The role of marketing in the sales process is no longer restricted to providing leads for the sales team. Customer engagement is key, discusses Martina Doherty.
Within businesses, sales and marketing have traditionally been separate departments; the former charged with negotiating and closing deals, with the latter delivering the company’s message creatively via advertising, event planning and literature.
But marketers focused only on these activities are missing the point that they and the sales department share a simple, common goal: to make money for the company. Clever adverts, beautiful brochures and inventive giveaways are only useful if they translate into revenue (or if they can be proven to increase brand awareness, which in turn will lead to an increase in revenue).
Brave new world
Nowadays, strategic marketers, with problem-solving and customer-engagement expertise are replacing people with more traditional creative marketing skills. Marketers in the digital age are more deeply involved in the sales process than they have ever been before, as they use data and CRM tools to research their customer base and to point prospects towards information which will help them form an opinion on a product.
So should marketers of today more closely align themselves with their colleagues in sales? And if so, how should they do this?
Speak their language
Salespeople are focused on meeting and exceeding targets. Sales managers constantly review trends in the sales pipeline and use customer and competitor information to adjust their approach to both individual prospects and target markets as a whole.
In my view, marketing needs to buy into this sense of immediacy and to have measurable goals that can be monitored and adjusted regularly. It may sometimes be necessary to react to changing market conditions by changing, rescheduling, or even pulling a campaign and to step out of the traditional comfort zone of long-term planning to align marketing with the fast pace of sales. But if the marketing function is to succeed in today’s world, then this type of flexible sales-based approach is what’s needed.
Know your market
“If you don’t talk to your customers, how will you know how to talk to your customers?” – Will Evans
As every salesperson knows, the best way to find out about your target market is to ask your customers.
A marketer who can understand and explain what customers and competitors are doing – effectively becoming the customers’ champion – is invaluable to any business. Measuring the ROI of campaigns, a famously inexact science in the past, is becoming easier and easier with the availability of big data and online analytical tools at affordable prices, while direct conversations with customers are also critical to market knowledge, and as valuable as any electronic data.
Be the centre of customer experience
Salespeople know that customer loyalty comes from a positive experience with a company or brand. The availability of easily-accessible data has led to a change in the way customers – whether companies or individuals – make their own buying decisions. They do their own research and form their own conclusions about a product in advance.
Thanks to the internet and social media, there are now many more points of interaction between brand and customer than ever before. Often under-utilised in B2B marketing, it is up to marketing to manage these interactions with potential and existing customers – and to do so on a proactive as well as reactive basis. Building brand loyalty involves actively engaging, with a view to establishing relationships that go beyond the sale of any one product.
A good marketer, like a good salesperson, should be able to prove his or her worth.
A study by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group revealed that 80% of CEOs believe that marketers are disconnected from their organisations’ short- and long-term financial objectives. Marketers need to take responsibility for this disconnect with senior management. It is not enough to dismiss the Board’s lack of understanding of the marketing function; rather, it is marketing’s role both to justify investment in various marketing channels and to show how the marketing effort improves revenue.
As a salesperson is as good as his or her last deal, so a marketer is as good as the specific, identifiable results of any given campaign.
Stand up and be counted
So in conclusion if marketing is to deliver sales, then marketers need to think like salespeople.
The gulf between the two disciplines is narrower than ever before. Ultimately, marketers need to adhere to the same standards as their colleagues in sales who are judged on both performance and revenue. And quite frankly, if marketing activities cannot be linked to increased revenue, leads or brand awareness, then marketers are not doing their job.