The digitally evolving world has harnessed technology and changed the way businesses engage, connect and create customer experiences across marketing, sales, customer service, product, operations and throughout the whole organisation. In this post, we will explore hybrid marketing and sales alignment.
For many businesses, an integral part of the hybrid marketing mix is the offline sales team. These are sales representatives whose job is to hunt for sales and sell with human contact, whether by email, telephone or face-to-face.
In the Marketing Inverted PyramidTM model, the sales team falls under ‘communication’ as they function as an engagement tool to connect and sell to customers.
The prevailing theme in this blog is how the customer journey is changing due to the digitally evolving world. As a result, customers’ attitude towards traditional sales staff is also changing.
More customers, even technical buyers in B2B product categories, prefer to conduct online research on their own instead of dealing with sales representatives. According to Forrester, in 2017, the percentage of customers expressing this “don’t call me, I’ll call you” preference was 68%. This represents a 28% increase over the 2015 survey just two years earlier. Only 16% said that they find interacting with a sales representative superior to self-service research.
Since customers prefer online research, digital touchpoints are more effective as marketing tools than traditional tactics, at least in the initial stage of the customer journey.
As such, there is a need for a business to have alignment between marketing and sales. In corporate speak, this is known as cross-functional alignment.
Marketing can create content and employ digital marketing tactics to engage customers and “set them up” for the sales team to do their job more efficiently and effectively. Marketing can also provide market intelligence based on data analysed to feed sales with potential leads and highlight areas to develop business.
In turn, sales can provide marketing with on-the-ground data so that marketing tools, tactics and strategy can be refined.
“The new reality is that sales and marketing are continuously and increasingly integrated. Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales need to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.
Your customers don’t want to feel like they’re being handed off from marketing to sales, and then to customer service and support. And marketing can’t afford to stand by and watch sales become invisible and irrelevant to the modern buyer.”
~ Jill Rowley, Marketo, Chief Growth Officer
According to an Aberdeen Group study, highly aligned organisations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue.
Companies with marketing and sales functions aligned enjoyed 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates, according to MarketingProfs.
So, how does marketing and sales alignment work in an organisation, and what does it entail?
 Davis, Jennifer, “Align Or Die: 4 Reasons To Align Sales And Marketing Now“, (Jul 2018). Forbes.
 Handley, Ann, “2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends“, (Sept 2015). MarketingProfs.
THE HUNTING ANALOGY FOR MARKETING & SALES
I once asked a sales team if they knew the difference between marketing and sales. One senior salesperson said that “sales earns money for a business while marketing spends money”.
Before the digital age, that statement might have some truth to it. But, this is hardly the case anymore. As discussed earlier, marketing has become much more tied to a company’s top line. While it was traditionally considered a cost centre, it has now become a profit centre.
When discussing marketing and sales alignment, I always like to use a hunting analogy.
A salesperson is a hunter. Like a hunter who knows the best way to hunt different prey, a salesperson knows the most effective way to engage and convert a prospect.
A hunter knows which weapons to employ, which bait and traps to use, and the most effective tactic to capture different prey. Likewise, a salesperson is skilled in identifying a customer’s needs, offering the best solution to a problem and convincing the customer to make a purchase.
Both hunters and salespeople are close-quarter tacticians. While they can technically perform their jobs without a broader strategy or plan, they are much more effective when supported by a team of strategists.
For the hunter, a strategist will offer a different perspective of the hunt that can benefit the hunter. The strategist can study the migration and movement patterns of the prey over time. He can analyze the physical landscape and terrain to anticipate potential new prey opportunities or threats. He can research and test different tools and weapons to see, which is the most effective.
He can even cultivate a large plantation of the preys’ favourite vegetables to attract them to a specific location. While cultivating a plantation takes time, the strategist plays the long game knowing that it will pay off when the time is right.
As you can imagine, if a hunter works off the strategist’s direction based on research, analysis and conclusions, it is safe to assume that the hunter’s capture rates will be much higher. The hunter will also hunt safer, spend less time hunting and save energy.
Likewise, a marketer serves the same purpose for the salesperson. A marketer is a strategist that can:
- Provide research and analysis on the market, customers and the competition.
- Identify markets, opportunities, define customer profiles and determine pricing strategies.
- Provide the strategy and plans for sales to use as a roadmap for the salesperson’s’ personal sales goals.
- Create marketing material such as email templates, brochures and presentation decks.
- Organize customer events, roadshows or participate in tradeshows and to give sales a live platform to engage prospects.
- Develop and market online content that educates prospects in advance.
- Build a search engine optimized website and engage in paid digital advertising to promote the company’s brand online.
- Use various hybrid marketing tactics to create awareness of the brand in the minds of prospects.
- Provide data on conversion rates and ROI on different touchpoints that allows sales to modify tactics.
- Train the salespeople to use marketing tools and intelligence to improve their sales performance.