Social media and new channels are shifting the balance of power in sales relationships, and many chief marketing officers (more than half, according to an IBM study) are ill-prepared to handle this shift.
But the challenges are not insurmountable. Companies that transform their sales and marketing alignment can take advantage of these changes—and increase market share and profits.
Greater alignment creates a superior position to sell products and services with a solutions-oriented perspective, which in this era supersedes features- and benefits-based marketing.
Consider these four benefits:
- Effective offerings based on customer priorities and buying preferences, as well as value to the seller;
- Value propositions that articulate benefits and differentiation while linking offerings and price to uncover and reinforce mutual value;
- Consistent delivery of customer promises; and
- The ability to identify future opportunities to increase mutual value.
Prospective buyers are often signaling intent in venues far removed from face time with a sales rep. They're posting clues to what—and how—they want to buy on Twitter, Facebook and other nontraditional sales channels.
Companies need to meet buyers' high expectations and provide tailored solutions that deliver value. Of course, saying you offer customized solutions is different than delivering them. We find that only companies with sales and marketing alignment can consistently define and sell customized solutions.
From Alignment to Value to a Done Deal
Value Based Selling (VBS) is a key element in ensuring that companies can deliver solutions based on customers' true needs. However, VBS requires focused alignment between sales and marketing that, in turn, depends on shifting away from a marketing approach based on product features and benefits in favor of an approach that markets solutions.
Successful sales organizations are structured around customer needs, with account segments that include industry, customer size, total opportunity and important criteria like the aforementioned buying processes and preferences. Effective segmentation indicates key points of alignment.
However, traditional divisions between marketing and sales don't foster coordinated strategy and execution. Typically, marketing defines a strategy, develops a value proposition, executes a series of campaigns, and hands off collateral and leads to sales; often leaving sales to pursue poorly qualified leads. As for a lead-nurturing program, it often doesn’t exist or is inadequate.
So how can sales and marketing improve alignment—or align at all?
The best way to deliver value starts with bringing the marketing and sales organizations closer together in the planning process, starting with customer insight.
Marketers with a firm grasp of the issues, influencers, and decision-makers for each customer segment are positioned to develop strategies and content that enable their sales counterparts to communicate and deliver the company’s unique value.
The marketing team needs to enlist and enable the sales team to gain and provide insight. Ways to do this include roundtables with sales (in-person or virtual), participation in account team meetings or review of account plans, or win/loss reports. Marketing can develop value propositions and messaging that reflect customer needs, and enable the sales team with tools and collateral that reflect these insights.
No One Said It Would Be Easy
Though it’s essential for companies to align marketing and sales, it's obviously not a snap to do so.
For instance, who is accountable for customer messaging? In a product-oriented world, content development is left to a product marketer, but in a solutions-oriented world, a segment-marketing professional—whose perspective is aligned with segments instead of products—handles content development.
Additional challenges include knowing who will lead sales enablement, the amount of flexibility sales teams need to tailor value propositions, and how sales and marketing will collaborate on lead nurturing with a customer who's not ready to purchase. Overcoming organization inertia can be another enormous hurdle.
But in markets where social media is flourishing and new channels proliferate, sales and marketing alignment—and the value-based selling model that comes with it—is no longer optional.
This blog post originally appeared on CRM magazine’s website: http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/Web-Exclusives/Viewpoints/Improving-Marketing-and-Sales-Alignment--89672.aspx