3 Signs Your Sales and Marketing Team May Need Better Alignment

Chris Hawkins

Written by Chris Hawkins on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

In the mid 1990s, I managed a retail store for a furniture chain in a small Southern town. Each month I was given 20% of my total marketing budget to spend at the local level—the corporate office spent the other 80% with various mailers and themed promotions.  

During every promotion, my sales team peppered me with comments about the promotions that “corporate” was running.

  • “The merchandise advertised is too contemporary. It won’t sell in our market.”
  • “It feels like corporate is just throwing stuff against the wall.”
  • “We’re trying to be too much to too many people.”

I agreed with most of their points. There was often a disconnect between what marketing was promoting and what our market wanted to buy. Unfortunately, I only had control over a small slice of the marketing pie so we were largely at the mercy of the corporate marketing team.

Is Your Sales Team Using Your Content to Convert Customers?

It’s no surprise these two departments aren’t always well-aligned, especially within big companies. But with all of the communication tools we have now, there’s no reason SMB company’s marketing teams shouldn’t be functioning like one.

Fortunately, the concept of marketing and sales alignment has been gaining traction for the last few years. HubSpot devoted a good portion of their State of Inbound 2016 to the topic, finding that:

“There’s room for improvement on Marketing-sourced leads, but Marketing won’t know what needs to be fixed unless there’s a feedback mechanism built into the Marketing and Sales relationship. Whether it’s truly the case that Marketing is failing to deliver enough quality leads to Sales or not, marketers should be aware of salespeople’s low opinion of their work, and take action accordingly.”

Examples of Misalignment

Some of these signs may seem obvious, but our experience shows, as you’ll see below, that it’s not as obvious to some companies.

Not Doing Your Research or Educating Your Audience

One of our owners got a call from someone I’ll call “Vern.” Here’s his voicemail message:

“Hi, this is Vern, I wanted to see if you’d be interested in becoming a reseller of our software. My direct line is…"

Other than a few throat clearings, that was it. I don’t know if cold calling is dead, but I do know that if you’re calling on marketing agencies to be a reseller of your software you should be less cryptic. Mentioning the name of the company you work for and how your software might be beneficial to us or our clients would be helpful. Adding something personal and specific would at least make us not use the example as “what not to do” in a blog post.

Out of curiosity, I called Vern and  found out that he works for a company that sells an all-in-one CRM. He said they purchased a list of HubSpot partner agencies and were emailing (see #3 below) and calling to recruit partners to sell their solution.

Vern talked a lot about their company and product, but only asked me a few questions. He pointed me to a competitor comparison chart, but other than that, there were few resources on their site. No blog or long form content that their target personas might be looking for.

Not Taking the Time to Understand Your Prospect

Too often, salespeople don’t have any idea what marketing is doing (and vice versa) and it shows. The blame can’t be assigned to one or the other—they are both usually at fault because neither is communicating with the other.

Last month, a salesperson sent me an email about partnering to resell their data protection services:

Example 1

Yes we have clients and they have data, but that’s where the fit ends. This salesperson took the time to send an email and then follow up a week later. A 20-second perusal of our site would have shown we are not remotely the right fit.

Was she handed a list of prospects and told to send emails all day until she got a bite? Does marketing know sales is targeting “prospects” like us? Does sales know who their target market is? I don’t know, but there’s clearly a disconnect.  

Including Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Typically, “less is more” in sales and marketing, especially when it comes to email. However, the emails we get at SPROUT Content are usually all over the place. Some are too short and provide no context. Others resemble a James Michener novel in length and sweep.

At 363 words not including signature, the below email is the length of a short blog post. It proceeds to list everything about them and not a word about us (side note: this email blast was addressed to Dechay rather than me—but even in two subsequent personally written emails from this person, I was still addressed as Dechay).

Example 2

Example 2 (Continued)

I don’t know if this company’s marketing or sales team decided this was an ideal first email to a prospect. It came from the VP of Sales and Marketing so it’s hard to know. Either way it’s just too long.

A study of 40 million emails by Boomerang found that the sweet spot for emails is between 50-125 words. These shorter emails tested had a 50% response rate, but as they got longer, response rates dropped.  

The moral of this story is if you’re going to do a blast, keep it short. Also keep it targeted to your particular audience so the messaging resonates with that group. Speaking of messaging, more of me and less of you is better. And sales and marketing must communicate about the communications they’re sending out.

Here’s a Bonus tip:

Make sure your sales and marketing teams know each other.

Unfortunately this isn’t a joke. We’ve actually witnessed sales and marketing teams meeting for the first time in meetings. Not only should your teams know each other, they should be collaborating on efforts and aligning strategies. After all, isn’t one of the biggest goals of marketing to produce sales?

Find out more about how to better align your sales and marketing teams work stronger together through a strategic inbound marketing plan.

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