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The gap between sales and marketing team has been in prevalence since the very creation of these two functions. This gap has been accepted as an irrevocable impairment in many businesses. The marketing people think that strategic thinking is a virtue only they own while the sales people think that only they are concerned about the sales in a particular quarter. Sales team contemplates that why lead generation is their pain while the marketing department complains that the sales people criticize or ignore all that they generate. However, it is high time that this bickering stops. Bringing an alignment between the two is one of the most crucial sales management responsibilities (Fernandez, 2012). The present report is focused on how to integrate sales and marketing for increasing B2B sales
In a B2B company, the marketing team is charged with the responsibility of generating leads and demands, desirably Marketing Qualified Leads. The sales department works on these leads and consequently closes a large number of deals plus augments the revenue. Sales and marketing have a common responsibility regarding the corporate sales funnel (Schaffer, 2013).
It is a widely understood fact that the role of marketing is to fill up the sales funnel with the leads produced from their brand creation and demand generation activities. The sales department then processes the leads through the different phases of the funnel. Though the two teams are highly dependent on each other, but they have evolved into two different functions which has put forth several challenges. Even when the two teams are integrated, disparities in focus might still lead to a struggle for building consensus on the overall expectations and goals. In such situations, the main challenge is to make sure that leads produced by the marketing team are fit for the satisfaction of both the teams (Speh and Hutt, 2009).
The contribution of sales department is evidently visible all across a B2B company. The sales personnel are considered as highly exposed professionals in conventional sales driven companies. In this every individual is seen and measured as a solo contributor plus as a team member. Nonetheless, the sales department is very much dependent on Marketing. In absence of consistent flow of suitable leads, it becomes highly impossible for the sales people to succeed (Summaries, 2011).
The team members of marketing department are not tied typically to fixed profit targets, though the entire team on the whole can be held responsible for the market share of the company. In absence of direct control of distribution channels, this department is even more distant from revenues as compared to Sales. In fact they are seen as an overhead or operating cost. Marketing executives and teams frequently lack measurable connections between revenue and marketing initiatives and thus struggle to enumerate their contributions and provide justification for their budgets (Stockdale and et.al., 2011).
The marketing department can alter its organization’s perception of its link to revenues by being more proactive in the process of Sales. Information driven and circular marketing communications can enlarge its footprints. If it helps in managing and nurturing each lead at a speed controlled by the customer, Marketing can substantially reduce the expenses and number of Sales calls (Mantrala and et.al., 2012).
A great number of B2B organizations continue to undervalue and underutilize the marketing function. In fact there are a very small percentage of companies in which the senior leaders had rich marketing experience or stressed upon their experience in development programs. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that on the gamut of marketing abilities, very few marketers are operating at the highest levels of their discipline. The manner in which the responsibility of the B2B marketers is defined confirms the limitations of Marketing function in firms (Polese and Gummesson, 2009).
The B2B organizations are not sidelining marketing. Around half of the companies in UK have a CMO now and about one third have reintegrated marketing function for a relatively more strategic role irrespective of the recession. However, at the same time the scope of improvement in performance through marketing competencies is increased by the fact that only a very few B2B firms have developed them (Matthyssens and et.al. 2008).
The below mentioned steps can address the problems of lead generation and misalignment between marketing and sales by furnishing a realistic road map:
The alignment of sales and marketing can impact budget allocation, revenues, profits, job descriptions, compensation and other senior management level issues. This is the reason why executive sponsorship is very crucial for the effectiveness of any integration initiative. The extent of involvement is based on the level of misalignment; only the marketing and sales reporting professional can be the leader. The responsibilities of these executives entail resolving conflicts and issues, removing roadblocks and institutionalizing alignment. They are also charged with the responsibility of clarifying the advantages of success like compensation and pay linked with goals and the repercussions of non-compliance (Parvinen and et.al., 2013).
In absence of a common goal, integration strategies can easily cripple. For instance, the goal of marketing is often generating the maximum plausible number of leads within the specified budget. Most often this objective can have negative effects on sales efficiency and productivity due to the time needed by the sales to adequately follow up and give a report on these leads. Even a channelized contribution from the leads does not essentially convert into an advantage for sales (Piercy, 2010).
The main objective of integration and alignment is transparency. Both the marketing and sales teams should strive hard for identifying what is beneficial and what is not. In addition to this, both the teams must also share credit.
