Sales and marketing alignment: For some this topic causes panic and angst, for others it stirs up no emotion at all … and for a select minority it presents a vast ocean of opportunities. I’m in the latter bucket.
Marketers don’t/can’t/won’t understand the complexity and sheer uphill battle that sales faces, while my sales friends ridicule marketing as being divorced from REVENUE reality. Make no mistake about it, this is one chasm both sides will have to cross in order to work together and produce the best possible results.
After training thousands of sales and marketing professionals. I’ve seen first-hand what aligned sales and marketing teams can achieve. There is no convoluted strategy, no hype, nothing uber-fancy needed in order to get to accord. It’s taking ideas and concepts that we all know about in the off-line world and porting them to digital.
Moreover, it’s all about execution. An insane amount of it, if I may add. Get it right and your inner Indiana Jones will have found the Holy Grail. And this heavy lifting is the fundamental reason why most companies prefer the status quo.
One good place to begin the process of sales and marketing alignment is in social selling. It’s an emerging field with great promise, and most of us don’t have entrenched habits to overcome. It’s a practice that can be constructed with alignment at its core, which by osmosis can affect existing barriers.
Social Media Marketing Fulfills the Promise of Reach
Marketing’s all about reach and messaging. Have you considered what the effect might be if your sales team actively helped distribute your messaging and content? What’s your social reach now? You may work for a company with 10 sales reps or 10,000. While an individual sales rep’s social footprint might not seem like much, each one has exponential possibilities, and the aggregated reach would be massive.
Add to this the ability to add more prospective buyers to your social networks. While your audience grows, so does the number of qualified buyer persona consuming your content. Your prospective buyers could, literally, be educating themselves on a buying journey!
Marketers, as you tie this in with your marketing automation platform, the end product will make you dance for joy. Sales leaders and reps, you could be generating customized leads from your content writing and sharing efforts. This level of visibility is needed if you’re serious about getting sales more involved in the social sharing process.
The On-Ground Reality
Now, let’s dive in further. Let’s specifically focus on content creation and distribution. How much time do you think it takes to produce a marketing asset? Let’s look at some of these stats.
(I hope my friends in sales are reading this to get a sense of the workload.)
The average whitepaper takes up to 50 hours to complete. I’m willing to bet the time it takes to research, fact-check, etc. is not included. (Editor’s note: you are right, my friend.)
The average blog takes up to 5-7 hours to write with research, writing, editing, etc. (Editor’s note: Not counting posting, finding images, and creating metadata. It’s a labor of love, though.)
There have been a plethora of articles and posts about the importance and value of content sharing. Engagement is often cited as a barometer of success. Sometimes branding and awareness are cited.
However, allow me to express a selfish point of view. You see, we sales folks only care about using social media IF there is a tangible benefit associated with it. Benefits like MORE conversations, MORE pipeline and MORE revenue.
I don’t want to think about how difficult it must be to produce all of this incredible content and then have it sit in an ivory tower without sales reps even looking at it (let alone sharing it). How painful!
So here’s a cure for the common cold shoulder: here are four tips to help marketing and sales align around sharing content via social … which will lead to social sales. It’s win-win for both sides (not to mention the company).
4 Tips to Increase Social Content Sharing By Sales
Tip #1: Get Sales More Involved In the Creative Process
If your company doesn’t have a joint sales and marketing meeting on a regular basis, you’re doomed for failure. I’ve seen companies whose marketing departments scratch their heads on why sales doesn’t share content; meanwhile their blogs don’t even have social share buttons!
Take the time to ask sales what they need and what they’re hearing from clients and prospects on the street. Being that close to buyers makes sales reps invaluable sources and subject matter experts as you conceive, create and deploy your content. Don’t just ask for input, put sales in the driver’s seat. Let them contribute ideas about what buyers are asking for today. Some might sound funny and outrageous, but others will nail something important. And over time your two teams will gel far better together.
Tip #2: Have Sales Produce Their Own Content
Although this is probably not on many people’s radar (just yet), let me point you to what forward-thinking sales reps are already doing. They’re writing their own content and using tools like LinkedIn Publish or even their own personal branded blogs to disseminate content.
If you’re scared that your sales reps don’t want to write their own content (or scared that they will, and it won’t be very good), consider asking them questions over the phone, transcribing this and turning it into a powerful asset. This is a traditional journalistic technique to get a story, and a prime example of an off-line tactic that translates to digital very well. Smart organizations are using this very strategy today to help sales reps become thought leaders.
What marketing should know is that buyers will be much more likely to buy into the words of an experienced sales rep than a standard, generic piece of marketing.
Tip #3: Really Understand the Buying Journey
It’s amazing to see how many sales and marketing leaders don’t know their customer’s buying journey. No, I’m not taking about your sales cycle process, I’m referring to the path prospects take before they enter your funnel all the way through to becoming clients. It’s about them and their viewpoint, not you and your plan for them.
The more time the sales and marketing teams work together to understand the path the buyer takes, the more targeted content you can create. As you integrate sales into this process, the faster they’ll share content, and the better, more on-the-nose that content will be.
Tip #4: Use Tools and Automation
Many marketing departments are deploying tools that share content to their sales reps’ social media accounts. It’s quick, painless and allows broad content distribution rather quickly. I personally love this solution – but I wouldn’t risk not changing the mindset of my sales and marketing teams first.
To clarify: Although it may tempting to ramp everyone up on social sharing tools, if you don’t focus on changing their mindset first, you’ll lose your internal audience. Those people you hope will share must be given a very good reason for adopting a new technology or process. Remember, this isn’t a fad diet. This is a change in culture. It will be hard for some of them. Will it take long? I’ve seen companies successfully transform their social sharing programs from zero to hero in about six to nine months.
At the risk of boring you, let me underscore this one more time: Layer on all the acceleration tools you want to after but do not sacrifice the core principle of shifting mindset first.
The Bottom Line
We’ve seen why social sharing is so important, examined why most reps don’t do it, and reviewed ways you can bring sales and marketing together.
Social sharing is a component, the first phase, of social selling. One of the best things you can do for your sales teams today is to get them formally trained on social selling. As a marketer, you can play a central role in helping your sales team find, educate and engage more buyers online. The benefits are astounding: greater pipeline growth, increased customer engagement, more sales conversations, and of course (most importantly) more revenue.
Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me @AmarSheth to share your ideas on increasing social sharing.