Why Sales & Marketing are Better Together (Guest Blog)


We've all heard how the buying process has changed. Information about products and services is freely available through any hand-held device with the swipe of a finger. Sales no longer has the option of withholding information to draw closer to the customer, and few customers respond positively to hardcore, in-your-face selling tactics. The role of sales is different, but it’s no less important.

Marketing’s role has changed even more drastically, forcing it to evolve beyond pretty words and pictures. Marketing has a responsibility to define markets, develop prospects into qualified leads via ongoing engagement, provide sales with the tools they need to show products in their best light, and connect these efforts into measurable marketing influence of closed sales. Sales needs marketing to do these things well so they can focus on building relationships and closing deals. Both claim to work towards the sale of a company’s products and services, and both work to provide proof of their execution.

Stop Blaming. Start Collaborating.

Often however, neither wants to shoulder the blame when performance falls short. In today’s world, it is even more important that sales and marketing work together to maximize revenue achievement. Aligning these two groups is an ongoing challenge, and all too often, alignment is tentative at best. They may act like they get along, but the reality is two separate operations. Each works on its own terms, develops its own strategies, and sets its own goals. This mode of operation, especially in relation to how customers buy today, is not sustainable. Never has this been more so than in the complex buying decisions in aerospace and defense. Many times the cultures in these industries are such that acknowledging there is a sales and marketing misalignment issue is something they don’t want to admit. 

Sales isn’t Selling.

Here are a few troubling statistics gathered from around the global sales and marketing research community:

  • 67% of sales professionals do not achieve their personal sales quota. (The TAS Group)
  • 60% of sales pipeline is stuck with no decision pending.  (Sales Benchmark Index)
  • Only 25% of sales leads and collateral that marketing creates is ever used by sales teams. (IDC)
  • Less than 35% of a sales rep’s time is spent on selling. (CSO Insights)
  • Almost 78% of newly hired sales reps take 6 months or longer to become fully proficient at selling. (Accenture)
  • Over 30% of sales reps spend between 20 and 50% of their precious selling time looking for, creating or modifying marketing content. (Peter Strohkorb Consulting International)

Says Peter Strohkorb of Consulting International, “As with every journey, the first step is the most important one. The first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Because denial is the No. 1 enemy of success.”

Speak the Same Language.

An important place to start this alignment is an agreement on basic terminology. Throughout the customer life cycle, there are many inflection points that must be defined; what’s the difference between a lead and a qualified lead, what does sales require to accept the lead, what is required for sales to open an opportunity, what happens to leads/contacts that aren’t accepted and what happens when an opportunity closes as lost? It is remarkable how many different definitions there are for the term “lead.” It can mean very different things for sales than it does for marketing. Coming to agreement on what it means for both can substantially impact the value such a “lead” provides when generated. These definitions will go a long ways towards the beginning of alignment. 

Account-Based Marketing.

Another point of contention is that sales generally operates on accounts while marketing is focused on individuals (it’s difficult, if not impossible, to send emails to accounts). Account-Based Marketing is a strategic and technology-based approach that enables marketing to align with the sales approach. It can be executed as simply as managing marketing contacts based on accounts or as complex as creating specific messaging and execution for each account. For most aerospace companies though, there is typically not enough budget or personnel to manage separate messages for each account. Account-Based Marketing is a broad topic and an article unto itself. For more detailed information, visit SiriusDecisions.

We Both Want the Same Thing, Right?

Measurement is an area where mutual agreement is essential. Your scorecard must reflect one set of measurements for both sales and marketing, and not separate metrics that compete with one another. Both sides must be accountable. Marketing is generally measured on leads created while sales is measured on revenue produced. In reality, the only thing the C-suite and shareholders care about is revenue. Creating leads is a measurement for marketing, but it should not be a key performance indicator (KPI) included on the scorecard. Marketing must be able to tie its efforts to the revenue being generated and be held accountable for it. Examples of good marketing KPIs are Marketing Influenced Revenue and Marketing Influenced Opportunities Opened. This is often a massive cultural shift for the organization, but the only way marketing can truly align with sales and become a recognized revenue influencer. Never has it been more important to work together towards the same goals. Occam’s Razor is an excellent resource for learning more about connecting measurement and metrics.

Editor’s note: We agree that direct linkage to revenue is the ultimate goal, but also acknowledge that it may be a bridge too far for some aerospace and defense companies today. For beginners, lead-generation metrics are a good place to start and an important step in the right direction. It’s worth noting, though, that our guest blogger disagrees. “Lead gen alone doesn't take it far enough because it places marketing in a cost center role rather than a revenue role. Therefore marketing can't get a seat at the table to justify more spend. It's a vicious circle. Marketing has a bigger role to grow into for said alignment than sales does. No doubt it is a major cultural shift but one that is necessary to earn respect in the business.”

Data is Key.

The key for marketing being able to show revenue contribution is to connect data from all efforts into a combined system, and align with sales throughout the opportunity pipeline. Marketing technology development has evolved to the point where most online and many offline activities can be tied digitally into a central database. These data points can drive near real-time marketing execution that enables marketing attribution and prove their influence and involvement in revenue generation. For enterprise-level companies, Marketo and HubSpot are highly rated marketing automation platforms that can tie marketing efforts into CRM systems such as Salesforce. For small to medium-sized businesses, Infusionsoft and SharpSpring are affordable alternatives. Chiefmartech.com provides a comprehensive overview of a continuously growing marketing technology landscape.

Keep Talking.

Once definition agreement and strategic alignments have been reached, technology connected and measurements structured, a constant feedback loop of review, evaluation and adjustment between sales and marketing teams can further align the teams. What’s working, what’s not working, how can we improve further? Regular meetings as well as jointly developed service level agreements further cement alignment and the chances of future success.

Sales and marketing teams, when they collaborate poorly, are harming not only themselves but the entire organization. The blame game has to stop and there are no easy solutions. The framework provided above is an excellent beginning. As Peter Strohkorb further states, “Whilst marketing continues to operate without the direct engagement of the sales force they will continue to offer hit and miss initiatives. Only when marketing and sales work together will these two groups succeed.”  

Thank You.

BDN thanks guest writer Mike Turner for contributing to our understanding of the changing sales and marketing process.

A 30-year veteran in marketing and aviation, Mike has seen the sales and marketing disciplines evolve with changes in customer buying habits. Working at aircraft OEMs and top service providers has provided him with unique perspectives on the complex buying processes associated with aircraft purchase, service and modification.

Mike believes life is about creating, learning, teaching and helping others grow. He’s a builder who creates the resources, tools and relationships to help others grow and build their business and personal goals. We invite you to connect with or contact him directly.