Overcoming the Sales & Marketing Disconnect: A Conversation with Stacey Danheiser

December 06, 2017

Posted by ljmcnitt. Published in Tips and Tactics

Stacey Danheiser led strategic marketing and sales enablement at Level 3 Communications, Janus Capital Group, Nordstrom Bank and Charter Communications. After 15 years in the corporate world, she started SHAKE, a B2B marketing firm specializing in helping companies communicate their value in the telecommunications, financial services and technology industries. In preparation for the BMA Colorado December Keynote, Align or Die: Getting Marketing and Sales to Deliver Value for the Customer, Stacey shares her insights on how marketing professionals can overcome the disconnect between marketing and sales.

Why do you think so many businesses struggle with aligning sales and marketing?

Marketing and sales alignment has been an issue for a long time, and we are still in the infancy in remedying it. Generally there are four reasons why misalignment occurs:

Economic differences: These include budget allocation and resources. Often tension arises because sales is not involved in the marketing budget process nor do they need to agree with how the budget is allocated. For example, they might rather take budget and hire another salesperson vs. spending it on a trade show.

Goals and incentives: When you ask marketing how the sales team is doing and whether quota is obtained, they often don’t even know. They are measuring KPIs that do not connect back to the impact on sales, and therefore, the goals are not aligned.

Cultural differences: Marketing and sales often have differing viewpoints of their role specific to the customer. Marketing is long-term focused, while sales is focused on the short term. Marketing is looking at a large segment of customers, while sales is looking at one or two accounts. Sales is under more pressure to get answers quickly, while marketing has the luxury of time to strategize and think ahead.

Sales buy-in on marketing strategy: Marketing might not involve the sales team when they develop the strategy, which results in a disconnect on which initiatives, campaigns and programs drive results. Ultimately, sales has to help implement the strategy, so if they are not bought in at the forefront, there will be tension later on.

What are primary benefits an organization experiences when sales and marketing are aligned?

The biggest benefit is that when marketing and sales are aligned, a company’s revenue increases. Ultimately companies are looking to grow. Internal clarity is another benefit; companies are no longer wasting resources on ineffective programs. When sales and marketing are aligned, the company is focused on the right resources and people to get the results needed.

When marketing and sales align it also affects the customer. The customer experience improves, as does loyalty and general customer understanding.

What attitudes need to change within sales and marketing to bring them closer together?

I encourage marketers to see the other perspective. Marketing by definition is supposed to be customer-focused, which includes internal customers such as the sales team.

I’ve seen it where marketing looks down on sales and vice versa. It starts at the top — what is the internal view of marketing and sales at that organization? Are they viewed as separate or working together for the benefit of the customer? You are not aligning for the sake of alignment, but for the customer. When you put the customer at the center of decision marking, you are forced to align.

What are some techniques you recommend to unite sales and marketing?

Learn the sales process: One thing I encourage the marketing team to do is to get a seat at sales training and go through that training to learn the sales methodology and approach. Sales may ask “why are you in here?”, but if marketers don’t understand their role and the hand-off between marketing and sales, how can they be effective? Marketing is responsible for creating content for sales, and how can they create effective content if they don’t understand the sales process?

Get sales buy-in: Get the sales team on board with what marketing is doing. Get input and feedback into the marketing strategy and remember that sales professionals don’t always know what they need. Account-based marketing can be successful in aligning sales. Choosing a handful of accounts with a joint sales and marketing plan forces alignment. Treat it like a pilot — pick a handful of customers and conduct a joint campaign with them. Then marketing and sales build more respect for each other through that whole process.

Interact with customers: Ultimately sales and marketing want the same thing – happy customers. The best way to build trust and credibility with the sales team is to demonstrate intimate customer knowledge and insight that will help them close more deals. Try to travel with the sales team to meet with customers and realize that sales may say no to ride alongs if no trust has been built. Continue asking smart and hard questions and listening and understanding the process. 

Other options to interact with customers include events. Events provide a huge opportunity to get input directly from customers. Look at the attendees. Who are they? How is your company performing in addressing their needs? Ask them what challenges they are facing, what the big strategic initiatives are at their company, and if there is any information or education that your company could provide to help them.

Speak a common language: Sales and marketing should also agree on definitions. Basic terms like what does value mean, what is the value proposition or what is a marketing campaign? We have found the answers are often radically different even though they are thrown around as if everyone knows.

Be helpful: In addition, how can marketing help sales with their challenges? In 2015, 57.1 percent of sales people were making quota. That means there are a lot of salespeople underperforming. What can marketing do to help? Sales cited reasons including they aren’t getting enough qualified leads and they have difficulty differentiating from competitors. These are both marketing problems. Further, 75 percent of content marketers are forgetting about sales enablement tools. What will help your sales team communicate your organization’s value and close more deals?

GRRIPS: Marketing and sales should also follow the GRRIPS model — identifying goals, resources, roles, information and conversation flow, processes and success measures. I will cover the model in more depth in the keynote discussion.

December Keynote: Align or Die: Getting Marketing and Sales to Deliver Value for the Customer

Join BMA Colorado in welcoming Stacey Danheiser at our Keynote on December 13. Featuring original research, during this session you will learn:

  • The four key reasons for sales and marketing alignment issues

  • Tools to diagnosis alignment within your organization

  • Actionable steps you can immediately take to begin to improve the alignment gap within your organization

Register now! Space is limited.



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