Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Alignment

Of all practices in the “top twelve” enterprise-level alignment, the sales, marketing, and service alignment is by far the broadest and the hardest to get right. So it is not surprising that only 35 percent of the nearly 1,000 respondents in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study were able to achieve it.

Only one third of sales organizations align sales, marketing, and service around customer needs. (click to tweet)

At the same time, 95 percent of world-class organizations agreed that this alignment positively correlated to better revenue plan attainment, quota attainment, win rates, attrition, and more. So, while it may not be possible to revamp your entire customer-facing organization overnight, it is certainly worth initiating a journey in a more customer-oriented direction.

One of the problems we see is that often alignment is considered philosophical in nature. Yes, we are all focused on our customers, but here we mean something more tangible that starts at the strategic level. To begin with, organizations need enterprise-wide agreement on:

  • Definition of “Customer.” It’s impossible to align around the customer if you are on not on the same page about what you mean by “customer.” Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, (and Customer Success by the way) need to work from a common set of definitions. (1) What customer segments do you want to do business with and which are a “best fit” for you? (2) What are the key personas within those segments? What defines them and how do they make decisions? (3) What is the ideal customer profile for creating the deepest and most impactful relationships (all things considered equal, which prospects would you pursue first; which relationships merit increased investment)?
  • Brand promise. With definitions about what you mean by “customer,” the next element of alignment is brand promise. When messaging to the market as a whole or to individuals in a sales cycle, what is the promise being made about the experience customers will have with you and the unique value that you bring them?
  • Customer experience mapping. The final anchoring piece is customer experience mapping. Specifically, what is the path that customers take from Awareness to Buying and ultimately to Implementation? A detailed experience map covers the phases of the journey and the actions taken by all parties (NOTE: not all are necessarily interpersonal interactions). For each phase and process, organizations should determine how important the interaction is to the customer. Identifying relative weight helps to clarify where to invest experience and what data to collect around customer impressions.

Aligning around the customer is more than philosophical, it requires tangible infrastructure. (Click to tweet)

With customer alignment as a foundation, the organization needs to put the infrastructure in place to maintain the alignment. After all, buyers change regularly; markets move by quarter; and internal change is just as accelerated. Marketing, sales, and customer service are fast-moving functions that easily shift out of synch. To act on the common definitions above, organizations need:

  • Data collection methods and tools for collecting very detailed customer feedback on their experiences across the full relationship. This extends beyond a Net Promoter Score to more granular information about each phase of the experience from first impression to current position (not just post-sales impressions). Keep in mind that the average complex deal involves 6.4 decision-makers for imbuing VOC into the organization.
  • Technology for housing the data collected and combining it with internally-generated data (buying and billing history) for analysis. It is easier for large, dispersed organizations to be aligned when they are working from a common view of the customer and a mechanism for sharing information about customers. In addition, analysis tools are required in order to develop predictive insights that drive process changes.
  • Processes for collaboration and handoffs. In the customer’s mind, it is all one relationship. They don’t care how you are organized. From a customer’s point of view, adding more resources to the relationship (be it content, or people) should add to the relationship not disrupt it. Disconnections in messaging are harmful (marketing value messaging promises one thing, the seller talks about something different, and then customer success comes along and says what was promised is not possible). Organizations need to create formal processes for how they will collaborate on handoffs and how they will work together on key activities such as account planning.

 

As the sales ecosystem continues to grow and blend into marketing and customer service/success, it will be increasingly important to align these functions in a more formalized way. In some organizations, this is happening structurally under the umbrella of “Revenue.” Regardless of whether you choose to organize as distinct or integrated functions, starting with definitions and infrastructure will be key.

Questions to ask

  • How well aligned are marketing, sales, and customer service on what customers want and need?
  • What barriers are keeping those functions from closer collaboration?
  • What data exists in other departments that could be pulled together to help sales? What data does sales have that could provide insights for other departments?
  • Who owns the customer experience within the organization? Who should?
  • Which critical few customer experiences should be mapped and refined to drive greater results?

 
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