When sales and marketing work together, it results in increased productivity and profit. When they don’t, important business objectives can be missed.
Sales and marketing alignment and sales enablement are two buzzwords I’ve heard a lot lately, but what do they mean and how are they different? Why has it been a challenge in the past to get sales and marketing on the same page, syncing up to achieve common goals?
Historically, sales and marketing have been the stepbrothers of the business world, competing for the affection of their father and blaming each other for their shortcomings and missed goals.
The CEO is like the biological father of the sales team while the marketing team is like his new stepson. The CEO and sales team have a close relationship. Sales brings in new business, so it is easy for the CEO to measure the sales team’s contribution to the company. Marketing, on the other hand, spends most of its days strategizing new ways to generate leads for the sales team utilizing effective tactics—all of which costs the company. Sales makes the money, marketing spends it.
Marketing pitches their strategies to the CEO, showing how each initiative and activity is part of a larger chain that all play an important role in capturing new leads and moving them through their buyer’s journey. The CEO thinks the marketing plan is too expensive and he is skeptical that marketing’s strategy will yield the lowest customer acquisition cost (CAC) and highest ROI. So the CEO cherry-picks tactics from the chain and rejects the rest, leaving marketing with a fragmented strategy but with the same goals and expectations.
That’s when the dysfunction begins. Sales goals are not met and Dad wants some answers. The sales team blames the marketing team for delivering too few or low-quality leads. The marketing team points to their insufficient marketing budget and blames the sales team for being lazy or poor closers.
Like I always tell my kids, complaining about the problem will never lead to a solution. Cue sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment to the rescue.
Merriam Webster defines enabling as providing someone with means or opportunity or to make something possible, practical or easy. In this case, that “someone” is a salesperson or sales team and the “something” is the process of closing a deal.
For instance, let’s say Jill was recently hired in sales. She has quite a bit of experience in your industry, but not necessarily in selling. She needs tools—an email account, a phone, access to the CRM, sales scripts, and so on. She may also require training—courses, books, hands-on training and the like. The process of connecting her with these resources is essentially enablement.
Now that Jill is equipped with what she needs, she can send emails, make phone calls and start closing deals. When she understands the product, how to sell it, why the customer wants it, and what the organization values, she can make decisions that are congruent with her role and the company.
In short, sales enablement can be defined as the act of providing salespeople with the tools to make their job of closing deals easier. I recommend checking out HubSpot's detailed infographic if you’d like a deeper dive into the intricacies and definition of sales enablement.
Sales and marketing alignment—the act of aligning the goals, strategies, accountability and forces of sales and marketing—is the foundational component of sales enablement.
If sales and marketing are the stepbrothers of business, it’s not hard to see why it’s so hard to get them to align. There are several contributing factors. One is that marketing often tends to have a long-term mindset (because they’re looking to boost brand recognition and nurture leads), while salespeople tend to move at a fast pace, working hard to meet quotas.
Their roles can also be in conflict. Marketing wants to be strategic in their next moves. Sales wants to push toward quarterly goals. Some marketers tend to see lead generation as a numbers game, while sales argues it’s the quality of the lead that counts.
So, while sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment do not mean the same thing, sales and marketing alignment is an integral component to the success of a sale enablement strategy—ensuring that communication between sales and marketing stay open and transparent and that the two departments work together and share accountability to achieve agreed-upon goals.
Failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies cost B2B companies 10 percent or more of revenue per year, resulting in $1 trillion in lost revenue each year due to decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts. It’s time to get your teams oriented.
When sales and marketing teams work together to develop lead generation, demand generation, prospecting, lead nurturing, closing, customer retention and referral strategies and tools, goals and accountability align. When goals and accountability align, get ready for a more efficient sales and marketing process, happier stakeholders and a better-looking bottom line. The question is how to get there.
Every organization's needs are different and each should develop their own tailored sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment playbook, but here are a few basic steps to get you pointed in the right direction:
Sales and marketing are on the same team—they just don’t know it yet. Once they become aware of how each contributes to the other, they’ll become best friends.
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