30% of B2B buyers completed at least half of their purchases online in 2015, according to Forrester. With that percentage expected to rise to 56% in 2017, it’s no surprise that finding ways to accommodate these new buying behaviors is being encouraged by experts from every corner of the business landscape. There’s a ton of advice out there for how to do this successfully, but all signs seemingly point to one crucial step: aligning sales and marketing departments.
Rocket science? No. But the mechanics of an alignment strategy can certainly pose a challenge. Here are our top 3 tips for aligning your sales and marketing departments for success.
1. HAVE ONE CONVERSATION
Marketers are used to being their own channels and salesfolk are used to being lone rangers, each individual focused on whatever is necessary to make numbers at the end of the month. While a scrappy, DIY approach like this is a level of resourcefulness companies often admire, in this case it’s also a recipe for sending prospects so much inconsistent messaging they’ll end up drowning in it. Think about it: a salesperson and a marketing rep with no rapport with each other trying to attract the same prospect. How many e-mails do you think that adds up to in one day? In one week?
Prospects with tons of mixed messaging are bound to have mixed feelings, so make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of how and how often products and services are being talked about. One major step in the right direction is to create a master company overview that contains everything a customer could possibly need to know about your products and services and fold it into both sales and marketing processes.
It may sound like an overwhelming amount of information, but an appropriately designed, easily navigable, conversational presentation is easier to create and easier to look at than you think. Check the toolkit below for guidance on how to create your own:
2. ENCOURAGE STORYTELLING
Defining and unifying content is one thing; talking about content is another. Once sales and marketing teams are drawing from the same pool of information, it’s important they know how and when to share it–and the latest trends are significantly different from the norm.
At last year’s Sales Stack Conference in San Francisco, Lesley Young, SVP of Commercial Sales and Sales Operations at Box, highlighted the importance of telling a story rather than heralding a list of products and features. “Our new corporate pitch…isn’t a pitch,” she said, before going on to explain how instead her company is focused on building a choose-your-own-adventure kind of narrative out of customer stories. With this information on hand, incredibly relevant stories can be told about how a customer had similar pain points to the prospect in question, and sought to remedy them.
Andrea Austin, VP of Enterprise Sales at InsideView, echoed Young’s sentiment and underlined one important spin: “In every story there should be a villain and a hero, and you need to make the customer the hero. If your story is about how you’re the hero as the technology provider, that’s not the right story.”
Making storytelling a focus of your business creates a natural convergence of sales and marketing departments, as each needs to depend on the other for a complete picture. For a general overview of how storytelling with a visual touch helps close deals, check this article by expert sales consultant, Jacco van der Kooij.
3. PROMOTE EDUCATION
It goes without saying that a company needs to make information — such as customer stories — available to all employees, but what good is that information doing if it’s not easily discoverable? Ralph Barsi, VP of Field Operations at Achievers, admitted that when he started out his career as an SDR, he had no information on the people he was reaching out to. “I was just running through a list of questions for every call.”
Not knowing how much information is internally available is a pretty common problem for companies with departments that don’t talk to each other, but if leaders and executives are advocating education, and taking the time to coach employees, teams can organically come together over shared knowledge.
“[Recognize] that you have to click down a level with your team to make sure that they’re not snapping into old behaviors or getting a little complacent,” offered Austin, who noted that a huge part of successful business is continually broadening the aperture in which customers think of you.
So, promote and share information as it comes in and make sure you’re doing it in an engaging way (hint: not with bullet points). See the prezi below for some quick tips on being extra memorable and effective.
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
At the end of the day, sales and marketing have such a symbiotic relationship by nature that talking about “alignment” seems a little silly. In fact, rather than thinking about it as alignment, the true way to go about being effective in the new age is simply to operate as one department.