I'm often asked the question, "Do you work with people on the marketing side or the sales side?" It makes me laugh. Sales and marketing shouldn't be on separate sides. Imagine this, you do some research on a company and read a bunch of content on their website. It intrigues you, so you ask to speak with a salesperson. The salesperson has a different message from what you had already read or heard. How does that make you feel? At that point, you are at best confused, or at worst no longer trusting of their message.
Consider the opposite: You meet a salesperson at a conference and based on your discussion, you are interested in learning more about their company. You visit their website. However, the message on the website almost sounds like a different company than the person you spoke with just a few hours ago. Either the salesperson or the website is not being honest. It doesn't matter which one. You look to other sources for a solution.
What the Heck Is Alignment Anyhow?
Somewhere in a marketing meeting, a group of people defined a term called "messaging alignment." The idea is that the messaging from sales and marketing should align with each other so customers don't get mixed messages. However, there is a problem. Marketing departments spend hours crafting just the right words to capture a complicated concept in one or two words (even if those words were made-up in the meeting). Top performing salespeople communicate through stories and plain conversation.
What Is the Soul of Your Message?
Where does marketing get the foundation for its messaging? Technology companies will often have marketing sit with engineering to translate technical jargon into business terms. Services companies will often sit with the project managers or principals to describe their projects and then share those concepts in plain English on their website. In both instances, the idea sounds good. However, the soul of these messages is rooted in your perspective, not the customer's perspective. This means that the messaging might resonate well with your internal team, but not as vividly as you'd like with the customer.
Who has their finger on the pulse of the customer? Good sales professionals understand the customer's situation and know how to determine how your products and/or services fit to address their needs. As we discuss in Same Side Selling, customers make decisions based on a) Why they need what you have; b) the likely outcome they expect to see from your solution. Your sales professionals are often overlooked as a resource for marketing messages. Your customer-facing team members are likely the best suited people to explain the issues your clients are facing that are important enough for them to solve.
What Message Matters
Your most effective marketing will be in the form of content that addresses the most common challenges for your ideal clients. Customers have been trained not to believe your extraordinary claims about your products and services. And for crying out loud, please don't say you are a "full service" anything or that you have "talented people" unless you think that your customers have been struggling with "partial service" companies filled with people who can't find their hindquarters with both hands. Even so, your sensational claims all just sound too self-serving. Instead, talk about what your clients tell you are their biggest issues, the impact of those issues, and share stories of the outcomes your clients have achieved.
Steps Moving Forward
Here are specific steps that sales and marketing can take together to ensure your organization delivers a message that resonates with your audience:
- Talk about everything you do from the customer's perspective, not your own
- Nobody cares how many offices you have or people you employ. They do care whether or not you understand their situation and have the potential to help
- Engage customer-facing team members and build a list of the problems your customers rely on you to solve
- Create content in simple language that describes the challenges you help people overcome and address the questions your customers most frequently ask. Marcus Sheridan has a lot of great advice on content creation is his article, The Essential Key to Making Your Web Content Understood by Absolutely Everyone.
- Stop thinking that marketing and sales are different. We will continue to see more convergence.
Above all, become masters at creating useful content. Your content marketing will attract customers seeking to solve the problems you are best at solving. When that happens, your sales efforts will be about determining if you can help, not convincing them of your talents.
Where do you struggle with marketing vs. sales? Share examples of those doing it well.