Today we’re going to dive into the integration of sales and marketing, and how they really are a team. I sat down with Sean Duffy and Kevin McCaughey to discuss this topic and the impact of “brand” on sellers. This is an extremely important relationship, because marketing can enhance the receptivity in our prospects. Therefore, sales teams can (and should) work hand-in-hand with marketing groups in companies of all sizes.
Marketing’s Role in Sales
Why would brand equity matter to salespeople? It really does matter – because when marketing is running well for a sales organization, then sales and brand are working equally to cultivate customer receptivity and awareness.
Selling for a brand that has a negative reputation just makes your job as a rep much more difficult, and less enjoyable. Whereas selling for a well-marketed brand with a good reputation puts you in great position, as a seller.
A huge misconception in the industry is that brand only matters if you sell to consumers. But brand is equally as important in B2B sales.
The importance of branding and marketing for companies in B2B sales is heightened when you consider the complexity of the sale – the decision-maker is often a committee, not just an individual making a personal selection of a product or service. The decision-making committee that evaluates your solution is comprised of many individuals who need to embrace who you are, and one way to accomplish this is by establishing a strong brand.
The Academics of Branding
These ideas and model illustrate what marketing should be doing, according to experts Sean Duffy and Kevin McCaughey of The Duffy Agency. You can find more information in Sean’s book, International Brand Strategy, A Guide to Achieving Global Brand Growth. What follows are the basics.
See the Sustainable Growth Model (three circles overlapping) below:
One circle represents sales. What is marketing’s role within the “sales circle?”
It’s about helping sales increase the probability of closing deals, today, this month or this quarter.
Another circle is brand equity. What Is the role that brand equity should be playing in sales and company performance?
Brand equity increases the probability of future sales.
Another key component (circle) is margin.
There is a sentiment in the world of marketing and branding that if you are not a brand, you are a commodity – which is not necessarily a level that salespeople want to compete from. This is where branding comes in:
“That’s the other thing that brand is really doing for any business: It’s elevating them into the upper level of the marketplace where the margins are richer, the air is thinner, and the competition is few and far between.” – Kevin McCaughey
These components of a business have to be thought of and managed in relation to one another. They are not independent operations or functions. Sales and marketing play a key role in this total integration. Brand supports sales, which all funnels into performance, top-line growth, and margin.
Branding Increases Receptivity
At ASLAN, we often use the analogy of “seed vs soil” to illustrate the idea of cultivating receptivity in customers, both in consumer sales or B2B, before we begin to sell. It’s our Cornerstone Principle in sales training.
If you toss a seed, even the best seed in the world, onto hard dry soil, it will not easily take root and grow. But if you till that soil and first make it fertile, once planted, the seed will flourish.
Just like the seed will only take root if the soil is fertile, your message or value proposition will only get through to your customers if they are open and receptive.
Marketing and branding play a massive role in cultivating that crucial customer receptivity.
The process that marketing/branding goes through is very similar to what a salesperson might do one-on-one with a prospect:
You have to know who your customer is and what is important to them. You need to get their attention, gain their awareness. Then they need to understand what it is that you offer/sell. Once they understand this, you’ll still need to differentiate yourself from the competition. Even once you get through each of these stages, there is still a key component: trust. If they haven’t heard of your company before (marketing), it’s harder to earn that trust and confidence – especially if the stakes are high for the individual evaluating your solution. Branding makes this step easier, it can “soften the soil.”
If, as many statistics have shown, B2B buyers are already quite far along in the purchasing process before talking to a sales rep, branding would be a crucial component of getting your company’s solution on your prospect’s radar. Trust, relevance, awareness, interest… these are all part of what marketing can do to support a sale, before the rep even speaks with the customer.
“As marketers, we look at that as our contribution to the new customer acquisition process.” – Sean Duffy
How do customers find out about your company before they engage with a salesperson? That’s where marketing can work their process (which is very aligned with the customer’s decision-making process) to cultivate understanding, interest, and trust.
Marketing is a Two-Way Street
In a well-integrated organization, where sales and marketing are aligned on their position and message, magic can happen within this partnership. Sales and marketing should have open dialogue, sharing ideas and input back and forth.
The test of a good marketing department is not only output (as traditionally thought), but actually the quality and volume of the input – a large part of which should come from the frontline, the sales reps who are face-to-face (albeit virtually for now) with customers on a daily basis. Salespeople have insight into what customers are asking for, what their current challenges are, and even their future needs for new/ expanded products or solutions.
If there is a “wall” between sales and marketing, that input cannot flow, therefore creating a lack of alignment which can hurt both brand and sales, and ultimately revenue.
“They Ask, You Answer” Marketing
The nature of purchasing decisions has changed. B2B and B2C buyers now rely on the internet to do their research and find answers to their questions about providers and solutions, before they consider speaking to a sales rep.
Because customers are so far along in the buying process, it’s important to get ahead of this. This is where “They Ask, You Answer” marketing enters the picture. If there is indeed that much (online) research being done by customers in advance, give them what they’re looking for. Make it easy for them.
80% of your customers have the same exact questions. If you can answer these questions in your marketing, sales reps won’t have to answer those same questions every time they engage with a prospect for the first time.
Your marketing and sales teams should work together to come up with the most common customer questions, and build out the company marketing materials and assets accordingly. This is a real way to adapt to the new buying process, especially in a virtual environment.
“If your customers don’t have a problem, then you don’t have anything to sell.” – Kevin McCaughey
When sales and marketing work as partners to understand what those problems are and communicate how to solve them, doors will open.
It truly is, and should be, a team effort between sales and marketing.
The 3 Levels of Marketing
There are 3 types of approaches that marketing departments take to support a business:
Top level – Structured, top-down approach, strategic, oriented around one big, main message.
Bottom level – Marketing team is seen as a sales support team, creating materials such as brochures, running events… more tactical than strategic.
Mid-level – Marketing and sales teams are partners. Marketing provides high quality information about marketplace trends, competitors, changing customer needs based on research. Marketing works to educate the sales team and help them become smarter and better than the industry competition, while the sales team provides essential information about customer problems and opportunities. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
At the end of the day, salespeople provide an element that marketing cannot: the human relationship. Despite the internet and virtual process, customers want a person they can engage with, especially in complex B2B sales.
“Marketing gives the customer a company they can trust, sales gives them a person they can trust.” – Kevin McCaughey
It behooves everyone to have the open dialogue between sales and marketing. The “brand umbrella” of a company benefits all, employees and customers alike. This symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing can truly help us serve our customers well.
ASLAN teaches sellers an easier, better way to gain access & influence unreceptive customers, by eliminating the hard sell.