Sales and marketing alignment is the talk of the town these days, and rightly so. In the Age of the Customer, it’s nearly impossible to stay ahead of the competition if you aren’t delivering the kind of seamless customer experiences that only happens when marketing and sales are on the same team.

We at Kapost had talked ourselves to death about the importance of alignment—especially while working to research and write our Marketing and Sales Alignment Benchmarkso we decided to ask some of the industry’s most prominent thought leaders to weigh in on the future of alignment and sales enablement through four key questions.

Here’s what they said:

1. Why has marketing-sales alignment become urgent in the Age of the Customer?

“Marketing and sales must be aligned for successful companies today. In this Age of the Customer, customers expect and demand epic experiences on a consistent basis. They expect immediate value. With sales and marketing aligned a couple things happen: (a) segmentation is more effective and content is relevant, (b) content is created through the lens of an overarching and agreed-upon strategy, and success happens faster because everyone is working toward the same goals. The customer doesn’t care about your systems and processes—they care that you’re delivering what they want when they want it. Sales and marketing can be an incredible force to make this happen.”

—Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing, Content Marketing Institute

“It’s hard enough to get your buyer’s attention in today’s crazy busy, buyer-centric, and channel-crowded world. And if you go at those buyers with conflicting messages from sales and marketing (let alone conflicting and siloed campaigns within marketing) you’re making your own job much, much harder.”

—Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing Inc

“We’re living in the Age of the Customer where nobody wants to be marketed or sold to. Yes, marketing needs to know more about sales, and yes, sales needs to know more about marketing, but most importantly, we all need to know more about our customers. We need to know more, care more, and do more for our customers.

—Jill Rowley, Chief Growth Advisor, Marketo

“The customer is in the driver’s seat. They don’t care or even know if you consider them to be in the marketing or sales part of their journey. What they want is relevance and a consistently valuable experience with every interaction. If your marketing and sales teams are not aligned on the story they’re sharing or if they don’t know the history of the person’s experience with your company, it’s more than likely there will be a misstep which will cost you their trust and their choice to do business with your company.”

—Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist & CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc.

“Customer experience has become the most important aspect of a business today. Marketing typically focuses on the top of the funnel (lead generation), while sales focuses on the bottom of the funnel (closing deals). However, many things can take place between a lead being generated and them purchasing your product, and those things don’t always follow sequential steps. In the future, marketing and sales need to have the same view of the customer journey in order to deliver the right message at the right time.”

—Moni Oloyede, Marketing Automation Specialist, Fidelis Cybersecurity

“Customers don’t care if marketing and sales are out of sync. All they know is they experience a discordant or disconnected experience and take their attention elsewhere. Brands are in a 24/7 battle for attention, and consistency at every touchpoint is crucial.”

—Andrea Fryrear, President and Lead Trainer, AgileSherpas

“When marketers are creating content, they need to need to think more about conversion than traffic. The content needs to be about building leads, prospects, opportunities, and sales. There’s no point in driving traffic to a topic that is not helping a potential customer move through our funnel. Sales teams need to communicate with marketing so they understand the type of audience they want, as well as the needs of that audience.”

—Ian Cleary, OutreachPlus/RazorSocial

2. In what ways has the need for alignment changed in recent years, and what further changes can we expect in the future?

People have become more protective of their communication channels, whether that’s a social media feed or their email inbox. In order to gain and keep access to those vital conversations, brands have to be on point throughout the customer journey. That means sales, marketing, customer service—everybody performing in unison. As privacy concerns continue to escalate, this is only going to become more important. It only takes one off-putting interaction to lose access to a prospect or customer forever. ”

—Andrea Fryrear, President and Lead Trainer, AgileSherpas

“Technology has definitely made alignment more accessible for many companies. But the complexity of alignment has also grown (and will continue to grow) as the channels we use to reach and engage customers continue to diversify.”

—Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing Inc

“Consumers don’t have to spend time digging around in the giant content hairball that you call your online product information center. They have options. If you’re not helping them complete the task they are looking to accomplish, they’ll look elsewhere for assistance.”

—Scott Abel, Content Wrangler

“As marketing gets more and more targeted, sales can expect to receive higher quality leads as well as lot more background information on prospects. That means sales can make more informed presentations that build on what the prospect already knows, making the entire experience more gratifying for both sides. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning will also help this process, guiding prospects along their journeys with personalized, relevant, and timely content.”

—Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO, Renegade

“What I see coming is the need for even more responsiveness. Customers want answers and information on demand. This means the better we know our prospects and customers, the faster we can respond in ways that resonate to orchestrate productive engagement. By working collaboratively, sales and marketing can help each other to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel—at the right velocity.”

—Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist & CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc.

“Companies are getting better, but I think we’re in the early days of enablement and alignment practices. Alignment and enablement often require a cultural shift, which can be very hard for some companies because of weak executive leadership and employees who resist change. Companies that want the best revenue performance must have strong alignment. Executives, including the CEO, play a critical role in breaking through the inertia to make a positive change.”

