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20 Jul 2016

How sales and marketing must work together to deliver results: tips from the front line of B2B selling

Post by: Joe Wilkins, Flume Trainer & Coach

At a recent B2B sales and marketing conference I had the pleasure of meeting a truly diverse range of sales and marketing professionals, all united by a common goal – to achieve the best possible results in their roles. This blog will look at how both sales and marketing must work together effectively if we want to get the best results for ourselves and, crucially, our clients and customers.

I took part in a series of round table discussions focused on sales and marketing alignment. I wanted to find out what was stopping salespeople and marketers working together effectively and come away with actionable tips on how to go about changing it. This blog post is the outgrowth of that and I hope you find it useful.

The best place to start is to outline my view of the primary challenges faced by salespeople and marketers today. Below are the beliefs that underpin this blog entry and Flume’s entire existence – see if you recognise what I’m describing:

  • B2B clients are buying differently now than they were five years ago; decisions are taking longer with more people involved than ever before.
  • The “decision maker” is hard to pin down and, even when we do, they are not always as influential as we hope. They share the decision-making burden with other stakeholders; everyone wants a say and a single “no” could be enough to scupper the deal.
  • Clients want to make the best decisions and achieve the best outcomes. In this context, the least risky decision for clients (from their perspective) is to stick to whatever they are doing currently – their “status quo” – rather than making new decisions which they are not sure will work.

All of the above feeds into my central argument about sales and marketing alignment; sales and marketing must work towards shared goals.

Both functions want to win the client’s business but this requires the client to “buy” or commit in some way. We therefore need to make sure that our sales and marketing approach helps our clients to buy from us and doesn’t (even unintentionally) hinder this. Everything we do, across all client-facing business functions, must help the client choose us.

So far, so obvious, right? However, in Flume’s experience, we hear a lot of talk about sales and marketing alignment but, in reality, these functions can often be working to different, or even completely opposing, goals. When this happens, clients will often see conflicting messages from sales and marketing, confused or disjointed pricing and a dizzying array of options which doesn’t help them make the right choice (to name a few bad outcomes). This has to change if we want to help clients buy from us and leads me to the first rule of sales and marketing alignment:

Rule 1: Sales and Marketing should work towards the same unifying goal(s).

The most powerful shared goal that salespeople and marketers have is to help their clients achieve the best possible results. This is the only outcome the client cares about and our success in communicating this will dictate whether the client chooses to buy or not. Striving for this together will help you win new business, retain clients and grow accounts. Ignore this and clients will find it easier to stick with what they know, work with your competitors or do nothing.

Rule 1 is the foundation stone of everything that follows. Here are the other fundamental rules that we see working on the front line as well as a few tactical tips and ideas for how to get sales and marketing working together more collaboratively:

Rule 2: Understand and empathise with one another.

A lack of understanding can breed resentment between sales and marketing. This might sound overblown but I’ve seen it first hand and it is not pretty or productive. Put simply, if salespeople don’t know what marketers do or why they exist (and vice versa) then they aren’t going to work together very effectively.

Consider these tactics to help build understanding and empathy:

  • Sit sales and marketing teams together – you’re working towards the same gaol after all. Why not see and hear how the other half do it.
  • Run joint training sessions – focus these on your point of collaboration; getting your clients the best results.
  • Blitz days – there is no better way of empathising with the “other lot” than spending some time in their shoes. Follow Flume’s tips for making Blitz Days work for your clients by reading our blog post here.
  • Build client personas together…

Rule 3: Communicate in ways that you can both understand.

Often, it feels like Sales and Marketing are speaking different languages but the reality is that we need to communicate in ways that work for the intended audience. This might require salespeople to actually read those lovingly-prepared marketing reports. It might mean marketers setting time aside for salespeople to share their sales stories in ways they find easy to communicate. The simple truth is that it is easier for us to adapt the way we communicate to others than to ask them to adapt to us.

Tactics to help sales and marketing communicate more effectively:

  • Provide agendas for meetings and stick to them. Agree action points and make sure attendees have done whatever preparation is necessary for everyone to make the most of the meeting. Avoid meetings for their own sake. Be adaptable and try out new approaches to running meetings from time to tome to keep it fresh.
  • “Testimonial time” – incentivise the gathering of testimonials and client stories.
  • Conduct structured interviews with salespeople to extract their sales stories. This will help marketers (and the wide business) translate these stories into content, adapt their messaging or drive product development.

Rule 4: Build a common understanding of your clients’ typical buying journey.

Every lead is precious and should be treated with care. It’s therefore important that everyone has visibility on where the client is within their buying journey and how to progress them to the next stage. Work together to map your typical client’s buying journey and think about what needs to happen to progress the client to the next stage. What will the message(s) need to be at each stage? Who is best-placed to deliver it? Let’s move away from the idea of MQLs and SQLs and instead agree how the sales and marketing process needs to be in order to positively influence client decision-making.

Tactics to build a common understanding of the client’s buying journey:

  • Come together and agree what this typically looks like. Keep it simple. Try to remove your own biases and focus instead on building a clear-eyed view on how your clients go about making purchasing decisions. Don’t forget that many clients will be starting in their “status quo” – doing whatever it is they do currently (which could be nothing) – and so the first step on their buying journey will be understanding why they should change in the first place.
  • Build a shared library of sales and marketing collateral and content that is specifically designed to help progress clients along this journey.
  • Bring clients together to talk about how and why they make decisions.

Rule 5: Build a shared sales and marketing culture.

It’s quite common to focus on the outputs we want to achieve such as financial results or KPIs but it is the approach that we take that drives these outputs. One way of thinking about this is to consider the behaviours we need to be living and breathing in order drive the results we are looking for. Focus on the behaviours that your clients would need you to demonstrate in order to choose you and you will have the building blocks of a shared culture.

Tactics to build a shared culture:

  • Find research or conduct your own into the behaviours that your clients want you to be living and breathing.
  • Use peer-to-peer recognition tools such as ly which encourage your workforce to recognise when their peers are living the right behaviours and provide them with points that can be redeemed for prizes each month. One major benefit is that recognition and incentivising is taken out of the manager’s hands and passed on to your sales and marketing teams instead.

Not convinced, need to convince others or just want more information on where our beliefs have come from? Download Flume’s Sales Framework for see our take on what’s changed in sales and the sales beliefs, behaviours and skills that are working today.

The Flume team are here to help so if you would like to get in touch you can contact us here.