I always find it interesting meeting or working with people who’ve been marketers in B2B publishing. We often end up discussing sales and marketing alignment and what working with direct sales teams had taught us.
I remember the very first time I stood up, as a product manager, to present to a field sales office. The label of “here from the marketing department” did nothing to put me on-side from the outset, and after the first slide a barrage of objections ensued (which felt like heckling). After slide two I stopped the presentation, sat down with them, and decided to take on the questions to learn what the problem was.
In short, I was speaking the wrong language and trying to answer the wrong questions. Musically speaking, I wasn’t just creating dissonance, I was playing completely the wrong part.
I learned an enormous amount that day about sales and marketing alignment. I hadn’t thought about their sales process – and how what I was asking them to do would fit into that. Yet that’s what they were being managed and targeted to do. I hadn’t asked them ‘what questions work best to get a prospect to talk to you?’ and then taken the time to figure out how I could use those to align my marketing activities to their sale. Or, if that sale they were chasing really wasn’t in tune with our brand, I should at least have agreed with them a new question – that would still help sell my new product.
A clear value proposition is an essential tool in brand positioning. It also helps sales and marketing work as one team and is the core melody of your Brand Symphony. It makes clear who you serve, what problem you solve for them, and how you do that differently – in language that the client would use.
So, next time you launch a proposition, make sure you involve some of your salespeople in the process. It pays everyone to think through the impact of what you’re now saying on your sales process, training and targets – before you launch. It’s also important to think about where you’re asking for total alignment (unison) vs. staying close (harmony) vs. being independent in a planned way (counterpoint).
Sales and Marketing Alignment is a hot topic today. Time wasted continually fighting, or as a CMO being the referee in that fight, could be put to better use. But some tension is important, as it provides momentum. And as I learned all those years ago – the tension brought us closer together in the end.
In music, composers layer the parts and sounds together in different ways. In Unison, everyone sings the same notes and the same rhythm at the same time – it’s one melody. It’s powerful and clear but it can get boring and repetitive. Harmony means that different parts sing different notes that are designed to fit together. There is more depth of sound, which in turn is more interesting, but everyone follows the same rhythm most of the time. And then there’s Counterpoint – two parts that weave towards and against each other in a way that continually creates and quickly resolves tension. This creates momentum providing its managed.
In terms of the key message or promise of your brand, sales, marketing and everyone else need to be in unison. The first line of everyone’s elevator pitch should be the same.
Below that each department has its own way of expressing itself and its part in the whole. They should describe that accordingly – in a way that links together. Sales may be more direct with their language and questions, marketing may be more creative with a tagline or campaign. But they’re promising the same thing. The processes they work through, or where the customers hear them, might be more like counterpoint – one starts the conversation that the other finishes, one asks the questions that the other answers. You need some of that in your organisation or you and your team will get bored. But it needs to be planned.
I’m a big advocate of joining the dots behind your brand experience. Sales and marketing alignment ensures prospective customers get a seamless introduction to your brand.
Get everyone speaking the same language and you’ll be playing one brand symphony. But make sure you have a good mix of unison, harmony and a dash of counterpoint in there, to keep it moving.