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Aligning marketing with sales—before they kill each other

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As a marketer, do you ever have the feeling that you're not quite in sync with your sales team? It can be a constant struggle between best of intentions from both sides. For this month's post, I interviewed Pamela Springer, CEO of Manta, the largest and fastest-growing online community dedicated entirely to small business, about the importance of aligning the marketing and sales functions.

I came away from our discussion with three key takeaways: Marketing must be in alignment with sales; marketing needs to understand the sales cycle; and marketing needs to understand what drives customers in their decisions.

Here's our interview:

It seems obvious that marketing and sales should be aligned. So why does it often seem like such a difficult thing for most organizations to accomplish?

Springer: Tension often exists between all departments and sometimes that tension is good. But sometimes we get wrapped up in doing our own thing and forget about integrating efforts that could result in better results overall. The marketing team must understand the company's primary goals and ensure their marketing efforts are supporting those objectives. The same thing goes for sales. Neither marketing nor sales should be an island. However, sales is the revenue engine for any company and marketing must understand what role it plays in helping sales make its numbers.

What would help bring these two islands together, or at least bridge the gap between them?

Springer: First, marketing and sales need to agree on what they want to accomplish together and how that supports the company's goals. Sales is always focused on where their prospects are in the sales cycle, and how quickly they can be moved to a purchase decision. So, sales values anything that can shorten that sales cycle. For the marketing team, this translates into making tough strategic decisions.

Talk a little more about the sales cycle. What should marketing know about it?

Springer: The marketing team must consider every stage, from initial awareness through post purchase. They need to recognize where the sticking points are and create marketing initiatives to specifically address these points, which can help shorten the sales cycle while helping to build out a reference customer base.

What information would bring marketing closer to sales?

Springer: Marketing needs to recognize what drives customer decisions. What are the personas involved in the financial buying decision, the technical decision and the business decision? What criteria do customers consider when looking for a product or service? How do they compare options? Where do they get their information? Who do they talk to for information? What sources do they use for education? How do they measure or determine success after their purchase?

This all takes appreciation on both sides. You need to say, "These are the goals we have as a team. We need to accomplish X together: the sales cycle needs to be shortened, or we need to help sales reach its revenue forecast number."

From a marketing perspective, ask what the best way is to increase the likelihood that you might make that number? Are you trying to help promote the brand to drive awareness, or trying to produce actual leads for the sales team? Based upon the resources available, prioritizing what you collectively are solving will help align everyone and get marketing and sales on the same page.

Lisa Dreher is VP-marketing and business development with Logicalis Inc. (www.logicalis.com). She can be reached at lisa.dreher@us.logicalis.com, or via Twitter at @LisaDreher.

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