If you Google sales and marketing alignment, in about .45 seconds your search will return approximately 32,900,000 results. You’ll see amazing amounts of best practices, mind-blowing statistics, and perfect playbooks. Nearly all search results will provide you with top-level theories, fancy philosophies about the problem, and suggestions for getting sales and marketing teams in the same room to talk. Unfortunately, these suggestions only get to the symptoms of the problem, not the root cause. And with an “it’s that simple” conclusion, an actionable solution is left out.
According to MarketingProfs.com, sales and marketing teams which are aligned receive 38% higher sales win rates, 36% higher customer retention rates and 208% more revenue from marketing.
What company wouldn’t what those kinds of results just for getting sales and marketing on the same page? Why aligning sales and marketing teams so elusive? Why has only a handful of organizations figured it out?
The Sales and Marketing Alignment Problem
The root cause of the inability for sales and marketing teams to be aligned is bigger than you think. The real reason for your sales and marketing misalignment is nobody in your company is talking about your company the same way. It’s hard to hear. And most likely you’re at least somewhat skeptical. And that’s OK.
During a Phoenix HubSpot User Group Meeting, I presented this concept. After delivering the problem statement I was met with silence. Then I asked two women who worked in the same company’s marketing department to help me conduct an experiment.
While one woman waited in the hallway, I gave the other woman the following scenario:
- You find yourself in an elevator with your perfect customer
- This is the customer you’ve created a buyer persona for and is what would be considered a “whale” for your company
- To land this customer would transform your business
- After some quick pleasantries, your perfect customer asks, “So, what does your company do?”
I asked the woman remaining in the room to write down what she would say. After she finished writing down her answer, I asked the woman in the hallway to rejoin us. I presented the second woman with the same scenario as the first woman and asked her to write down her answer.
After both finished their answers, I had each woman to read them out loud to the group.
Their answers had roughly 15% of the same words, different descriptions of the company, significantly different feature statements, and completely different follow-up meeting requests.
The Reason the Sales and Marketing Alignment Problem Exists
How is it that two people who work side-by-side every day in this company’s marketing department can have two totally different answers to the question, “What does your company do?” What do you think would happen if these women called a salesperson at their company and gave him/her the same scenario? Would it be a third version as far off as the first two? Most likely yes.
The reason is that without being told was say, everyone creates their own story. And every story is different.
What if you conduct this experiment at your company? How close do you think the answers will be? If you’re curious, I recommend conducting this experiment today.
The answers will not be the same and it’s not because the people in your company don’t care, are lazy, or not capable of landing on the right message. It’s because when there’s an absence of pre-approved messaging coming from the top of your company and pushing down to all levels of your company, employees use their own words to describe companies, products, services, values, and other customer-facing messages.
And here’s the real kicker – the more employees you have, the more exponentially off-message your customer communication is at every level of your business.
If a NASA Space Shuttle is off by one degree it misses the moon. It’s called the “One Degree” Mistake. For every degree you fly off course, you will miss your target by 92 feet for every mile that you fly. Flying around the equator will land you almost 500 miles off target, and so on. Companies around the globe continually deliver sales and marketing messages one degree off (or more).
Top-Down Messaging in Its Simplest and Finest Form
If you’ve ever been to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, you’ve experienced the simplest and most basic form of top-down messaging. When you receive your food order and say, “Thank you”, what response do you receive back from every employee? Yup, the answer is, “My pleasure”. According to an article on TasteOfHome.com called The Real Reason Chick-Fil-A Employees say “My Pleasure”, founder Truett Cathy took a cue from the Ritz Carlton Hotel employees who use the phrase too. Mr. Cathy felt as if, “my pleasure”, goes further than “you’re welcome” and adds an element of extra care.
Every Chick-Fil-A restaurant employee is trained to use, “my pleasure” after receiving “thank you” from a customer – not “no problem”, not “you’re welcome”, not “no worries”, or other versions of happy to help you. No matter which Chick-Fil-A location you order a juicy chicken sandwich in, when you say “thank you” you will get “my pleasure” in return.
