is the fact that both teams can do less work to earn those wins.
Sales reps benefit from the right content because it does much of their jobs for them. If a prospect has a question about your company’s solution, sales can send a blog post or case study that goes into detail. If reps receive common objections or questions about specific parts of the process, they can pass along fact sheets and whitepapers that overcome those objections.
These responses minimize the amount of time members of your sales team have to spend nurturing a prospect, whether it’s on the phone or via email. At the same time, they’re providing helpful, high-value content that their prospects can then send around to promote buy-in at their own organizations.
And by working with the sales team, your marketers can create more specific, effective content that helps their colleagues overcome traditional barriers to conversion. This means less time spent creating content for the sake of publication and more time spent producing high-impact resources.
No matter your industry, sales reps are some of a company’s most informed individuals when it comes to the customer. They interact with prospects on a daily basis, and they know what works and what doesn’t to meet those prospects’ needs. To be effective, your content has to appeal to your audience. With their firsthand experiences and expertise, your salespeople can help marketing create that exact kind of content.
Five steps for putting marketing alignment into action
Aligning sales and marketing teams is a commendable objective, but it can also be a lofty one. Effective collaborative won’t happen overnight, but the sooner you start the journey, the sooner you’ll start reaping the benefits. To bring together your sales and marketing teams, start with these five steps.
1. Get both teams in the same room and on the same page.
Before any two teams can become best friends, they need to get to know each other, and that starts with getting together. Have your marketing and sales teams meet, either in person or virtually, to start the conversation about their shared goals, the struggles they’re facing and what solutions could help to overcome those challenges.
This is important as marketing sets out to create a content strategy. Your strategy guides everything, and if sales enablement is a goal, the strategy needs to reflect that. So, set common goals at the outset, collect ideas for content, and put a plan together to get these resources to the right people at the right time.
2. Collaborate on content.
Content creation shouldn’t happen behind closed doors. The sales team has valuable insights that can transform a piece of content into exactly what the prospect (and, therefore, the sales rep) is looking for, so invite your salespeople to collaborate.
Sometimes it can be most effective to have sales reps byline their own content, and then your marketing team can refine copy so that these details are consistent with the rest of your messaging. Having content bylined by your salespeople also helps them build their brands and their credibility in the industry, making them more respected resources that prospects can easily approach and trust.
3. Keep the channels of communication open.
An annual meeting isn’t going to help sales and marketing remain aligned. Instead, keep the lines of communication open at all times. Create channels on Slack or other communication platforms that allow ideas to flow back and forth. Marketing can check out conversations the sales team is having about a tricky situation, and sales can hop over to the marketing channel to share content ideas and questions.
Take it a step further by encouraging marketers to shadow sales calls or inviting salespeople to attend and contribute to meetings about marketing strategy. When you’ve established fluid communication between the two groups, collaborative efforts will come about organically.
And don’t forget to account for differences in communication styles, especially if your teams are made up of members from different generations. In a recent keynote, which you can see here, I talked about how my daughter is growing up much differently from how I grew up and how interacting with and observing her is teaching me more about the value of understanding different generations.
So, if your sales and marketing teams are comprised of people from different generations, you may need to make an extra effort to understand these preferences so everyone on these teams can keep communication open and effective.
4. Create a resource library.
Almost 80 percent of highly aligned teams reported having a central location where content marketers store their assets so they can be utilized by sales personnel. This could be as simple as creating a spreadsheet in your shared Google Drive folder with blog posts, guest posts, infographics and whitepapers organized by topic. The point is that you’re able to get the right resources in the right hands at the right time.
This is especially important if you’ve been creating content for a while or you plan to continue consistently producing content. Eventually, you’re going to have hundreds of pieces of content to sift through. A bank of your team’s best resources for addressing the most common questions and discussions throughout the sales process can save everyone time and make sure your content is being maximized.
5. Share feedback early and often.
Refinement is a crucial part of any new process. When you’re establishing alignment between formerly siloed teams, not all of your initiatives will be successful. The key is to record what works and what doesn’t so that you learn from your mistakes.
If you don’t bother to track your mistakes and learn from them, you run a very real risk of making them over and over. If you follow step two, then the lines of communication will be open; encourage honest and constructive feedback to flow back and forth between both departments. That includes feedback about the overall process, as well as individual pieces of content and components of your messaging.
Aligning your sales and marketing teams isn’t an easy endeavor, but it’s one that can have profound and lasting benefits. Each of these departments has something important to offer to the other. Your sales reps know your audience better than anyone, and they know what it takes to convert prospects into customers. The marketing department knows how to reach these audience members and can produce and deliver the content necessary to get them down the marketing funnel toward a sale.
Both departments have untapped expertise that’s just waiting to be shared. Follow the above steps, and your business will benefit from an exciting collaboration that optimizes your efforts and delivers the results you’re looking for.
(By John Hall)