Imagine a trade show stand, circa 1998. Sales and Marketing are all there, ready to engage with the passing trade. But whilst they’re both trying to row the boat in the same direction, their oars are out of sync. Marketing is starting conversations whilst Sales focuses on conversions. Between those two poles there is a gaping chasm – the famed ‘Sales and Marketing Disconnect’.
When Marketing and Sales get together after the show, over a drink or a bite to eat, they chat and share information openly. The disconnect dissolves.
But that was 1998, and the world was a very different place. So, from a post-pandemic, determinedly digital perspective, what does the Sales and Marketing relationship look like these days – and what is the key to resolving any disconnect that remains?
Knowing the customer: a shared endeavour
In the old model, Marketing could expect access to tacit customer knowledge at best. The invaluable customer insight Sales gleaned every day from prospects and existing accounts was not plugged into Marketing’s activities.
The inevitable result was that whilst the relationship was undoubtedly delivering many positive things, it was not always delivering the right things at the right time – that is, the intelligence and activity that would shorten the target audience’s journey from suspect to prospect, and thereafter (via Sales) to timely conversion.
Fast-forward to today, and the situation has changed radically. The line between Sales and Marketing has not only moved, but flexed, with many of each discipline’s responsibilities being at least partly assumed by the other.
Take the use of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, for example. These systems now enable data captured at the Sales coalface to be shared with Marketing and translated into insights that can help Marketing more effectively nudge each customer on to the next step of their journey – and closer to a buying decision.
At the same time, this has forced a culture change within Sales, as they must now focus on capturing that information from their customers and prospects (Where did you hear about us? How do you prefer to be communicated with? What content would be of particular interest to you?) and sharing it within the CRM. However, it’s important to understand that whilst solutions like CRM and other marketing technology (martech) tools can certainly help accelerate and improve results, they have not
changed the fundamental premise of successful marketing and selling.
This is that knowing your customer – and their pain points – is the difference between scattergun activity that delivers sporadic returns versus engaging the right targets with compelling content that builds trust and shortens the buying timeline.
On this front, Marketing is now expected to deliver more than it ever has before – and the pandemic has only intensified this.
Sales: a digital slog in a crowded market
Rewind to another year now: 2019. The pandemic wasn’t a thing. Sales could have face-to-face meetings, press the flesh, look their leads in the eye, and build trust in the time-honoured way. Digital was a critical channel, sure – but it wasn’t the critical channel.
The pandemic has seen a seismic shift occur. Digital is now dominant – and that means everybody’s on it, so it’s increasingly difficult to be differentiated.
It’s also a channel that, if not properly utilised, can be devoid of all the normal emotional cues and instinctive human connection that Sales has used to build trust since time immemorial.
What we’re also seeing is that Sales departments are now ever more depleted. The events of the last two years have meant that many organisations, particularly smaller businesses, just don’t the resources to navigate this new digital world and they need help. So, where’s it coming from?
In short, Marketing has taken over much of this mantle – and where Marketing personnel are thin on the ground too, marketing agencies have done so in their stead.
Marketing is now expected to find leads, prioritise them, nurture them, target them with powerful calls to action, and often – exploiting the natural transactional potential of the digital channel – deliver a final buying action.
Should Sales be worried?
Absolutely not. In fact, this approach takes immense pressure off Sales, who can then focus effort on the most lucrative, priority prospects.
We’ve seen many companies that were traditionally sales-led and product-led transition to this marketing-driven, customer-centric model – and the results speak for themselves.
As just one example, local company Green Building Design Consultancy says the bcm Cognitive Marketing approach ‘has enabled us to closely align data, opportunities, and messaging, creating a marketing plan that is wholly strategic, yet tailored to the interests, pain points, and decision-making preferences of each target. That converts very efficiently into
strengthened relationships and sales uplift – as our bottom line now clearly shows’.
Sales and Marketing disconnect? If you take a good look, you’ll find it. But a strategic B2B marketing partner can bridge the gap and ensure a circular flow of information within the organisation, leading to more customers, more sales and more advocates of your brand.