It’s a thought that’s crossed your deadline-driven mind more times than a few: if only I could be left alone to create content for the express purpose of joyous ingenuity. But if you’re a marketer in the business of attracting and retaining customers (which we know for certain you are), Alexandra Middleton is here to burst your bubble.
You’ve heard it countless times before: content is king. It’s the be all and end all. It’s everything. What I’m here to tell you is that this isn’t completely true. Content, regardless of how good it is, cannot survive on its own. While as an editor I would like to believe that this isn’t the case, the reality is that without revenue to support my content and promote it through relevant channels, it’s not going to have much reach. This is where your sales team comes in.
Whether or not the primary purpose of your content is to boost sales or, in the case of the associations we represent, increase membership, at some level your content must generate an income. For content creators like myself this can be difficult to grapple with, but that doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, by working in partnership with your sales team, with both parties weighing in on your sales strategy, you will find that both your needs are being met – all without compromising a single piece of content.
In my own relationship with my advertising manager we have somewhat of a Bonnie and Clyde routine going. I mean this in the sense that we work effectively together, not that we are wanted for murder and a string of crimes. I know her spiel and she knows mine and we bounce off each other with a mutual goal in mind. While we’re undeniably both looking out for the integrity of our content and brand, I at times will need to step back and let her put on her “evil advertising hat” (her words, not mine) just as she lets me take the floor to serve my editorial agenda.
The reason this relationship works is because we collaborate and understand the way the other person likes to work. While achieving this alignment can prove difficult in some businesses, a recent report shows that those that do it well are reaping the rewards. They are:
- Outgrowing their competitors by 5.4 per cent
- 38 per cent better at closing sales
- Losing 36 per cent fewer customers each year
There’s no denying that sales and marketing alignment is key to business development. It streamlines processes, quickens the path to purchase and in my opinion is a damn good opportunity to enjoy some banter with your peers. So what’s the trick to achieving this bond?
Requirement #1: Know your sales team by face, not just email chain
If you rarely meet with your sales team face-to-face, things have got to change. Here at Mahlab, regardless of what we have on, the editorial, sales and client services team on every title will meet fortnightly to discuss our work in progress. It is a chance to debrief on the weeks past, look at future projects, evaluate our successes and troubleshoot any roadblocks. Think you’re too busy to sit in a room? So is everyone else, so make time.
Requirement #2: Take a walk on the wild side
Do you have any idea what your sales team does day-to-day or do you only pay attention when it comes time for them to report monthly targets? Taking the time to understand the roles and responsibilities of your sales team, where they devote the bulk of their energy, even learning the unique language they speak, will pay dividends for your content marketing strategy. Shadow your sales reps to find out what types of questions they are asking potential customers and don’t be shy to throw a couple of questions their way as well. Here’s a couple to get you started:
- What do your counterparts in the sales team care about?
- When it comes to connecting with their target customer, what works and what doesn’t?
- What are the numbers and insights they’re paying attention to?
- Are there any departmental rules of thumb? For example, how many touches does it take for a prospect to become a lead?
- When you are suggesting editorial and/or marketing leads, how many of these go on to become sales-qualified leads? You may find out you’re completely missing the mark in terms of the type of customers your sales team is trying to attract.
- Just how much work goes into securing each sale? Is it a case of more give than take?
- Lastly, and most importantly, what can you do better to assist them?
Requirement #3 Give as good as you get
For any relationship to work, personal or professional, both parties have got to be willing to give. Make sure that your sales team understands what you are trying to achieve. This doesn’t mean you need to painstakingly explain each of your editorial decisions, but it does help to give context to the work you produce.
Requirement #4 Speak the same language
If you don’t understand sales jargon, speak up. There’s no point in nodding through a meeting with a potential customer, hoping that nobody cottons on that you’re not entirely sure what’s being said. Before you step foot from the building, ensure you and your sales rep are consistent in your message and speak the same dialect.
Requirement #5 It doesn’t have to be strictly business
When meeting with an potential customer, you want to present yourself as a brand or company that people want to work with. If you and your sales rep don’t appear to get on, you won’t come off as being very welcoming and may even give off the impression that you are difficult to work with.
I can guarantee this will be the best piece of advice you’ve heard all day: clock off early, go grab a beer and get to know your partner in crime.