What Sales Really Thinks about Marketing

7 minute read

Upland Admin

When my marketing colleague, Aubrey, first asked me to write a blog post about what sales really thinks about marketing, I assumed she’d made a mistake and meant to ask me to write an eBook instead! After all, sales typically has plenty of thoughts about marketing, and not all of them are positive.

After she clarified that it was for the 2018 Marketing-Sales Alignment Benchmark we just published and that she actually wanted to hear about my thoughts as a salesperson, I agreed to get to work. After all, we found some pretty startling things about sales and marketing alignment. For example:

  • 68% of marketers believe sales isn’t using marketing content to its fullest potential

And, perhaps even more startling:

  • 57% of sales thinks that they don’t use marketing content to its fullest potential

While I could say that marketing is simply underestimating sales colleagues’ usage, clearly even sales has some concerns. However, I’d say the problem starts before we even analyze finished content—after all, if sales doesn’t have a say in what content is produced in the first place, it’s not surprising that they aren’t entirely bought into what they might feel is largely irrelevant, misaligned, or fluffy content provided to them by the marketing team.

Are We Destined for Tension?

Now, in case you’ve been exclusively part of the happy-family businesses where there is no strife between or within departments, let me share a bit about how sales and marketing relationships often develop—to the detriment of both departments.

Alignment Requires Talking

Newsflash: More than half of marketers and salespeople say key stakeholders in their organizations agree on the importance of consistent messaging, but a full one-third don’t have a standing meeting.

In other words, sales and marketing agree that their teams need to be conveying the same message—whether that message comes from a social post at the tippy top of the funnel or a product-focused conversation occurring much further down. Yet, neither team actually takes the initiative to set up a recurring meeting with each other to ensure that messaging is consistent. This leaves sales thinking marketing doesn’t understand what prospects and customers need. Even worse, marketing is left in the dark assuming sales is using their beautiful assets to their fullest potential.

Here’s my question: How would either team know any of this if they aren’t meeting? Exactly. They wouldn’t. Sales and marketing are both blaming each other for the inconsistent experience delivered to prospects and customers, yet aren’t looking for the easy solution—just regularly talking—to fix the root of the problem.

What Exactly Is “Content”?

Another confusing stat: Two-thirds of marketers and salespeople claim that their teams are aligned, but fewer than one-third of marketers believe sales uses content to its full potential. Even sales isn’t convinced they’re fully enabled:

If two separate bodies are aligned, you’d think they’d agree on the definition of “using content to its full potential.”

To really address this disparity, we need to adequately understand what “content” means: many marketers and salespeople traditionally have viewed content as being top-of-funnel blog posts and social posts. While these are certainly a piece of the puzzle, I’d point you to Wil McLean’s quote in the benchmark:

“Sure, content is the white papers that we write and the banner ads we create. But it’s also the meat of the conversations that are happening between sales and prospects.”

With this definition, the full consequences of misalignment are much more dire. This could mean the prospect is being told one thing during a crucial time in their education phase of the buyer’s journey, and when they’re finally ready to enter a deal cycle, they hear something totally different. This confusion and disjointed customer experience is what decreases trust and leaves gaps for your competition to fill.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

One last stat that caught my eye in the benchmark report is that only half of sales know which assets are used most by fellow salespeople.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem too strange. Salespeople are busy, after all, and they probably assume that their coworkers are sharing the same things as me. Assumptions are never wrong, right? It’s time we stop limiting ourselves.

To my fellow salespeople: What if you had visibility into the content that the highest-performing salespeople were using? What if you could distinguish trending content from content that underperforms? What if your marketing team had those insights and had a process (or even a standing meeting) to ensure they were making more of the “right” kind of content and less of the content that isn’t moving the needle for the sales team?

Increasing visibility into what salespeople are using helps everyone: Marketing has more data about what works and what doesn’t, salespeople can emulate their more-successful peers by sharing content shared by high performers, and content actually gets the use it deserves.

How to Mend the Rift

So how do we overcome these challenges that the majority of marketing and sales teams are experiencing? The short answer is alignment, but how can we achieve that? Let’s take a look at what our benchmark found the top performing marketing and sales professionals to be doing. First let’s take a look at marketers, salespeople, and then what the two teams have in common. Here’s an overview:

Our research found that marketers who met or exceeded their goals are likely to identify their content by persona, document the buyer’s journey, and gather content ideas internally. Salespeople who met or exceeded their goals are more like to know what assets their fellow salespeople use and have trust that marketing knows what their content needs are. Similarly, the commonalities that both groups have are that they identify their organizations as customer-centric and have standing meetings.

There are no real surprises here. How can top performing marketers and salespeople have this alignment around content if they, as an organization, aren’t committed to their customers and interdepartmental communication? They can’t! It’s up to these teams individually to step up and make an effort to communicate together to figure out a cadence where everyone has visibility into each others’ needs.

While there are tools and technologies like content marketing platforms (CMPs) that can help bring cross-functional teams of all sizes into a centralized workspace for planning, producing, distributing, and tracking content, it’s recognized that no single tool or technology is going to solve these problems for an organization.

As we like to tell our prospects in sales, a content operation is like a three-legged stool.

While technology is one, important leg of that stool, it will fall apart if you don’t have the other two legs in place: people and process. Fundamental people-process change is just as important as having a technology to facilitate that change, and many organizations often need professional coaching to execute a large-scale change within their organization.

Reaching true alignment and all of the benefits that come with it is only possible if stakeholders from sales and marketing are willing to fundamentally change the way they approach the problem.

To see additional statistics on some of the challenges and successes leading organizations are experiencing, download the 2018 Marketing-Sales Alignment Benchmark. Not only does it clearly frame up the issue with data to back it up, but it also offers constructive ways for you and your teams to start making an impact immediately. For example, it includes a facilitation guide to help your teams start the conversation between marketing and sales.

Although we have our differences, marketing and sales ultimately want the same things and that starts with us all being on the same team and aligning around common goals and strategies.

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