A key component of internal brand alignment is having your sales and marketing teams speaking the same language and sharing the same goal. Ultimately, marketing needs to step up and take responsibility for getting the message downstream and equipping salespeople to be storytellers, not merely encyclopedias
This post originally appeared on the Marketo blog on August 6, 2019
It seems that for decades, experts have been telling us to tear down the wall between sales and marketing. “Okay! We say yes! Love it! Let’s do that.” But how?
While the general concept of having a united messaging force makes a ton of sense, the precise method of how to align sales and marketing teams is underdeveloped. In a survey from JointheDots and LinkedIn, a majority of the 7,000 respondents—largely salespeople and marketers—said that misalignment between the two departments leads to poor financial performance, an unsatisfactory customer experience, and lower customer retention. A majority of those respondents, however, agreed that cross-team collaboration is crucial and leads to greater benefits. We’ve obviously got a long way to go.
Part of the problem is that marketing and sales teams have been raised on their own individual sets of metrics and goals. Marketing is measured on generating demand, and sales is responsible for conversion. But somewhere along the way, collaboration between the two departments became more of a challenge.
If these teams are going to work together as they should, it will be important for both to speak the same language and share the same goals, working together as they go.
Sometimes, by the time a brand story gets from the marketing department to sales teams, it’s notably different than how it started. While salespeople are trusted to know and communicate the narratives marketing creates, they often struggle to share them confidently with the customer because they tend to get less clear as they travel through the company.
A study by Stanford University found that when listening to speeches containing facts and stories, only 5% of students remembered the facts, while 63% remembered the story. Salespeople who can craft their facts into stories will be much more successful because stories are more relatable and more believable.
Marketers use narratives to draw customers’ attention to details they’ll relate to—problems they have, ideas they trust, and things they want. This creates interest, trust, and eventually belief. The best part about this truth, though, is that it doesn’t just apply to customers. If marketers can also move their sales comrades past knowledge and help them truly believe in the message they’re sharing, they can tell stories in a compelling way, which will empower sales to spur the customer on to purchase and loyalty.
Marketers live and breathe the story of a brand or product, but they often struggle with it getting diluted as it moves away from them and through the sales funnel. We hear about this challenge again and again, but marketers get so used to it that they understandably give up trying to address it.
But giving up isn’t the answer. Marketers have the power to make a unified team a reality by sticking with the story and following it from inception to execution, even after it leaves their desks. “Hold the story longer” should be the new marketing mantra.
Picture it as if teams were writing a book. Marketers and salespeople each have their chapter to contribute, but if they’re not telling a single story, the book will stutter and confuse readers rather than engage and inspire them. As keepers of the story, marketers have a responsibility to guide it from the first chapter to the final page.
Mixed motives and messages can make sales and marketing teams feel distant from each other. According to research from the “2018 B2B Marketing-Sales Alignment Benchmark,” salespeople and marketers have a lack of belief in each other. Only 43% of sellers and 32% of marketers believe their teams are using marketing messages to their full potential.
Holding the story longer can bring everyone involved closer together. If marketing teams are part of the process for longer, they will help sales teams feel more comfortable with the story and improve their confidence in retelling it. Doing this also gives marketers more control over the message that they’ve worked so hard to craft.
Follow these tips to tell a single story:
Remember that you’re not going it alone as a marketing department. Talk to front-line employees to see what they think of the messages you’re promoting. Understanding their point of view will let you know where the weak spots might be or where you need to provide support, which will ultimately strengthen your message across the board.
On that note, make sure you don’t just expect sales to tell the story perfectly without help. It’s important that you translate messages for sales teams so the messaging means something to them. If your front-line employees can connect with the story, it’ll be that much more powerful when they help customers connect to it, too.
Make sure you’re willing to put in the time your sales teams deserve. If you want them to be engaging storytellers, spend some time helping them understand the narrative so they don’t feel like they’re out-of-the-know or rushed. It will also allow them to take the story and adapt if for their style and voice. That ensures they will deliver the story in a convincing way.
Ultimately, the heart of the idea is to tell a single, consistent story to customers. When you take the time to tell this story to your front-line teams first, you let them connect with it before they have to share it with customers confidently and passionately. If all departments work together, a powerful story can be shared with every listener.