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March 14, 2023

Sales is from Mars. Marketing is from Venus. Or at least they think so.

How often have you thought, “I wish sales and marketing would work together more closely. Heck, I wish they spoke the same language.” Opposites should attract, but differing motivations can cause your sales pros and your marketing pros to think they have different goals.

How often have you thought, “I wish sales and marketing would work together more closely. Heck, I wish they spoke the same language.” Just this morning, right? It’s a common problem because sales generally has to deliver revenue in the short term to generate cash flow, and marketing, at its best, is a long game that delivers massive brand value and opportunities. Opposites should attract, but differing motivations can cause your sales pros and your marketing pros to think they have different goals.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Sales and marketing can work together to create a virtuous cycle of demand generation and closed deals that will put your balance sheet and brand value in the black, and it all starts with orienting marketing and sales intent — and activity — around helping your customer make progress instead of selling to them. In part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll get into how marketing can adjust to serve the customer, and help the sales team out in the process.

PART 1: Marketing

Why Sales and Marketing Get Off-Beat

Marketing is tasked with building the brand, creating demand for your products and services, and delivering leads. Sales is tasked with building relationships and closing deals. Marketing’s goals are primarily a long game, and sales’ goals are primarily short-term. In my experience, this can put the two groups at odds because marketing takes a while to really gain traction, but sales is responsible for driving revenue with urgency.

There’s a lot to be said about what can be causing tension there, but one fundamental thing that can go a long way to unifying these two groups is organizing their efforts around helping the customer make progress through a data-backed customer journey. And the operative word there is help. This change in focus also helps both marketing and sales hit more of their goals.

Stop Selling and Start Helping

Before you get mad at me, I’m not demonizing sales. When you know how customers think about their problems, and the actions they are taking as they struggle to solve them, you can orient all of your brand-building, demand-generation, and sales activity around helping them get past what Bob Moesta calls the “struggling moment.” When you internally make the decision to stop trying to sell something, and instead to help someone overcome the struggle causing them to look for a new solution in the first place, you’re more likely to get the sale.

What, you wanted me to cite a statistic or something? Not this time. Think about it: when you don’t have to worry about whether the person on the other end of the deal has your best interest in mind, you trust them more. You go through this every time you buy anything. It’s no different for your customer. In a world short on trustworthy people, that gives you a massive leg up on your competition.

Aligning Around the Customer

In the past, I’ve explained Bob Moesta’s Jobs to Be Done timeline that describes the path most humans take to hire a product or service to do a job in their lives. The JTBD Timeline is making a reappearance here specifically in the context of how Sales and Marketing can help the customer make progress through the early stages of the buying cycle. From there, I’m sure that you will see opportunities to apply this throughout the customer lifecycle and apply your genius to that, as well.

Marketing

Here’s a statistic for you: Gartner predicts that 83% of the B2B buying process will happen in digital channels by 2025 because of the differences in behavior and preferences between generations. Most of this is expected to be without human interaction. It is more important than ever that marketers know their customers well and show up for them with useful information during the two initial, rapidly growing phases of the buyer’s journey that do not include sales professionals. Let’s walk through what marketers can do during those phases.

First Thought: Help Customers Believe Things Can Be Better

A person has to believe that a better solution is possible — and needed — in order for there to be an opportunity to make a sale. Either from frustration, imagination, or experience. You can even plant the seed for that belief with marketing that communicates that you understand the customer’s struggle, and you know a better way for them to make progress. This also creates awareness. Since the customer has already been exposed to your outbound marketing, you have an advantage: your company is a known name for when they get to the next stage.

Passive Looking: Help Customers See New Possibilities

By now your prospect is looking for another solution because they think better is possible. This stage of the buying cycle is prime time for marketing. You don’t necessarily have to speak the customer’s pain back to them—also known as “pain selling”—but you do need to speak to where the customer wants to go. To be effective, having an understanding of what someone wants to accomplish in their words is important. You don’t want to ask the prospect to make a mental leap to see your product or service as their vehicle to a better way. You want to come alongside their thought process and say, “Trying to get to the promised land? It’s real. Let us show you how to get there.”

The key in this phase is content marketing. In the B2B space, you win by providing excellent educational content that first focuses on being helpful, and as a result positions your solution as the best option for achieving optimal results because your content has demonstrated expertise. This is the time for playing pure offense, so do not cut corners.

Years ago, when I was in the advertising industry, I worked with a top tire brand on several B2B channels. They dominated the high-end of the market by having the best, most scientifically accurate educational content in their industry. It resulted in sales professionals from other brands using this brand’s website, even though they were a competitor, to sell tires because the content and calculators they produced were so good. What do you think happened? Whenever a company reached a level of financial ability to purchase this brand’s tires, they jumped on the opportunity. It was considered a status symbol. Our client was the destination brand in their industry.

Help Sales by Becoming an Aspirational Brand

Combine a great product with powerful awareness marketing and with excellent content marketing, and you can be the destination brand in your space; which makes the job of your sales professionals much easier. Nothing new, right? The difference here is in orienting your marketing around the buyer’s journey and using their language to communicate a path to progress. Knowing that language often takes qualitative research, but don’t shy away from it. It’s worth it. Learning and using your buyer’s language has the added benefit of allowing your sales team to use that language in the sales process.

We’ll cover how your sales team can win by working closely with marketing as the buyer moves into the next phases of their journey in part two!

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