Marketing and sales leadership must institutionalize and authorize service level agreements which outline and document a number of things. Firstly, it asks what is received by the tele-qualification team. Secondly, it also documents the opportunities, big or small that go to the sales department. Thirdly, it also documents that what enters the field and what are the obligations each group hold regarding reporting. Lastly, it takes into account that how much time and effort will be required for follow up from tele-qualification team, channel partners, inside sales and field sales (Zallocco, Pullins and Mallin, 2009).
A mutual language must be developed and set for the main milestones in the marketing and sales funnel. This should be done so that that there is not much ambiguity and confusion regarding the meaning of a lead for instance. As per this approach, marketing and sales can measure the translation from one phase to the next and trim down the exploration into funnel issues. For creating these policies and definitions, leadership must set up a lead roundtable. This roundtable must comprise of marketing and sales thought leaders. The group must not contain more than ten participants (Gibbert and Golfetto, 2006). It is particularly crucial for the people participating in the roundtable to have deep rooted knowledge about consumer buying behaviour.
Big corporations having compound sales models might need to create roundtables for the different market processes and segments and ensure collaboration for standardization. Localization to certain extent will be essential for international organizations.
Subsequent to the preliminary effort for defining and documenting follow up as well as reporting requisites, this roundtable committee must reconvene roughly thirty days post the first execution. This needs to be done for reviewing the rules and definitions and take corrective actions. After that, quarterly meetings will be sufficient, with some amount of ongoing rotation of team members. Benchmarks obtained from third-party firms can also be beneficial for the planning process as a judgment test against profit projections (Moynihan, 2013).
Due to the stretched buying cycle in B2B scenarios, executive leadership should work across the tradeoffs between more perfect solutions and directional pointers that result from pilot. With this sort of guidance, marketing and sales must together evaluate the plan against the objective and make use of the information for refining future planning efforts and improving operational efficacy (Sales-Marketing Alignment, 2013).
It is very essential for the two departments to have a mutual understanding for one another’s responsibilities so that they can work coherently more efficiently and effectively. A means of ensuring that the two teams are not divergent and are in unison is to use the sales metrics and analytics as this enables them to exchange actionable information more conveniently. Such collaborative information can result in enhanced sales processed. This will allow the sales team to close a large number of deals (Ericksen, Jullens and Kataria, 2009).
Organizations exist in a dynamic and global marketplace. This is true for every organization irrespective of the sector and type of business i.e. B2B or B2C. Over a decade ago, customers did not have any access to the comprehensive product specifications, price and attributes comparison and product and supplier reviews like they enjoy today. Such explosion of information in the market arena has brought about sea change in the manner individuals buy things. Therefore, it is very important for the businesses to firstly understand the wants and needs of their target markets and then integrate the sales and marketing functions for supporting these requirements (Polese and Gummesson, 2009).
With the changing buying behaviour and patterns, organizations need to modify their ways of marketing and selling products. Marketing’s major role in the past was managing the brand and developing interest in the products. The sales function was reserved for educating the customers and as the first point of contact for prospective buyers. The scenario has entirely changed today and people do their homework prior to buying anything. They depend more on marketing generated content including internet advertising, consumer testimonials and firm’s website. By the time, customers penetrate the sales funnel; they are highly educated and aware (Mantrala and et.al., 2012).
This changes the manner in which marketing and sales perform their jobs and it makes the requirement for interaction between these two functions more significant than ever. Successful businesses in today’s world subsist in a multi-channel world. It is the consumers who determine how they wish to interact with an organization. This is especially true in case of B2B organizations. As the rivalry in marketplace has intensified, organizations are searching for ways to create a better relationship with their customers. In such cases, sales and marketing alignment allows firms to improve customer experience, enabling the business to reach the prospects at the correct time with germane offers (Stockdale and et.al., 2011).
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Hence, from the above report it can be concluded that sales and marketing alignment is a very raging topic for B2B organizations. Typically the B2B organizations do not have a powerful marketing tradition. However, certain conditions propose that their need for effective marketing is becoming compelling day by day. The B2B firms which have fostered their marketing competencies are reaping great benefits and rewards in terms of higher market share and generation of more leads (Schaffer, 2013). The companies now realize that the key to success is in bringing an alignment between their sales and marketing teams. Organizations that have accepted change with open arms and invested in the appropriate enabling technology have identified that they are in a better position to fill up the sales tunnel with the suitable leads. The ways through which this alignment can be generated can be summarized as modelling the whole revenue cycle, looking for an operational disconnect, promoting trust and respect, sharing accountability and responsibility between teams, developing a common vocabulary and creating a circular reporting process (Sales-Marketing Alignment, 2013).
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