Let’s face it: marketing-sales alignment is one of the most difficult challenges facing any B2B business. Marketing claims that sales doesn’t follow up on their qualified leads. Sales claims that marketing doesn’t give them enough quality leads. Marketing spends time and money creating content to speed up the sales cycle. Sales doesn’t utilize the content marketing creates. I could go on and on…
So what can you do?
For the past 6 years I’ve lived on the tip of the spear in terms of improving marketing-sales alignment. I’ve worked on problems big and small, from minor system process changes to full sales training off-sites. Below are some of the strategies I’ve found work best for helping to push your company’s sales team to find, use, and distribute the content you work hard to create.
It’s important that you first identify your ultimate goal of getting sales to use content. Is it to share publicly to their networks to be viewed as a thought leader? Is it to tie your content directly to an increase in sales or conversions? Or a mix of both? These questions will help you determine the types of solutions to put in place, and how to track them.
A warning on these five strategies: there is no silver bullet. Each solution represents a small step forward, and often those steps will feel like you are crawling through mud under barbed wire. But, even incremental improvements can deliver big results here. And, if you’re able to implement or improve a few of these, the benefits will compound.
1. Build a content ‘warehouse’
This is often the easiest first step in getting your content more accessible for your sales team. You likely already have a trove of content that you’ve created in the past, so take that content and tag it in every way you can think of. You’ll have a filterable list where the team is able to discover the appropriate content on their own. You don’t even need fancy tools for this, something like Excel or Google Docs can work to get this one off the ground.
A few ways that we categorize content at NewsCred:
- Job level: C-suite, Director/VP, Manager, or Contributor
- Industry: Auto, CPG, Entertainment, Pharmaceuticals, etc.
- Topic: Strategy, Distribution, Analytics, Social Media, etc.
- Format: Whitepaper, Webinar, Video, Presentation, Article, etc.
- Length: <5 minutes, 5-15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 30+ minutes
2. Create an editorial calendar around key yearly dates
Tax season. End of fiscal year. Super Bowl. Summer rush.
Each of these can represent a date on the calendar that is significant to your business. Create a calendar built around these dates that provide reminders for related content that you’ve created. I’ve found it best to route these reminders through a member of the marketing team and have that person be responsible for disseminating that info to sales.
This strategy does require you to have content around date-based happenings, but keep in mind that creating this type of content is one of the easiest ways to fill-out your editorial calendar and provide relevant, useful materials to your target consumers. There are dozens of lists available online that highlight interesting days/times of year that you can use to start building this.
3. Involve sales in your content creation process
Sales teams are never shy about voicing their opinions, so use that in your favor. Build a small group with a few members of your sales team and involve them from the ground floor on the content you’re creating. Ask their opinion on where your holes in coverage are, have them read your content for marketing jargon, use them to beta test new programs – it will increase the usage of your content and empower your sales team to contribute.
4. Give your salespeople a ‘marketing rating’
At most businesses, at the end of the day, sales teams live for incentives. While it’s difficult to benchmark content sharing into their comp plans, one thing you do have control over is the benefits they receive from a marketing standpoint. Create a quick doc where you track how happy you are as a marketing team with sales’ usage of your content. ‘A’ could be reserved for your top performers, ‘B’ for above average, ‘C’ for average, and ‘D’ for those who need improvement.
Your sales people who you’ve rated A or B will now get priority when you’re considering any of the following:
- Who to send to a conference/event
- Who gets to attend a VIP prospect dinner
- Who is highlighted at the next board meeting as a top performer
- Who gets the budget for an industry-specific event
- And many more
There are obvious sales benefits to each of these scenarios. What you’ve now done is put in place a mechanism where the only way the sales team will receive these benefits is based off of (or partially off of) how your team feels they have been performing with respect to marketing-sales alignment.
5. Ensure you have a seat at the sales table
One of the things our marketing team does at NewsCred is ensure we have a participant in every global sales meeting. This helps us not only learn of the struggles and successes that sales is experiencing, but also to have a direct point of contact responsible for discussing marketing’s content, expectations, and results.
It’s important here to champion one person on your team to lead this charge. The issue of too many cooks in the kitchen definitely applies. Find someone that wants to improve marketing-sales alignment, put them in charge, and let them make the decisions.