Lack of alignment between sales and marketing is a common problem in B2B software. One solution is to involve sales early and often in your positioning process.
By involving sales throughout the positioning process, you open lines of communication and share a sense of mission.
Involve sales in the three stages of the positioning process – information gathering, brainstorming and execution. When those in sales know that their opinion matters, they’ll give you useful information that you probably can’t get anyplace else.
Sales team members are in the best position to provide the unvarnished truth about your product because it is right in the middle of where your marketing and reality meet. It is your direct link to the battlefield where your product clashes with the competition, so pay close attention to the intelligence you receive from the battle front.
Good sales professionals can quickly describe to you the ideal prospect, often in startlingly plain language. They can tell you who your competitors really are, why you win and lose, shedding light on the sales process and how your message strategy can help it. They’ll be able to tell you the truth about product strengths and weaknesses.
Making sales your positioning partner
You’ll need to help your sales team understand your positioning process, why it’s important, and how sales benefits by participating. Create a presentation for your sales team members that summaries your positioning process, depicting their pivotal role.
Your task is to replace their distrust with willing, enthusiastic participation. Let them know that their help can make the message strategy matter to the target audience.
A positioning process that puts sales in the middle of the effort demonstrates your recognition of the importance of sales and is bound to improve relations that are notoriously poor and work against marketing and sales success.
Start your research with sales
By making a few calls to some of your best sales professionals, you’ll quickly get a sense for the target buyer’s most pressing problems and ways you might position your product. In fact, if you are under a tight deadline, it may be the only information you have time to gather, but at least it comes from the source closest to the action.
From your sales team, you can gather most of the information you need to position effectively including:
- Customer problems:
- Competitive intelligence
- Ideal customer profile
- Challenges in the sales process
- Why you win and lose
- To whom do they compare you? (It may not be the competitor you had in mind.)
By actively engaging with sales, you’ll understand the sales process in detail, as well as in context, enabling you to identify marketing communications requirements and opportunities at each stage of the sales cycle. This knowledge helps you match your marketing effort to how prospects actually buy your product or service. And you’ll be able to select the marketing tools that best support and enhance the sales process: web seminars, white papers, blogs, web product demos, brochures, product spec sheets, and ROI sales tools, to name a few.
Benefits of working closely with sales
Working closely with your sales team, you’ll be able to identify a wide range of customers who will help you home in on the truth about your product or service, how it stacks up in the marketplace, and the real-world business benefits it delivers.
Since sales is busy selling, getting your sales team to take an active role in message strategy creation may be challenging at times. But keep trying. By continually seeking input and feedback during the formative stages of message strategy development, you’ll demonstrate to the sales professionals selling your product that their input matters – and you’ll be cultivating an ongoing source of valuable market intelligence at the same time.
By working closely with your sales team members during the positioning processing, they will not only use the materials you provide but be in a better position to articulate your message strategy to their prospects. The result is a more consistent message delivered over and over throughout the marketing and sales effort.
It takes a lot of extra time and effort to involve sales team members in your positioning process. But it’s worth the effort because the benefits are so compelling.
LinkedIn’s research found that strongly aligned teams are: 67% more effective at closing deals, 58% more effective at retaining customers and drive 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.
You’ll achieve those benefits with positioning process that puts sales in the middle of the effort. It will invigorate sales team members by making them feel that their input counts. They’ll open up, allowing you to tap into their real-world knowledge and experience. You get better, more useful information, and they get better ammunition to win the sales battle.
Now everyone’s got to love that!