Aligning Marketing Functions and Skills to Support Sales and Business Development

Aligning Marketing Functions and Skills to Support Sales and Business Development

One of the top priorities for business leaders is marketing. In fact, 66% of C-level executives acknowledged in a recent survey that marketing should be the primary support function for sales and new business development success. And yet, many companies struggle to ensure marketing is working in ways that are aligned with the goals of sales and new business development.

The cause is frequently well-executed but poorly coordinated marketing strategies or processes that impede progress across functional lines or siloed individual roles. So it’s not surprising that according to a recent survey by the CMO Council, the number one challenge facing marketers worldwide is aligning marketing with sales.

The reason for this? According to a survey by BAV Consulting, many companies have dedicated strategy teams or “business development managers” which work alongside the head of sales and new business development in planning out an overarching market/sector approach. But without proper coordination, their efforts can appear independent and disjointed or produce conflicting messages.

It sounds simple, but it’s not easy — as marketers know all too well. There are a number of areas where alignment between sales, marketing and other key business functions is needed:

Strategy – Strategy is the first area where an alignment can have the most impact. The sales leader for a company should serve as the head of business development – but because of their unique responsibilities, they may not be able to focus on marketing and strategy. Therefore, it’s critical that both sales and marketing work together to craft a long-term strategy for achieving the market growth goals of the company. As part of the process, they should determine if specific changes to messaging and/or new tactics may be needed to support this strategy (coming up with a fresh way to reach customers is much easier when you have input from both sides). This is an area where a clear division of responsibilities is often needed as well – the sales and marketing teams should each be responsible for communicating different aspects of this strategy to their employees.

Messaging – Next, it’s important to align your messaging and language so that it’s clear what the company is trying to achieve. The sales team should have a high-level overview of the overall messaging for all new business development activities within the year, such as which prospects are being targeted (and why) and what they can expect in terms of timing and delivery. The marketing team should be able to provide this information for all the sales, customer outreach and other new business development activities they are creating.

Coordination – Marketing skills are often needed to support sales. And according to the Aberdeen Group, 85% of companies with sales/marketing alignment reported effective collaboration between these functions — versus just 23% who did not. So it’s important for marketers and sales leaders to coordinate their activities across a range of new business development initiatives, from white papers and e-books to content marketing and social media. Members of both teams should regularly meet with each other so that they can find out what the other is working on, identify any potential redundancies/overlap between their efforts and work together to avoid them. This process also improves trust between the two departments.

Using the Differences between Sales and Marketing to Create Alignment

Sales and marketing often have completely different roles when it comes to new business development. Sales is more focused on the value of the company’s products and services, while marketing aims to tell a story about the customer experience with those products/services. But because both share a goal — to get customers to buy what they are selling — these two functions must work together in new business development activities. By aligning their efforts, a company can have a distinct advantage when it comes to competing for new customers. Here are some suggestions on how to make this alignment happen:

To build the right alignment between sales and marketing, you need to start by determining which roles of each function overlap (if any). For example, if your CEO is also the CMO, then the responsibility for crafting and delivering a long-term strategy falls squarely on both shoulders. But if your CEO delegates this to her marketing VP, it’s important that she works closely with her sales team to develop a clear understanding of what the new business goals are so that they can help meet them.

An added benefit of these discussions is that they can lead to a more cohesive vision for your company as a whole. For example, I was working with a startup when the CEO–who also happened to be the founder–took advantage of an offsite meeting opportunity to gather input from his board and key stakeholders on how he could build his sales team into the best in their industry. By bringing together people with different perspectives, the CEO was able to create a stronger sales department that played an essential role in achieving his goal of getting his company sold for a higher price in less than two years.

In terms of aligning sales and marketing, there’s no single “right way” or “wrong way” to make it happen. But the process must start with a strong understanding of each function’s responsibilities and end with a defined plan for how the two departments will work together within your organization.