4 steps to fixing your sales and marketing disconnect

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Every CEO or business owner is painfully aware of the disconnect that often exists between marketing and sales. But, surprisingly, awareness doesn’t always lead to action. Even though aligning the efforts of the sales and marketing teams can lead to 25 percent higher quota attainment and a 20 percent increase in win rate, some 80 percent of companies admit that they have no formal strategy in place for creating sales and marketing alignment.

If those statistics alone aren’t enough to motivate you to harmonize these two crucial departments, the Aberdeen Group says that the marketing/sales divide in B2B firms leads to “inconsistent customer messaging, poor or delayed sales readiness, fewer sales calls … and less effective selling dialogue.”

The result? Higher costs, lower revenues and shrinking margins.

So what’s stopping so many companies from taking steps to bridge the sales/marketing gap? Simple. Most organizations don’t know how to go about closing it.

In a recent webinar, Robert Kear, Chief Marketing Officer at Sales Performance International (SPI), outlined a four-step process that organizations can use to get sales and marketing jointly focused on problems, not products. Here is a summary: *

  1. Develop problem/solution mapping

    Rather than talking about the features of a new product, highlight the problems it solves for your customers. After listing each problem, talk about why it occurs, what the consequences are and what capabilities you can provide to address the problem. Build this out as comprehensively as you can. You may wind up with 30 to 50 problems.

    Key goal: Arm sales reps with tools that will allow them to understand and have empathy for customer and the problems they face.

  2. Highlight your defensible differentiators

    How is your company unique at solving the problems you just discussed? Keep in mind that a product feature or capability that has value to a customer isn’t necessarily a differentiator. For any company or product, there are three levels of differentiation:

    1. Proprietary Differentiation is a value-based capability that is not available in any competing product. If you have a patent, for instance, you have proprietary differentiation.
    2. Comparative Differentiation is a value-based capability that is superior in some specific way to a comparable capability in a competitive offering – For example, if your servers are faster or can store more information than those of your competitors, you have comparative differentiation.
    3. Holistic Differentiation includes general or holistic value differentiators, such as breadth, reliability, lower cost of ownership, a better maintenance contract, or better customer service or support.

    Key goal: Understand and document what sets your company apart from its competitors at different levels.

  3. Build a menu of “critical business Issues”

    The next step is to narrow that long list of problems you solve for customers to the eight to 10 major issues they face. These are the Critical Business Issues (CBIs) you can solve.

    Key goal: Help the salespeople understand each problem in-depth and how their organization can solve the problem.

  4. Create Solution Messaging Cards

    For each CBI, create a Solution Messaging Card – a quick reference guide for salespeople. The card should address the following key areas: customer problem, trend relevance, cause of the problem, problem impact, required capabilities, metrics/proof of value, your differentiation, solution linkage to problems, and case studies/results. Notice that the cards focus on the problem first – as should your reps. When their aim is first to understand a customer’s underlying problems and their ramifications, the customer will be much more likely to listen with an open mind to possible solutions.

    Key goal: Build fluency and knowledge, and demonstrate credibility in front of customers.

* Extracted and edited from Four Steps to Bridge “The Big Gap” – Selling Power.

Last but certainly not least is to provide a process to capture, store and then deliver the above mentioned information, so that users can find it quickly and easily, when they need it.

  1. Thanks for this excellent post Chuck. The Robert Kear piece is 100% on target as reps need to think through the issues customers are facing before starting their pitch. “Sales Transformation” was a major theme in the recent 2.0 Sales Conference held in Boston by Selling Power. Gerhard Gschwandtner was passionate, as were his selecting speakers, about the need for Sales VP’s to train reps in selling the “value” of their solution to prospective clients. Marketing is a key component of the transormation to craft the value-based propositions and messaging for Sales. The process for selecting the right customer value differentiators is critical.
    Nice read- thank you.

  2. Thanks Dick, you are so right. I don’t quite understand why so many people seem to ignore this as being a problem. If marketing crafts the sales message and it isn’t resonating with the people that it is meant for, then everyone loses. Sales people need to clearly understand that by the time they get in front of a prospect, that prospect has probably already vetted their company and they have probably already decided that the pain they have is worth solving. So, the sales person certainly needs to be able to show value for the process to move forward. Thanks again Dick for your comments.


  3. Sharing information and motivating sales people is a constant task. You have laid out so many important factors eloquently… thank you for that Chuck!

    It takes a huge amount of time to get a sales plan and sales training together, and the process never ends… every customer’s needs are different, and formulating a pitch round enough to fit every hole is difficult at best, and usually impossible.

    Information is everything, and collecting it as you initiate your marketing is a key factor in success later. Mistakes will be made, but if you learn from those mistakes, you have at least taken a step forward. Planning is critical, but at some point you have to take that first step, and its usually a bit clumsy, but a good team can catch themselves and keep stepping forward.

    Instant communications and share best practices make it easier tweak a sales conversation on the fly. I love the solutions messaging cards idea!