It's all about the brand
One of the things I love most about my job is how our clients let us get all up in their business and observe the inner workings of their company. As a Technology Branding firm converting tech talk into brand love, we can't tell our client's brand story unless we're able to dig deep, ask lots of questions and understand why their customers love them. One of the most rewarding parts of our Brand Assessment process is analyzing the relationship between our clients' sales and marketing departments.
When sales and marketing really click, it's magic — and it's great for business.
Sales and marketing commonly approach the same business objective from opposing perspectives: Marketing is strategic, proactive and process-driven. Sales is tactical, reactive and relationship-driven. Marketing deals with customer archetypes. Sales deals with actual customers. Marketing generates leads and sales closes deals.
When the two departments have a shared understanding of executive expectations and a can jointly articulate the brand story in pursuit of a common goal, each complements the other and their oft-adversarial relationship becomes mutually beneficial.
A business challenge as old as business itself
Sales and marketing alignment is a business challenge as old as business itself. The day after primitive engineers invented the wheel there was a fight between the cave artist who wanted to pull customer in with a grand painting and the sales guy who wanted to push the wheels out to the tribe and see what he could trade them for.
From cave paintings to newspapers to automated marketing platforms; rolodexes to CRMs — the tactical tools have changed over the years, but the role of marketing and sales and the dynamic relationship between the two has remained largely unchanged.
Based on our experience, here's how innovative tech companies can put sales and marketing alignment to work to grow their brand and create love connections with their customers.
1. Start with the customer
Der. Of course it's all about the customer. It always has been. However, the most significant change affecting both marketing and sales is the level to which the consumer drives the buying process and influences the brand identity. The marketplace has moved from caveat emptor to caveat venditor. This changes how you need to market and how you need to sell. Most importantly, it keeps business honest.
Both marketing and sales are two-way conversations with the consumer. Marketing can't get away with putting lipstick on a pig any better than sales can get away with selling lemons.
Beyond simply understanding your customers' needs — having measured, meaningful conversations with your customers can pay big dividends. Something we've noticed too often for it to be a fluke is our clients' customers tell us things they won't tell our clients. As a third party with a less partial outside perspective, we're able to get customers to open up, share why they love you and why they're loyal. They'll also share their concerns, disappointment and uncertainties. Customer interviews reveal new insight, expose weaknesses, affirm strengths and lay the foundation for telling a genuine brand story that will attract new customers.
The marketplace has moved from caveat emptor to caveat venditor
2. See the C-suite
Brand Assessment starts at the top. The CEO is the boss for good reason. They see the big picture, drive the company vision and set department goals. But if sales and marketing don't buy in to those goals or have the resources and motivation to meet them, the company vision will remain precisely that — a vision, always just out of reach.
Recently while conducting a Brand Assessment, we separately interviewed the CEO, sales team, marketing team and customers. The CEO shared their clear, bold vision for where they wanted to take the brand, replete with new vertical markets. However, the sales team interviews revealed there was no salesperson dedicated to these new verticals and no incentives for the sales staff to sell into these new verticals. Selling into these aspirational verticals meant a longer sales cycle, higher cost of sale and lower close rate.
That's a classic corporate stalemate. The Brand Assessment identified that any branding effort focused on these aspirational verticals would ultimately fail unless either the sales department was incentivized to incur the additional risk or the C-suite adjusted their vision.
3. Sit down with sales
We love salespeople. They're renegades. They're straight shooters. If they think the CEO is full of it, they'll tell us. Their job security comes from being demonstrably good at their job and they can track the revenue they generate down to the penny.
A common frustration marketing folks have with sales folks is that sales will ignore marketing. They won't get with the program, toe the corporate line and sometimes won't even use marketing materials.
Sales people are tigers and trying to change their stripes is as unnecessary as it is impossible. Rather, the renegade spirit, energetic drive and tight customer relationships of the sales team can be harnessed to craft effective marketing pieces (that they'll actually use). It's critical to engage the sales team long before any marketing materials are created and keep them engaged throughout the process. This does not mean the marketing team becomes order-takers for sales. Instead, sales and marketing alignment can get the departments out of their silos, on to common ground, and sharing mutually and measurably in the success of the company.
4. Set the mark for marketing
Marketing folks are our kind of people. They're dreamers. They're passionate brand advocates and voracious learners. Their job performance is measured using a combination of hard metrics, like how many qualified leads they generate, and soft metrics, like how they build brand equity and influence future sales.
Our clients' in-house marketing people are the lifeline between their company's innovative technology and the customer whose lives it improves. They understand buyer personas, have their finger on the pulse of the C-suite and continue to explore bold ways to reach new audiences.
The people who do marketing for technology companies have their work cut out for them.
In early stage innovative tech companies, many engineers hate marketing
and view it at best as a necessary evil and at worst as completely unnecessary. As engineers become sales engineers, they can carry this prejudice to their new office.
A common frustration sales has with marketing is that marketing efforts are not relevant to how sales people do their jobs. A recent study found that 65% of sales staff could not find appropriate marketing materials to send to prospects.
Marketing reaches for the stars while sales is gobbling up the low-hanging fruit.
Sales and marketing alignment improves company culture and drives growth
The key to getting along with others is to learn how we're similar while respecting how we're different. This thinking applies perfectly to sales and marketing alignment. The two departments have more in common than they'd think. Good marketing people crave accountability and want to prove their worth. Good sales people are passionate and want to help articulate the brand story.
When innovative tech companies can see their marketing team as revenue generators and their sales team as brand advocates, it can break down the long-standing barriers between the two departments, improve company culture and boost the bottom line.
Sales and marketing alignment shortens sales cycles, makes tracking marketing efforts easier and builds brand equity. Each department and the company as a whole benefits when sales and marketing can work together to define buyer personas, understand the customer journey and tell a compelling brand story.
Assessing sales and marketing alignment is not a pass / fail equation, it's a spectrum. Wherever your company falls on that spectrum, addressing and assessing your sales and marketing alignment is a good investment.
So get out there and sell, sell, sell. Market, market, market. But most importantly — brand, brand, brand.
About Toolbox Creative:
Toolbox Creative is a B2B technology branding firm. We speak Engineer, translating complex technologies and bridging the gap between the science of science and the art of selling it. We convert tech talk into brand love and connect tech companies with their customers.
We are on a mission to help technologists, innovators and engineers prove how their big ideas and innovative technologies can change the world.
Our Brand Engineering process empowers technology brands to take on the dominant players in the field. We help innovative technology companies look and sound as good as they truly are, increase their brand equity and grab market share.