“Often companies experience failure due to misaligned goals in the following two key areas: 1) Misalignment between customer/client expectations and internal expectations; and 2) Misalignment between the sales organization and the operating side of the business,” according to this Forbes article. I have experience with companies that suffered in both these key areas. I would also contend that most companies continually struggle to maintain buyer alignment as they grow.and as market forces reshape the playing field.
Here are six ways to achieve or maintain better alignment with your buyers.
(1) Monitor Buyer’s Content Consumption
B2B buyers are relying on content to guide them through the complex and challenging buying process, from research to decision. B2B buyers review an average of 10.4 sources in any buying situation; the costlier or more complex the sale, the more content viewed. And a 2014 DemandGen report found that almost 70% of buyers have increased the amount of content used to research and evaluate their purchases.
Monitor your buyers’ content consumption behavior. These signals can uncover trends and help identify topic areas currently not served yet relevant with your buyers’ journey. By noticing even subtle alterations in buyers’ content consumption behavior, you can better maintain alignment with their information-seeking needs.
(2) Communicate and Confirm Key Information Throughout the Sales Process
This is a high order for many B2B companies since many struggle to even conduct win-loss analysis at the end of a sales engagement. However, as a Forbes article stated, “It is essential that you communicate key information during the process both internally and externally. This means not just sharing, but constantly confirming expectations with the client.”
In a consultative selling approach, your sales team has anging opportunity to consistently confirm expectations with the potential buyer as they work together through the buying process. Applying active listening skills such as restating what was heard and summarizing what was learned helps ensure clear communications and establishes common ground.
If the sales process is going off-track from the buyer’s journey, the practices of continually confirming expectations can help quickly re-align with the buyer.
(3) Test Product Messages
Outbound calling creates a perfect opportunity to test different product messages to determine what connects best with your target buyers. It provides immediate feedback and it enables the chance to alter course as the feedback is received.
In addition to outbound calling, your marketing team can conduct low-budget FaceBook, Google AdWords or LinkedIn Ad campaigns to test different product messages.Using these platforms and a target buyer profile, you can reach a small number of buyers to test which messaging generates engagement. These aren’t meant to be absolute indications of perfect messaging but it provides a low-cost way to determine if a potential connection exists with buyers. It’s better to learn more quickly when you are completely off base then to spend extraordinary time developing a campaigns that fails miserably due to misaligned messaging.
(4) Align Internal Teams
On average, buyers will have six interactions across marketing channels before contacting a salesperson. However, almost 65 percent of those buyers will come away from an interaction frustrated by an inconsistent experience.
An effective sales process aligns marketing and sales to ensure consistent brand communications. A buyer doesn’t differentiate a conversation with a business’ salesperson differently than reading a white paper – it is all an extension of the same brand. Developing and documenting a message platform which includes personas, value proposition, core messaging, and points of difference ensures consistency across your marketing and sales teams.
The reward for alignment is great. According to HubSpot, “Companies with aligned sales and marketing teams are 67% better at closing deals and generate 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.”
As a survey respondent stated in a Richardson research survey, “The challenges involve alignment of message, breaking down silos, and forming an effective partnership between sales and marketing.”
The companies that can build a bridge (or “interlock”) between marketing and sales really stand the greatest chance of beating the competition and winning more customers.
Specific Tips for Improving Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Establish a co-created service level agreement that outlines goals and a clear process for how leads are nurtured and followed up on.
- Establish shared key performance indicators.
- Co-create the criteria that defines a “qualified” sale.
- Actively listen to the sales team and get their input on messaging.
- Share marketing data with sales to gain buy-in on trends and patterns.
- Share results – sales are tied to commission and will get on board if they see a clearer line to closing more business; the reverse though is also true; sales won’t put their commissions at risk with willy-nilly assumptions by marketing.
(5) Analyze Touchpoints to Ensure Buyer Support
By understanding your buyer personas and the journey they’re on, you can build touchpoints to support this journey. Touchpoints include buyer interactions through emails, phone calls, direct mail, website visits, online chats, live events and other direct and indirect touches. At each touchpoint, you have an opportunity to assist the buyer by providing relevant, credible and timely information to further their buying journey.
This process takes time and requires a detail-oriented approach around connecting all of the dots across your sales process and corresponding buyers’ journey. By aligning with the buyer’s needs and helping them traverse their journey, you’ll be positioned much better to win the purchasing decision. If you are analyzing each touchpoint, you’ll quickly realize where buyers get stuck and fall out of the process. It is at these points, where troubleshooting and testing has to occur. Why are buyers dropping out? Chances are, expectations are not being met and therefore an opportunity exists to close the gap. You’ll need to have a marketing automation system to best conduct this type of analysis.
(6) Keep in Touch with Buyers
According to briansolis.com, “76% of marketers feel they know what their customers want yet only 34% have asked customers.” You have to reach out to your customers especially those who have recently purchased, and ask them about their experience. This “win/loss/analysis,can significantly inform your customer acquisition program.
I also highly recommend that once or ideally twice per year you perform a gap analysis. Setup interviews with your internal buyer-facing team members including sales, marketing and support. Ask them about your buyers. Questions to ask include ones like:
- How would you describe the company in 3 – 4 sentences?
- Why do customers buy from you? What benefits do they get from working with you/using your product?
- Is what you offer unique and compelling i.e. difficult to copy?
- How does it address your customers’ challenges and/or goals?
Then, schedule brief interviews (25-30 minutes) with select customers to specifically ask them about their roles, challenges and goals. Ask questions like:
- Describe your role.
- What put you in the market for a solution?
- What are the biggest challenges in your role?
- How did our solution compare to others you looked at or considered?
Once you have documented each set of answers then perform a quick comparison to identify a perception gap between your internal teams and your buyers. This will help identify areas where misalignment could be hurting your lead and sales growth opportunities. Keep in mind, I only mentioned contacting customers but it’s even better if you can reach out to prospects (via LinkedIn or at events) and lost/closed buyers who went through your sales process but chose another alternative.
Overall, don’t let misalignment cause your sales and marketing team to spin its wheels. The goal for your company should be when your buyers appreciate your value so much that they keep coming back. This only happens when you get into alignment with your buyers’ challenges and goals.
Discover more about Becoming Buyer First to gain better alignment with your buyers. Or if you are interested in developing a stronger customer acquisition program, learn more about our proven Customer Acquisition Framework.