Learning Is Key to Aligning Sales, Marketing

 

Sales and marketing alignment has become a hot topic as leaders realize that getting the two groups on the same page yields greater revenue growth, shorter sales cycles and higher customer retention. Many organizations, however, struggle to create sales and marketing synergy that delivers a measureable business impact. They fail to recognize and address one of the key barriers to alignment: a lack of marketing training.

Marketo’s “2013 Sales and Marketing Alignment Study” reported that in organizations with one to three days of marketing training annually, 21 percent of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) close. Increase training to eight to 10 days a year, and that closing percentage jumps to 35 percent. Organizations with more than 10 days of marketing training per year see closure rates of 60 percent of sales qualified leads that had resulted in proposals.

Why does training make such a big difference? One possible explanation: well-trained marketers deliver more effective programs. They’re better equipped to create the types of messages, experiences and calls to action that resonate with their audiences. They’re also more likely to understand how to track program results and optimize based on past success or failure.

“In the past, sales has had personalized, one-to-one conversations with prospects, while marketers have delivered higher-level messages targeting broader audiences,” notes Valerie Witt, MarketingProfs vice president of Professional Development Solutions. “Now, marketers are challenged to deliver more personalized communications that leverage what they know about someone based on their behavior. It’s a different approach. There’s also greater emphasis on using technology and data to deliver more effective marketing campaigns. Companies that commit to developing their marketers’ skills give themselves a competitive advantage.”

While investments in sales-centric learning and development are increasing according to the ASTD “2013 State of the Industry” report, marketing training is not keeping pace. In fact, investments in marketing professional development are shrinking as companies attempt to maintain flat budgets while adding in new marketing technologies and tactics.

The recent “CMO Survey” reported that spending on marketing training and developing new marketing capabilities have steadily decreased since August 2012. The survey also found that while companies expect to increase spending on marketing analytics over the next three years, less than half believe they have the right talent to fully leverage analytics.

In addition, most companies plan to increase spending on social media and digital advertising, though only 16 percent have qualitative data on the impact of social media on the business. Almost half — 49 percent — have not been able to show the impact of their social media investments.

“Most businesses are asking marketers to think differently and use new tools without preparing them to do that,” Witt says. “Until companies invest in learning for marketers the way they invest in leadership, management and sales development, they’re unlikely to realize true sales and marketing alignment.”

 

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