Our latest CPM Expert Speak comes from Lorraine Butler, Managing Director of CPM Ireland. Lorraine has more than 20 years’ industry experience in highly targeted Sales industries. In this article, she analyses the importance and benefits of aligning Sales & Marketing Teams.
Sales & Marketing Teams - Why should they be aligned?
A long discussed topic is the synergies yet disparity between the Sales & Marketing functions and disciplines. However, never has it been more important for organizations to take heed of the benefits to be gained from aligning the two functions. In a market where the shopper is more in control than ever, the retailer, supplier and their corresponding Sales and Marketing functions need to work together for efficient, effective commercial management.
Perceptions of Sales & Marketing Functions
In contrasting sales & marketing functions, Marketing is often seen as cerebral, creative and long-term oriented; and sales is action-oriented, relationship-focused and short term. Resources required to carry out both critical functions attract very different skill sets and mindsets. However one could argue that the best Sales & Marketing people are those who have worked in both functions and who have a healthy respect for the activity of both functions and the inter- dependencies between the two.
Never before have shoppers been more connected. Technology has increased consumer & shopper access to information & consumers and shoppers are in turn more accessible to suppliers and retailers than ever before. The speed & frequency of how shoppers are influenced is increasing daily. Both Sales and Marketing functions work with the aim of optimizing brand financial performance. Given the need to impact shopper behavior as quickly & often as possible it makes sense that more is to be gained by both functions working together rather than separately.
A point to note, is that much of today’s marketing activity is directed at the consumer. However while consumers influence, it is the shopper who dictates the success or otherwise of a brand. Sales people have direct engagement with the shopper - observe and understand the physical behaviors of the shopper and are thus well positioned to offer insight to Marketing as to how to positively influence shoppers. Marketing can in turn leverage this insight to tailor brand propositions, positioning & pricing in support of augmented sales. This mutually beneficial cycle seems highly logical but yet is not as widely adapted in practice as one would like.
Leveraging Sales Teams to Determine Shopping Behaviours
In today's ultra-competitive world, the sales and marketing functions must integrate together at every level—from the core central concepts of strategy development to the minute details of execution.
While marketing have a wider understanding of buying & selling behavior within industries, salespeople have an on-the-ground understanding that can only be obtained through personal contact and physical experience with shoppers & retailers. Salespeople are a rich source of shopper, retailer & competitive insights and should be leveraged to develop and tailor marketing strategies both short term & longer term – integrating the tactical nature of sales with the more strategic nature of marketing. Unless insights from sales teams are fed back to Marketing and given due consideration, suppliers may fall foul of criticism from sales teams regarding marketing campaigns that “don’t speak to the buyers.” Sales & Marketing working together creates an ongoing shared understanding of buyer behavior, allowing marketing to speak more effectively to shoppers and working to more effectively convert shoppers to buyers.
Consistent Marketing Strategy
By marketing and sales working together, a company's strategy is more likely to be consistent, strong, and it’s execution efficient & effective. When sales and marketing are not aligned marketing may assert that buyers need a particular message, and the sales teams will argue back that it is actually the wrong message and won’t assist the sale. When performance targets are missed, Sales may say that they didn’t have the right proposition to sell, marketing may assert that sales didn’t do enough to sell! Ultimately overall performance & commercial management is suboptimal. By contrast, when marketing and sales are in agreement as to what will resonate with a buyer having reached a mutual understanding of buyer behaviors—the effort and funds then expended are optimized and ultimately brand performance goals are more likely achieved.
Financial performance is the result of operating performance. Operating performance includes all the activities that a company must undertake to win the competitive battle in its industry to attract, retain, and profitably serve customers. In considering how much organizations spend on sales & marketing activity, Gartner suggested a general guideline is to invest 10 percent of a company’s gross annual income. MarketingProfs offer that organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoyed 36% higher customer retention rates & 38% higher sales win rates.
Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing in 2015.
Interestingly, CSO Insights detail that companies with “dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes” reported an average of 10% more sales people on-quota compared to other companies. Research thus supports the commercial benefits of sales and marketing alignment and integration.
Integrating outsourced Sales teams with in-house Marketing teams can in theory offer an extra layer of complexity. However the principles of functional alignment and integration remain the same. In order for an external/internal sales team to be as effective as possible, an understanding of the company & brand strategy needs to be shared, sales teams importance in achieving the strategy embraced and a working relationship developed between the agency and the supplier that is partnership based needs to exist. The most successful partnerships are those which have mutual understanding of company and brand strategy and mutual respect of the role of both parties play in achieving this.
Leverage the 'Eyes and Ears' on the ground
In order to understand the perception of a given brand and the general market place, suppliers often deploy independent brand & shopper research campaigns. While these are valuable activities in understanding the shopper dynamic, brand awareness, competitive understanding etc, they are also an expensive activity which is time consuming and often is specific to a given time period in which the research is carried out. Considering the fact that sales people are continuously on the ground engaging with the shopper, retailer and competing brands, shouldn’t more consideration be given to leverage these eyes & ears on an ongoing basis to uncover ‘live’ ongoing insights? Such live insights will allow Marketing teams tailor their short & medium marketing strategy in support of optimizing sales – integrating the tactical nature of sales into the short and medium term marketing strategy.
It could be argued that insight gathering activity may influence longer in-call times which impacts coverage KPI’s. However collating & sharing insights does not have to be a laborious exercise. Information technology enables sales and marketing to gather, catalogue, analyze, and share such information as current sales rates, customer response to new initiatives, competitive activity, and marketing communication literature including brochures, proposals, and presentations. Technology greatly supports the tracking of such information in a timely manner with minimum impact to in-call times.
Recent analysis for a CPM Ireland field merchandising team shows thatincreasing the average in-call time by 10% to allow for the collation of brand, competitor and retail insights (as defined in collaboration with the brand marketing team) has increased brand performance and sales productivity by 32% over a three month period.
Sales by undertaking this activity has saved the brand supplier the budget they intended to deploy on conducting independent market research later this year. Changing how the sales team behave in- call results in the collation of live data on a daily basis which feeds into the brand marketing team’s decision making on immediate and future strategies. The exercise has created a closer working partnership between Sales and Marketing teams evidenced by the fact that marketing strategies to impact sales performance are now being jointly discussed for the first time. This analysis supports that Sales teams can add incremental, insight driven value on a ‘live’ basis, continuously augmenting brand performance & improving the overall efficiency & effectiveness of a Sales & Marketing budget.
Organisations who fail to embrace the benefits of field sales and marketing teams working together will miss a trick & those who embrace will reap the rewards. Sales and Marketing teams traveling in the same direction will get to the destination more quickly with limited diversions along the way!
If you would like to know more on this topic, please contact Lorraine Butler on: +353 1 708 0300. To find out how CPM can help connect field sales and marketing, please visit our Field Marketing Solutions page.