Last week the tech world was stunned by an unexpected landmark deal between Apple and IBM, ending a 30-year rivalry started at the dawn of the personal computing age. The unexpected partnership creates a marriage between the giant in personal computing and the giant in enterprise computing and services to capitalize on the increasingly mobile workforce. Perhaps the deal would never have materialized under Steve Jobs, given that he has dissed Big Blue many times be it in magazine interviews, advertisements, and even by flipping the finger at its logo. But that’s another matter altogether. This path breaking deal shows that even age-old rivals can set aside differences and join forces to cater to rapidly evolving market circumstances.
If Apple and IBM could iron out their three-decades-old differences, marketers should have faith in the elusive concept of marketing and sales alignment. It can’t be that impossible to get along with sales, after all you do work in the same company and strive towards common company goals in an environment of heightening pressure for higher quality leads. Apart from creating an SLA between marketing and sales, what’s a best practice ideal for smashing silos between the two-warring departments? I recommend surveying your reps time to time. From a marketing standpoint, you can ensure your initiatives are relevant to the sales force that you want to support. From a sales perspective, it’s an opportunity to provide input on marketing materials and programs. If you’ve never done this, start by running surveys once a quarter on varied aspects of marketing: product messaging, sales tools, content marketing, lead scoring etc. Use survey results to fine tune marketing efforts, make sales win, and bring about sales and marketing alignment.
Feedback and communication is often necessary to discover critical needs and understand priorities. A SiriusDecisions survey of B2B sales managers revealed that the no.1 reason why reps fail to reach quota is their “inability to articulate value in their sales conversations”. Product marketing can help fix this, but in the absence of a formal feedback mechanism, marketing could well be blissfully unaware of this problem. Understanding priorities may not be a strong point for armchair marketers like you and me; you may rate developing ROI calculators as a no. 1 priority but a survey may reveal that reps are in dire need of case studies. You may then want to refocus your efforts and speed up the development of case studies.
Even as sales input is ever more valuable in designing marketing programs, it is important to remember what Lincoln said: “…you can never please all the people all the time” and realize that not all reps will be pleased all the time. Not everything that reps suggest can be implemented. At the end of the day, marketing should set the direction with input from sales in order to ensure that the company’s larger goals are met.
Lastly, I’d like to give you some tips on designing surveys: keep it anonymous, make it quick and easy, and give room for free form feedback. This way you get honest feedback from reps who are encouraged to take it and you attract suggestions and brand new ideas. While number crunching survey results might be easier, read through free form feedback to detect common threads which you can then act upon.
Have you surveyed your reps? How has your experience been? Write back in the comments section.