Smart Selling

Integrating Marketing and Sales Operations to Improve Sales

Sales operations are under constant pressure to improve sales results. Effective integration of marketing and sales is critical to producing not just a one-time performance increase, but more importantly to actually deliver sustained improvements in sales operations over the long term.

It all sounds so simple. Marketing identifies a market, creates a message to differentiate the product and selects an audience in which to deliver the message. The audience responds to the message in assorted ways, some of which are identified as opportunities. Sales interacts with the audience and turns those opportunities into deals.

It actually can be simple; maybe not three-sentence simple, but it’s not rocket surgery either.

The key is getting the parts in place first. Marketing and Sales must be “of one mind” on certain things. If they move independently, success will be piecemeal and driven more by luck than intent.

Those parts include alignment in terms of strategy, tactics, operational plan and execution. Let’s examine how these elements can bring Marketing and Sales together to achieve success.

Sales Operations Strategy

Strategy starts with agreement on what value you are delivering to your buyer. It is critical that Marketing and Sales have a common vision in terms of the value prop for the enterprise and for the individual product as well.

As an example, let’s say you are selling riding lawn mowers to homeowners.

Marketing sees the market as financially secure professionals looking for a reliable means of mowing larger pieces of property quickly. Their audience data suggests that the typical riding lawn mower owner wants to get the lawn done early enough on Saturday to get them on the golf course no later than midmorning. They expect reliable performance, simple operation and quick completion of the task at hand.

All of the marketing materials are aimed at showing how quickly the mower gets the job done, along with messaging and emphasizing low maintenance and high reliability delivered in an easy-to-use machine. They reach their audience by advertising in Golf Digest, televised tournament sponsorships and hiring a golf pro to be a spokesperson for their brand.

What happens if Sales sees this market and product differently? What if Sales sees the market as landscaping contractors? They quickly find out that their product does not offer the range of features necessary to fulfill a landscaping role. They find that their brand is nearly invisible in that marketing segment, and they are told that their product is overpriced.

This alignment is a prescription for failure. Until Marketing and Sales agree on the target market, audience and value prop, it will be difficult to find success. The other elements, tactics, operational plan and execution will suffer.

Tactics

In our example, Marketing has set up Sales with an audience of well-heeled homeowners who are looking for ways to minimize time spent on household chores. In our example above, Sales ignores this and goes down a road not contemplated by Marketing. The preferred tactic would seek to engage with the target audience.

Specific ideas would include emails contacting local subscribers to Golf Digest. Sponsoring a golf tournament at the local golf courses and country clubs would be an excellent event tactic. Local pro shops and golf suppliers would likely be happy to participate in smaller winter recreation shows perhaps featuring a mower giveaway via a raffle ticket.

These specific tactics fit like a glove with the marketing collateral produced and with the messaging related to the product.

Technology also offers considerable assistance in the tactical effort to improve sales and sales operations. CRM systems are able to segment markets by isolating prospects and customers and sharing specific attributes such as location; size, SIC or NAICS codes; department or LOB labels and other useful identifiers.

CPQ is another technology that helps sales operations match product with need and with potential buyers. CPQ maintains information well beyond price and product description. Actual usage and product application data as associated with product options and with existing users is available within the CPQ data.

If Marketing aims a campaign at electronic-device manufacturers that are looking for ways to reduce costs and grow, CRM will easily identify the prospects and customers that manufacture electronic devices in the geographical area selected. CPQ can help identify what solutions are available to reduce costs based on the knowledge known about each prospect.

Are there possible product upgrades or cross-selling opportunities within the target market? Would additional capacity aided by additional product help solve the growth issue? What are the current capabilities of the customer, and how can your product help improve sales? These questions can all be answered by CPQ to reveal potential opportunities.

Operational Planning and Execution

None of this will happen if Marketing and Sales don’t sit down together early in the planning process and share their ideas, knowledge and needs. Sales should have good input on strategy and tactics, and Marketing should be willing to listen and incorporate that input into the plan.

The finished operational plan should look like a continuous process—high-level information about the product, value and market, supporting messaging that targets the market and audience with specific actionable outcomes. Resulting contact operations are identified and planned with specific responses or follow-up actions tied to specific behaviors evidenced by the prospect.

Each of these elements should include an assignment of who is responsible for completion of the item. Some will be joint while others will be specifically Marketing or Sales.

This is what operational alignment looks like—the strategic foundation that supports a tactical structure to deliver messaging to the audience who’s most interested in what you are offering. You can improve sales and build sustained improvement into the sales operation by aligning the power of Marketing and Sales into an integrated process.

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