sales_marketing_training_silosWe’ve been talking about sales and marketing alignment for at least a decade. Haven’t we solved it already?

Well, a quick Google search reveals about 29 million results for the phrase “Sales and Marketing Alignment”, with top results like “7 keys to Sales and Marketing Alignment”, “Best Practices for Sales and Marketing Alignment” and “Secrets to Aligning Sales and Marketing”. And, most of these articles open with phrases like “Addressing the rivalry between sales and marketing…” or “Learn how you can align sales and marketing so both teams not only get along…” So it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do.

A key motivation for aligning sales and marketing is to improve sales productivity, and ultimately to generate more revenue. With sales productivity in mind, if we approach the problem differently and look at filling in gaps between the two functions as opposed to trying to align them, then we can determine what both teams need to be successful. The result should be less finger pointing and more collaboration.

Lead Content

Every lead contains essential contact information: email address, Twitter handle, phone number, mailing address, etc. This content might be purchased from a list vendor, provided by a web form, collected at a tradeshow, or acquired on the golf course.

When leads are provided by marketing, they should come with additional content such as what webinars they watched, what whitepaper they downloaded, how many pages they viewed and other behavior information. They should also come with other content, such as which messages they will be receiving in the next email and what events they will be invited to.

Numerous marketing automation platforms gather this content, but is it being provided to sales? And if it is, does sales use it? This content can be very important for sales productivity, by allowing them to reinforce the messages they have already received, and prepare them for the content they will be receiving.

ACTION: Ensure that sales is receiving this content, and that reps know how it can influence their conversation

When leads are provided by sales, they should contain similar content, such as how and where they were acquired, what product they are targeted for, what message engaged them, and what series of messages they will be presented with next.

Typical CRM platforms provide sales reps with the tools to capture this information, but is this information being provided to marketing? And if so, do they use it? This content can be very valuable to marketing to guide future segmentation and targeting efforts, so they can maximize the lead generation efforts.

ACTION: Ensure that marketing is receiving this content and that it’s used to guide future lead acquisition efforts.

Selling Content

Every B2B sale is a conversation with multiple facets. When conducting these conversations, is sales equipped with the appropriate content? This content goes beyond the collateral that marketing makes available on the web sites, or includes in emails. This content needs to tell the next chapter in the story, and help sales integrate multiple products, overcome objections and position competition.

It’s quite possible that your marketing department doesn’t have this content, or may just not have a mechanism to communicate it to the sales force. This content frequently exists in the mind of individual SMEs, product managers or practice leaders. It can also live in the heads of senior sales leaders.

Marketing may often not be aware of every step that a sales rep goes through in carrying on a conversation with a prospect, and is rarely aware of when (or if) the materials that they produce are used in the sales conversation. Sales rarely has a mechanism for providing feedback on what they are missing, or what content would have helped close the last deal.

Harnessing content from subject matter experts to support the sales conversation is less about producing the next datasheet, and more about making knowledge accessible and consumable to the sales team. Whether it’s the responsibility of someone in sales or in marketing, organizations need a systematic approach to gather, edit and distribute this content so that it’s used in the right way, for the right audience, at the right time during the buyer’s journey.

ACTION: Ensure that sales communicates what they need, marketing understands the process, and knowledge is flowing to sales.                                                                                                                                                                             

Training and Coaching Content

Sales not only needs to know what to sell to a particular prospect, but also how to sell to that prospect. There is often a rich supply of training content that has been produced to onboard new sales people, and provide updates during annual sales meetings, however it’s frequently owned by the training organization, and languishes in LMS platforms. This content could be a valuable asset to both the marketing and sales organizations, if only they had a way of extracting it, and repurposing it.

Converting long-form training curriculums into ‘bite-size’ modules gives new life to this content. It can become a mechanism for providing sales with just-in-time knowledge as they are preparing to engage with prospects. This content can range from information about product configurations and customer pain points, to reminders on how to interpret the prospect’s web behavior and engagement. Making this content accessible (and mobile-ready) improves sales reps’ efficiency as they engage with prospects, boosting sales productivity.

ACTION: Convert training curriculums to modules to provide sales with just-in-time training and coaching.

Conclusion

By focusing on the content of the sales process, and the way in which content flows from sales, marketing and other departments within your organization, the challenges of aligning marketing and sales become less contentious.

The key is to assign someone with the responsibility for creating, repurposing, organizing and sharing sales content to fill in the gaps. You might call them content architects, content engineers, sales enablement managers or give them similar titles. They may report in to sales or marketing. The title and department are not as important as the job description – responsibility for sales content governance and keeping communications open between sales, marketing and other teams.

Once lines of communication are open and focused on knowledge-sharing, instead of criticism, all parties become more willing to collaborate toward the ultimate goal –healthy, growing revenues and company success.