—Brian Hansford, Vice President, Heinz Marketing Inc

3. What must marketers do to ensure they are enabling sales teams with the content they need?

“Marketing has to lead the way with better, more-qualified leads to help close the gap of sales-marketing alignment. Marketing has to earn the right for sales to have a conversation and they do that through more personalized and relevant marketing experiences. You can’t sell anything to anyone anymore, you have to make them want to buy and you start by earning the prospect’s trust; then you end up earning the trust of your sales team.”

—Seth Lieberman, CEO and Founder, SnapApp

“The lines between sales and marketing are fading. We need to think more in terms of togetherness and unification; not handoffs and SLAs. We need shared data, metrics, goals, definitions, content, and vocabulary. The modern sales professional is an information concierge and a content connoisseur. She educates and engages her buyers (with content) where her buyers are learning.”

 —Jill Rowley, Chief Growth Advisor, Marketo

“In order to provide sales teams with the content they need, marketers must do a better job of creating bottom-of-the-funnel content such as case studies, competitive analysis, calculators, surveys, video demos, etc. One of the fastest ways for marketing to build trust with sales is to create content that helps them prove the value of the product or solution. Marketers also need to better understand the sales process in order to provide prospects the right information at the right time in the sales cycle.”

—Moni Oloyede, Marketing Automation Specialist, Fidelis Cybersecurity

“The first thing marketers need to do is demonstrate to sales that content marketing is their best friend and not a waste of time. This means identifying enlightened sales folk who recognize the value of content and are willing to evangelize.”

—Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO, Renegade         

 

Get out of the marketing department and learn exactly what sales teams do, what motivates them, how they are rewarded, and how they are governed and funded. Then, look for synergies between sales and marketing (and support, and technical documentation, and training) and ways you can improve content experiences provided to prospects and customers alike.”

—Scott Abel, Content Wrangler

“Know your customer, that’s rule number one. Know each individual persona and know where they are in their buying journey (and/or customer journey). Also, too many marketers think of content as formal pieces like white papers and case studies. Content can be a quote, a statistic, an insight, something small but impactful. Thinking about content in smaller packages can help marketers deliver more of the right content to the sales organization to help them in more unique situations.”

—Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing Inc

 4. Any final thoughts on alignment?

“Alignment drives the best performance. Think about ‘that guy’ at the gym who lifts weights every day while wearing his baseball cap backward. He only does upper body work and ignores leg days. His upper body is chiseled and built, but his legs are skinnier than my teenage son’s. The gym rat doesn’t have alignment in his weight program and he’s only achieving 50% of his potential. Without sales and marketing alignment, powered by enablement, an organization is only achieving a 50% of its potential. Don’t skip leg day.”

—Brian Hansford, Vice President, Heinz Marketing Inc

“At the risk of sounding heretical, I think marketing and sales need to stop thinking of themselves as different teams. By creating a cross-functional Agile Customer Team that includes both marketers and salespeople we could remove alignment issues and improve customer experience. Some therapy might be required, but there’s a lot of potential in this kind of silo elimination.”

—Andrea Fryrear, President and Lead Trainer, AgileSherpas

Alignment is about more than agreeing to collaborate. It means dovetailing processes, linking systems, and choreographing the delivery of content to those who need it on whatever channel they happen to prefer.”

—Scott Abel, Content Wrangler

 

Building trust has to be the number one priority of every employee at every brand. Lose trust and you lose customers. Trust is gained by delivering on your promises at every touchpoint, before, during and after purchase. As such, Marketing and Sales must be aligned on promises made during the sales process, thus setting up the company for maximum post-sale customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

—Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO, Renegade

“The 2018 Marketing and Sales Alignment Benchmark found that 68% of marketers believe sales isn’t using marketing content to its full potential. My question is, have you taught them how to use content to their advantage? Give them cheat sheets that summarize what the content is, who it’s for, and when to use it. Provide them with email templates for a couple of different situations where the content would be well received by their buyer. Give them social media posts to help them build their personal brands and status with their networks and in the markets they sell to.”

—Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist & CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc. 

The Takeaway

Aligning marketing and sales teams is fundamentally about trust—trust between customers and brands as well as between departments. When marketing and sales don’t speak the same language or tell the same story, everyone ends up working harder while achieving less.

Interested in the numbers that inspired the quotes? Download the 2018 Marketing and Sales Alignment Benchmark for a complete look at the current landscape.

Paralee Walls

About Paralee Walls

An educator at heart, Paralee is dedicated to building a marketing operation that matters. That means designing digital experiences for every customer that engage, delight, and inform with the right content at right time. She is a guest lecturer for the Digital Creative Institute and General Assembly and contributor to Forbes, CMI, and Kapost's own Marketeer.