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I’ve come across a lot of discussions about sales and marketing alignment lately. Having recently worked with AG Salesworks to publish an eBook on the topic, I’m drawn to thoughts on the subject.

tincansTwo recently caught my eye. The first was a post by Bob Apollo of Inflexion Point summarizing the findings of a recent Aberdeen Group report: “Sales and Marketing Alignment Collaboration + Cooperation = Peak Performance.” The 30-page report is well worth reading, but Bob highlighted two of the most compelling findings:

  • Companies that had best achieved alignment between sales and marketing averaged 20% annual revenue growth – as opposed to a 4% decline for the Laggards.
  • Marketing helped to generate an average 47% of the forecasted sales pipeline in Best-in-Class organizations – compared to only 5% in the Laggards.

Then I came across a post by Michael Brenner of SAP: How To Align Marketing With Sales”, which generated lots of comments so in the B2B Technology Marketing group on LinkedIn. In response to Michael’s post, Kenny Madden, Director of Business Development for Spiceworks, said that IT pros don’t care about sales and marketing alignment and pointed to a recent posting in the Spiceworks Community as proof.

In “Moving Beyond Cold Calling- An Open Letter to Vendors,” Justin Davison, a network/systems administrator at the R J Lee Group, says that instead of cold calling, vendors can better interact with IT Professionals in the SMB market by doing the following:

  • Get involved in forums, “not just posting, but reading” to get a true sense of pain points.
  • Instead of selling, focus on helping IT pros solve their problems.
  • Facilitate resolution when you run across people having problems with your company’s products.
  • Explore ways to add value to products like Spiceworks.

(For more on IT pros feelings about cold calls, check out this discussion in the Spiceworks’ IT community).

Justin’s points reflect the changing nature of the B2B selling and buying process. Buyers have new expectations when it comes to finding solutions to their problems, and the sales reps that embrace this shift can dramatically improve their results.

In fact, in the eBook I mentioned above, we highlight a real-world example of a sales rep doing just that.

Last year, Chris Lang, AG Salesworks’ Director of Sales, started sharing his knowledge and experience in the online marketing and sales community, answering questions, commenting on blogs, and Tweeting. Within four months, he noticed an impact. At the networking events he regularly attends, people approached him with questions. His emails were opened and replied to more often. Prospects began calling back after he left a voicemail. Understanding that the CEO cares about closed deals, Chris then evaluated his win/loss ratio on proposals and saw that the number of wins was steadily rising. Chris hadn’t changed anything about his process, other than to get more involved in social media and networking.

So what does this have to do with sales and marketing alignment? While IT buyers don’t care about the issue of alignment, they DO care about how they’re sold to – Justin’s letter makes that clear. And sales and marketing alignment is critical to satisfying that expectation.

For example, marketing and sales have to work together to determine where the most promising prospects are spending time. They also have to figure out the intersection between the concerns and pain points of the prospect base and what they have to offer in response. And, with so many sales reps resistant to embracing a new way of interacting with prospects (i.e., participating in the social community), marketing sometimes needs to help the sales group understand how to use the tools. (We cover these issues and more in the eBook, which you can download for free.)

Companies that are serious about connecting with today’s buyers need to take a close look at how they’re doing that at every step of the buying cycle. Unless marketing and sales are on the same page, they’re going to continue disappointing buyer expectations. Those that do come together and interact with prospects in a way that they prefer can win big time.

*Photo credit: heavytpro70 on flickr