That’s top-down messaging in its simplest and most effective form. Each employee is told the exact words to say in a specific customer-facing situation. As a fan of the Chick-Fil-A brand, I’ve experienced lots of different variations in tone, volume, and body language when receiving “my pleasure” from employees. Even though employees are told what to say, each employee has the freedom to deliver “my pleasure” as their own.
The Sales and Marketing Alignment Aha Moment
How many words or phrases have you trained your employees to use in specific customer-facing situations? If the answer is any variation of “I’m not sure”, then you’ve found the root cause of your sales and marketing alignment problem.
The only way messaging alignment works is top-down. If you’re not pushing messaging down, employees are making up their own stories and sending them out in customer-facing communication. If you have 100 employees, then 100 people are using different messaging to each buyer persona (at each step of the buyer’s journey), describing every product or service differently, benefit statements, and have different closing language. This is how the sales and marketing alignment problem grows exponentially.
Bottom-up messaging should only be used for gathering good ideas from front-line employees and those communicating with customers every day.
True Sales and Marketing Alignment
The only true way to get sales and marketing alignment in your company is facilitating a messaging workshop. Locking your head of sales and your head of marketing in a room to hammer through customer-facing messages. Every single one. The key is to get them to agree on the words that will be used to message each circumstance, at each funnel position, and to each buyer persona. If the two parties are unable to come to an agreement, an arbitrator such as the CEO or COO makes a final decision.
When your workshop is complete, you should have a messaging “bible” or sales and marketing agreement that will push down to every employee. You now have true sales and marketing alignment.
The Only Sales and Marketing Alignment Tool You’ll Ever Need
Now that your sales and marketing alignment issue has been identified, it’s time to fix it.
Our Sales and Marketing Alignment Tool is designed to:
- Put all your messaging in one place
- Calibrate messages against your perfect and preapproved messages
- Quantify how close or far way your sales and marketing messages are aligned
- Establish a framework for top-down messaging
- Create a template for building sales and marketing training material
Your job is to collect responses from customer-facing employees covering all areas of your business. Then give each answer a score between 1 and 10 (higher is better) compared to a perfect answer of 10. The areas with the largest gaps between the score you give and 10 are where the biggest messaging problems exist in your company.
Messaging Misalignment Example:
We’ve created a fictitious company which sells The Smarketing Pill and when taken, makes every employee talk the same about your all aspects of your company.
The perfect elevator speech is followed by (slightly exaggerated) versions of responses from various customer-facing positions. Notice how each is spoken through a lens related to employees’ position, highlighting classic bottom-up messaging. Tabs are available for a team, sales and marketing material, and individual products or services. This tool is expandable to be used by large and small companies.
How to Use Your Sales & Marketing Alignment Tool
The purpose of the Marketing and Sales Alignment Tool is to reveal areas in your company where the messaging about your company is incorrect, missing, or need of an overhaul. This template is designed to put all of messaging in one place for better calibration.
The Teams Tab is for collecting the messages your individual team members send to your company’s predetermined Buyer Personas. Walking through the buyer’s journey, complete messaging for those customer-facing employees.
Sales & Marketing Material Tab
The Marketing Material Tab allows for flushing out your customer-facing sales & marketing material. Completing this tab can reveal where sales and marketing messages are not connected.
The Product-Service Tab allows each part of your business to get the messaging treatment. For each new product, make a copy of this tab until all products-services are covered.
- Sender – Person or material sending a message to buyer persona or product/service
- Receiver – Person who is receiving the message from the sender
- Perfect Message – The fully crafted and agreed upon message to calibrate all other messages too
- Score – Number from 1-10. 1 = Worst Possible Message, 10 = Perfect Message
The delta between the number you give in score column and 10 is how much is needed to get messaging back on track.
Words matter. Especially if you’re in the business trying to get new and existing customers to purchase products or services. You need every employee in your company dialed into using the same words to describe every aspect of your company. Without that, you’ll always be one degree off and wondering why you feel like your sales and marketing alignment is leaving money on the table. Grinding through this alignment process isn’t sexy and it’s boring. And that’s why so many companies gloss over it. Start grinding today and start crushing your competition tomorrow.
Related article – How to Close More Sales When You Start with the End in Mind