Marketing Leaders Must Bridge the Digital Gap with Sales

The customer’s digital experience is at the core of today’s B2B marketing organization. In a short period of time, content marketing, social media marketing, and marketing automation have gone from “nice-to-haves” to “must-haves” and from “must-haves” to “givens.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for today’s sales organizations. By and large, sales teams remain digitally immature. Compared to their marketing counterparts, salespeople have not embraced the modern customer’s experience, and that has profound ramifications for businesses. Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening.

Mind the Gap: A Brief History of What Went Wrong

With the arrival of Google in 1998, the role of the buyer began to change. Suddenly, potential customers could search and find information about vendors. Marketing responded by focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) and creating great content that would attract their buyers.

Soon thereafter, social networking sites like LinkedIn (2003), Facebook (2004), and Twitter (2006) began to pop up, and marketers saw another opportunity. They could have conversations with buyers via social media, and quickly, social media marketing became a top priority.

Meanwhile, sales teams failed to take full advantage of the modern buyer’s journey. They continued to rely on the same techniques that they had used for years: cold calls and cold emails. And their preferred forms of content continued to be product fact sheets, cold calling scripts, cold email templates, and sales decks.

As a result, a gap exists between the digital maturity of most marketing teams and the digital maturity of most sales teams. As time progresses, the gap will only widen – unless marketing leaders partner with sales leaders to change the order of things.

Why Should Marketing Leaders Care about The Digital Divide?

It’s easy for marketing leaders to point fingers at the sales leaders. After all, marketers have done their part in adjusting to the digital era. Now, it’s time for sales teams to do their part, right?

Yes and no. Yes, sales leaders need to take initiative, but they need someone, preferably the marketing department, to guide them through the transformation.

In fact, by overlooking the digital transformation of the sales organization, marketing leaders are hurting their companies. Here’s how:

1. Inconsistent customer experience – Through dynamic content and optimized messaging, marketing leaders are responsible for shaping the buyer’s experience.

However, at many companies, a customer’s experience is fragmented and disjointed. Marketing engages with the buyer in one way, and sales engages with the buyer in a completely different way. This leave customers feeling confused because they’re receiving fragmented and (often times) contradictory communications from the same company.

Instead, a customer’s experience needs to feel “department-less” and “channel-less.” Buyers need to feel like they are having the same digital experience – regardless of where they are or who’s engaging with them.

Ultimately, marketing leaders – as protectors of a brand’s equity and positioning – are best suited to help sales teams achieve that goal.

2. Lost revenue – CMOs have fought to earn their seats at the revenue table. And as more and more revenue-related responsibilities fall on their plate, they must move beyond the walls of the marketing department and take a bird’s-eye view of revenue generation.

In part, that means diving into how the sales process works and understanding problem areas. For example, if your sales team is relying heavily on “smile and dial” techniques, it is clear that your company has not modernized its sales process.

Research study after research study shows that social media is a crucial channel for salespeople. If sales representatives are not socially adept, they are more likely to underperform and miss their sales quotas. Moreover, socially immature sales teams find themselves losing to their competition based on price because sales reps aren’t engaging with customers soon enough.

To remedy this problem, revenue-driven marketers must devise ways to empower sales teams on social networks. In so doing, marketing and sales leaders can help their companies grow their top line.

You can read more about how marketers can support sales reps’ social selling efforts in this blog post.

A Time for Change

It’s no longer enough for marketing departments to create a strategy that spans across digital channels (e.g. social, email, mobile, etc.). We must foster marketing teams that act across departments and enable sales teams to provide a seamless experience to customers across digital channels.

More specifically, we must help sales reps understand the mindset of the digital buyer. We must provide them with the right content and messaging that will speak to the digital buyer. And we must equip them with the right tool set to effectively spark conversations and measure results.

Across multiple industries, CMOs are realizing that, while driving change in the sales organization might be challenging, it’s even more frustrating to lose to your competitors due to a digitally immature sales force. So, find a way to partner with your sales team, transform their mindset, and adapt to the modern digital buyer.

If you don’t, your company will be left behind.

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