How to align sales and marketing through positioning

Is there a disconnect between your marketing team and sales? Do sales team members love your presentations or do they complain about them? What about the leads you create? Do they jump all over them?

I have been asking sales consultants for the last month whether they have ever worked with a B2B software company that has alignment between sales and marketing. I have yet to get a “yes” answer but instead they say it’s a problem that does not have a solution until the structure of sales and marketing is blown apart. Then reconstructed in a way that sales and marketing become a cohesive team that works together rather than at odds with each other.

No one thinks the “I hate marketing” attitude of sales will change anytime soon. Nor the “they don’t follow up on our great leads” attitude of marketing towards sales.

May I suggest that there is an obvious and logical way to improve relations between sales and marketing. Actively and aggressively involve sales in your positioning efforts.

Think of positioning as a consensus building exercise to get as many stakeholders as possible – especially sales – to buy into the position your team creates.

When to involve sales

You can involve sales in the three stages of the positioning process – information gathering, brainstorming and execution. When those in sales know that their opinion matters, they’ll give you useful information that you probably can’t get anyplace else.

Sales team members are in the best position to provide the unvarnished truth about your product because it is right in the middle of where your marketing and reality meet. It is your direct link to the battlefield where your product clashes with the competition, so pay close attention to the intelligence you receive from the battle front.

Who is the target buyer? Good sales professionals can quickly describe to you the ideal prospect, often in startlingly plain language. They can tell you who your competitors really are, why you win and lose, shedding light on the sales process and how your message strategy can help it. They’ll be able to tell you the truth about product strengths and weaknesses.

Start your research with sales

By making a few calls to some of your best sales professionals, you’ll quickly get a sense for the target buyer’s most pressing problems and ways you might position your product. In fact, if you are under a tight deadline, it may be the only information you have time to gather, but at least it comes from the source closest to the action.

From your sales team, you can gather most of the information you need to position effectively including:

  • Customer problems
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Ideal customer profile
  • Challenges in the sales process
  • Why you win and lose

By actively engaging with sales, you’ll understand the sales process in detail, as well as in context, enabling you to identify marketing communications requirements and opportunities at each stage of the sales cycle. This knowledge helps you match your marketing effort to how prospects actually buy your product or service. And you’ll be able to select the marketing tools that best support and enhance the sales process: web seminars, white papers, blogs, web product demos, brochures, product spec sheets, and ROI sales tools, to name a few.

Once you’ve developed a draft message strategy, informally test it with sales. By continually seeking input and feedback during the formative stages of message strategy development, you’ll demonstrate to the sales professionals selling your product that their opinion matters – and you’ll be cultivating an ongoing source of valuable market intelligence at the same time.

Conclusion

If there’s a disconnect between your sales and marketing teams, neither will reach their full potential.

A positioning process that puts sales in the middle of the effort demonstrates your recognition of the sales’ importance and is bound to improve relations. It will invigorate sales team members by making them feel that their input counts. They’ll open up, allowing you to tap into their real-world knowledge and experience. You get better, more useful information, and they get better ammunition to win the sales battle.

Now everyone’s got to love that!

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