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It is a proven fact that when sales and marketing cooperate, companies benefit. Shortened sales cycles, lowered market entry and sales costs are just a few of the key performance metrics that can contribute to increasing a company’s bottom line while keeping it agile.

Obviously, the disconnect, or in some cases all-out war, between sales and marketing is nothing new. Successful companies, though, have made greater sales/marketing integration a priority. For the rest, their level of future success depends on whether a peaceful resolution can be reached – sooner, rather than later.

Enter digital transformation. The recent proliferation of new technology has created a tremendous wake, leaving less integrated companies swimming in deep water. In order to help potential customers find a specific company’s shoreline, after sailing the high-seas of web-research, it will require a coordinated, team effort. Sales need to slide up the funnel and marketing needs to slide down. However, this level of interaction currently eludes many companies. Why? Unfortunately, this is a complex problem, with many moving parts. Here are a few of those challenges and some insights into how to address them.

 “89.1 percent of companies that aligned sales and marketing lead generation efforts reported measurable increases in the number of leads that converted to opportunities.” It’s also been  found by the Aberdeen Group that alignment between sales and marketing can “achieve an average 32 percent annual revenue growth over the previous year compared to an average 7 percent decline for their less well-aligned competitors.” – John Rampton

An Honest look Inside

For individual progress to occur, one must first look inward and make an honest needs assessment. So too must companies. It’s easy for an individual to reflect, but when it comes to a company, it requires multiple individuals, all coming from different perspectives and experience levels. As many companies are becoming increasingly aware, the modern sales journey of today’s buyer is demanding change – and it takes all hands on deck to keep up.

The need to for companies to identify what stage of sales and marketing integration they are in now is crucial in understanding how to proceed with a strategy that can really support today’s digital buyer.

Research suggests there are four main relationship states that can help get a handle on things. They are: undefined, defined, aligned, integrated. The main differences between each classification is the level of conflict between sales and marketing, with increasing cooperation moving towards integration.

team meeting

The Company Culture Shift

Now that you have a handle on the status of your company’s integration. It’s time to implement a strategy that can create a structure, supported by processes and systems; however, without a focused first step towards changing company culture, all the processes in the world will fall if you don’t get buy-in from your team.

At the end of the day, people are people and they need to be treated as valuable members of the team. They need to be understood and know that their opinions matter. The first step to bridging the gap between sales and marketing is building emotional bridges. One way to start: implementing a mandatory cross-team meeting structure. Hearing input from both sides can lead to a healthy discussion and will lead to an appreciation of other’s point of view and expertise.

Enabling team communication is key. Some quick wins are: creating a ‘team-email alias’ and including a shared content or promotion calendar, followed by regular brainstorm meetings that can pull ideas from a collected place, like a SharePoint.

However, leading this culture shift may not always start from the top. It can be initiated by marketing asking to be included in a sales meeting, or vice-versa. The process of change often starts with a willingness to address it – and that requires communication and an open and honest conversation with the key players involved. Being inclusive is a good start. Isn’t it time to step up and bring the team together?

“In order to support Sales successfully, it is very important to share processes, resources, and best practices from the start. Use this time to get to know each other and share how Marketing will be supporting the sales team. If you have a large number of salespeople starting, hold a monthly meeting to set these expectations and field any questions new folks might have” – Carolina Samsing

Understanding the Challenges of Centralized Marketing and its Effect upon Regional Strategies

Many factors have contributed to the reality that regional marketing control has been moving towards centralization in many companies. In many cases, this literal distance has created an artificial divide. Where regional marketing control is retained, it is often easier for sales to play a role in marketing’s strategy because they usually occupy the same office. Often the literal and figurative distance between regional vs centralized marketing places them at odds. Sellers often reject a one-size-fits-all perspective, while marketers find that branding or positioning from corporate is often ignored because it is not relevant or focused enough.

The solution: the phone. A long time ago, I was told that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In other words, the one who is repeatedly bringing an issue up will be the first in line to have it addressed. Be the squeaky wheel in this scenario. It’s all about picking up the phone and collaborating with corporate – and building the bridge. If you have suggestions or observations about how centralized marketing is failing at raising employee advocacy, then it is up to you to develop a relationship with the central marketing director to provide feedback. This not only benefits you and your team, but it moves the needle towards true marketing and sales integration.

Obviously, to tackle the complexity of this misalignment, you must break it down into three steps:
1. Define the current relationship state of your company
2. Redefine your company culture with cross-team meetings
3. Work toward aligning centralized marketing by becoming the regional ‘squeaky wheel.’