Sometimes sales and marketing departments are like oil and water. No matter how much leadership shakes them up, eventually they'll return to their isolated state.
This isolation can have serious impacts on an organization's bottom line. Even if the revenue produced isn't necessarily "bad," it's certainly not performing to its fullest potential. However, when sales and marketing alignment is acheived, the results can lead to real, sustainable revenue growth (and happier employees).
So how does one blend these two departments successfully? Many would argue there are lots of ingredients needed to make this happen. I believe the most important of these is the simple, soft skill of listening. The sad fact is that most marketers and sales reps fail at the fundamental act of listening because they're too stressed by quotas, too focused on the company's message or perhaps not sure how to go about listening to those that buy from them (here are some tips).
Keeping that in mind, here are 5 ways sales and marketing departments can listen to both the market and each other to produce killer marketing & sales performance!
Do you know what your customers think about your product or service? If you do know, how do you know? Sometimes companies assume that their customers would take the initiative to tell them how they feel, and sometimes, companies fail at checking in with their customers for fear of what they'll discover. Both of these reasons are not only dangerously naive, but potentially fatal as well. Marketing needs to provide your customers an easy and consistent method in which to voice their opinions. An annual or quarterly survey that your customers can complete anonymously is a simple and effective way to gain critical data.
A few well-placed questions in a customer survey can reveal some incredibly valuable things, such as:
- Why they're happy/unhappy with your product/service
- Potential items and services to up-sell
- Trends revealing potential directions for product/service development
- Where to extend strategic partnership efforts or develop new client-centric programs
- ...and more
When marketing performs customer surveys on a consistent basis and shares the findings with sales, both departments become aware of the organization's strengths, weaknesses and potential direction for growth. Sales can also land some quick wins by following up on immediate opportunities. In short, by listening to your customers in this way, both marketing and sales can begin to develop a unified vision while adding substantial revenue through cross-selling and up-selling.
When your sales team wins a deal or loses an opportunity, do you know why? Experienced Sales Managers will tell you that simply asking your sales reps what happened does NOT count. "Oh, I think right now is just not the right time for them to buy," or "The owner said he chose another direction but will keep us in mind," or even, "They told me they found a cheaper product/service." Okay, that's nice to know but why is now not the right time? Why did they choose another direction? Why did they choose the cheaper product/service? Why, why, why?!
By developing a process (preferably automated) for a win/loss analysis to be performed when deals are won or lost, you can begin to listen to the real reasons the prospect made their decision.
This can be done by sending out an automated win/loss survey or, as some organizations prefer, by having a member of their marketing team follow up with the prospect to answer the survey questions via phone call.
Either way, the trends presented by this data will uncover the strengths and weaknesses within their sales process, value proposition, marketing collateral, sales-to-support hand off and many other things - ultimately allowing them focus on waht matters most to the customer. And what matters more than that?
Consultation & Support Surveys
Whether you deliver a product or service, there's typically a support and/or consultation component to it. Knowing what your customers think about this facet of your business is incredibly important, as it directly affects the likelihood of them continuing to buy from you. Also key is your ability to "strike while the iron is hot," following up with them immediately after the support/consultation has been completed.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to automate follow up emails containing a link to a satisfaction survey.
We've all seen this technique when working with our everyday vendors, like cell phone service providers, utility companies and online shopping websites. The data gathered here provides real time insight into the perceived value of the services and product you offer. When sales and marketing have continual access to data, they have the ability to do great things.
For example, marketing can follow up with those customers who are extremely satisfied to get testimonials or even complete a case study. Sales can follow up with those same customers to uncover a couple referrals or perhaps up-sell while the vibes are good. If the feedback is bad, both sales and marketing can work together with that customer to best determine what might create a more positive experience for them.
Social Media Monitoring
More of a passive (yet effective) listening technique is social media monitoring. Monitoring your customers and, target market and specific key words on social media is smart for the following reasons:
- It helps you become an authority - providing your brand's answers to market problems
- It helps you manage your reputation - responding to potentially poor sentiment within the market
- It helps you deepen customer engagement - granting them more channels to voice their opinion and ask questions
- It helps you fill your sales funnel - discovering new prospects with problems you can solve.
No company can control social media (or even governments for that matter), which makes it a bit of a slippery slope. However, ignoring or avoiding social media is not the answer. Companies must actively engage in it, steering the ship as best they can. SaaS marketing products like Hubspot, Hootsuite and others are a great way to do this.
A careful and proactive approach to social media will help contribute to greater sales and marketing performance.
Sales & Marketing Alignment (for Improved Communications)
Do your marketing and sales teams talk to each other? Do they have a consistent time, location and method for sharing insight? Ad hoc communications between marketing and sales teams may be helpful in the short term but they don't necessarily contribute to a shared, long-term vision between the two - which is a must for killer marketing and sales performance! Even if your company's sales and marketing teams are very small, don't assume their daily interactions are enough to properly align them.
There needs to be a standing meeting for them to focus on the data and findings they've uncovered. This is critical for three reasons:
- It helps them stay productive, knowing that there is a time and place for them to share their team's insight. Ad hoc meetings might help immediate campaigns but can be very distracting in the long run.
- It helps them focus on what matters most, knowing they have a set time to deliver the insight the other team needs most.
- It creates a stronger unity between the two teams by consistently revealing their joint wins and losses.
Listen, Align & Conquer...
An absolute must-have skill for greater sales and marketing performance is listening. By consistently listening to the market and each other, both teams will sculpt a more holistic view of "why." Why they're successful, why they're unsuccessful and why their roles matter in the success of the company (as well as the other team).
Start listening and start growing!