There are many roadblocks and hurdles that block the path for true Sales and Marketing alignment. Oftentimes it seems like the two departments are competing entities rather than members of the same team striving towards the same goals. Overcoming the obstacles that divide and cause disharmony requires a level of honest self-assessment. And, as with any exercise designed to increase collaboration and reduce friction, the first step is identifying a problem.
One of the major disconnects that occurs between Marketing and Sales is the struggle to stay consistent with branding and messaging. Developing a brand and a voice is obviously critical for every organization – Harvard Business Review reports that 64% of survey respondents cited having shared values as the reason they established a relationship with the brand – but the degree to which each department invests in this endeavor can, and does, vary.
The difference is a result of job function and sensibilities. Marketing invests hundreds of hours of hard work to develop and propagate a brand that resonates with buyers. This requires planning, research, and execution on a carefully crafted plan. The result, then, is something that Marketing is deeply invested in and cares about maintaining. Sales on the other hand is primarily concerned with meeting buyers’ needs and guiding them through their journey to ultimately close new business. These aren’t necessarily diametrically-opposed interests, but these different goals can result in inconsistencies.
Sales may not be as committed to maintaining consistent branding as they move to close deals. If a piece of content is slightly out-of-date in terms of messaging or branding but a fit for the situation they might find it beneficial to send anyways – especially with Marketing often too busy to fulfill one-off requests. As such, an understandable situation can lead to a growing rift between the two departments; Marketing starts to view Sales as too care-free and Sales views Marketing as inflexible and domineering about branding.
To resolve any potential issues here are some steps Marketing can take to keep Sales on-brand; and ultimately, improve Sales and Marketing alignment.
1) Store content in one easily accessible, searchable repository.
One of the first steps any organization can take is also one of the more difficult tasks to undertake. To ensure that every piece of content that is used externally is up-to-date, a central library needs to exist. This library should house every piece of content an organization has and would use in the future.
What makes this difficult is that very often content is housed in a number of disparate places, and attempting to track down each and every piece can be time-consuming and rage-inducing. Even beginning to try and find what systems are in place to store content can require dozens of conversations and hours of digging for files.
But the rewards for finding the content and transferring it to one centralized location are nearly limitless. For starters, Ring DNA found that sales reps spend 30 hours a month just searching for and creating content. That inability to find content is instantly alleviated with a content library, and Sales can spend time doing what they do best: selling.
In addition to saving time simply by serving as a one-stop shop for content, implementing a solution that allows for categorization and tagging further reduces the time Sales spends searching for the right piece. By properly tagging each piece of content, Sales can easily search through what may be thousands of pieces and find the right one in seconds, instead of manually combing a huge database.
Finally, a central content repository also reduces the chances that outdated and off-brand materials will be sent externally. Keeping content in only one location allows Marketing to control the message and easily replace out-of-date materials with the newest version. Thus, maintaining the integrity of their brand while delighting their sales counterparts.
2) Build content profiles for Sales.
Even with a sortable cache of content in place, it can still be a daunting task for a rep to find the right content specific to the selling situation. In large organizations sales reps will have their assigned territories, and due to their targeted focus, will have no use for large swaths of an organization’s content.
An easy way to combat this issue, and save Sales even more time, is to institute built-out content profiles. These profiles provide sales reps with a lightning-quick way to access the content that they use most – without having to wade through pages of material they have no need for.
By building content profiles for the distinctive sales roles, Marketing prevents possible cross-contamination of sending content that may have been designed for one vertical, but not be applicable to another.
Content profiles are a perfect addition to a central content library as they provide Marketing with another avenue for not only controlling branding and messaging, but also because they give Sales an easy way to access the content they need, when they need it.
3) Allow Sales to create their own one-off content.
The idea of giving Sales the power to create their own content generally send chills up the spines of marketers. With no Marketing oversight, there’s no way to monitor the content for consistent branding and messaging. Without the ability to create their own content though, Sales is stuck waiting for Marketing to hopefully find the time to fulfill a new one-off request.
To give each team what they really want, a platform needs to give Marketing the ultimate control over a piece, but allow Sales to add the personalization necessary to resonate with their buyer. Solutions like Seismic’s LiveDoc® technology allow Sales and Marketing to have this ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.
To position the greater Sales and Marketing teams to find success, content becomes a living, breathing thing. Areas of content become configurable, so that Sales can input custom information that will speak more to a buyer’s personal experiences. Suddenly, content becomes more than just a single piece, it is flexible and has the ability to be molded to any situation.
Using this solution, Marketing retains control of the areas of the content that should never be changed – ensuring consistent branding and messaging. But, they also loosen the reins on Sales and afford them the opportunity to create personalized one-off pieces that will improve their chances of closing a deal.
Sales and Marketing alignment is a difficult goal to achieve, but solutions to bridge the gap between the two departments are easier to find than you think.