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Five steps to aligning sales and marketing in the age of the customer

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Five steps to aligning sales and marketing in the age of the customer


Hugh Macfarlane runs through his five steps to aligning sales and marketing to better attract and convert customers.


Sponsored content: this article was commissioned by align.me to let readers know they can have a free Funnel Plan trial and ten minute coaching session.

Hugh macfarlane


It’s 2016, and the buyer is in control. If you go back 20 years, when we bought something – particularly in the B2B space where it was complex and expensive – the salesperson had all the knowledge about the product. We relied on that salesperson telling us how the product worked, what it did, what it didn’t do, and what it cost.

They had all the knowledge, and all the control. Today, the knowledge and control has fundamentally and irrevocably shifted to the buyer.

The buyer often knows more than the seller. As a result, the buyer, typically, is 70% of the way through their journey before they even want to talk to a salesperson. And that’s why we need to re-think our strategy.

We need to align our sales and marketing to the way that consumers and businesses buy.

To give these five points a little context, at align.me, we’re now 500 B2B projects old, including work with national and global brands including SAP, IMB, Oracle, Optus and CSIRO. We’ve been helping these companies align their sales and marketing to the way businesses buy.

The five ways that you can make your sales and marketing more customer centric are:


1. Whatever you do, do it together

Whether you’re in a small or large company, if one hand doesn’t know what the other one’s doing, it gets confusing. You’ve got to get sales, marketing, finance, and operations in a room together. Each of them may have a different view of the customer. If sales thinks the market is one thing, and marketing thinks it’s something else, then it’s going to cause confusion and problems. Discuss and agree who your customer is and what drives them. A holistic view will better inform the rest of your strategy.


2. Don’t start with your product, start with a customer’s problem

Fundamentally, what problem are you trying to solve for the market that isn’t already solved? It’s always the first question investors in start-ups ask, and smart marketers are following suit. Try to work out ‘is this a big problem, or a little problem?’


3. Think about the customer and map out what each buyer’s journey is going to be

Consider your customer’s starting point: they don’t know you exist, and they don’t care. At some later point, some of them will buy.

What’s the journey between those two? I’m not talking about the classic AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action), – in B2B it’s a little more complex.

From not knowing or caring who you are, it may graduate to ‘I know who you are, but I still don’t care.’ Soon enough, ‘I might care a little bit’, and then ‘actually, I agree the problem you are trying to solve is a big one,’ followed by ‘I know what I need from someone like you’, and ‘I know how you’d meet that need’. In the end; ‘now I prefer yours,’ and finally ‘now I’ve bought it.’

We call that the buyer’s journey. It’s basically saying that you need to work out what all of this looks like for your buyers, because if you try to tell them with why your product is superior to a competitor’s they don’t care in the beginning. They care at the end.

You’ve got to get that messaging built around what each buyer’s ready for, not what we want to pitch them.


4. Choose tactics to help buyers through the journey

If they know who you are, but don’t care, how do you get them to be troubled about the problem that you’re really good at solving? That’s the job of tactics, and we have find great tactics for each stage. A lot of companies trot out the same old list of tactics and throw a bit of social media in there as their marketing and promotional push. That’s not about the buyer, it’s about the seller. Choose tactics to help the buyer through the journey – end to end.

If you’re targeting a segment of potential customers who don’t know who you are, or what your product does, don’t waste your budget on messaging around why you’re better than the competitors. Conversely, if you’re targeting customers who know who you are, there’s no need to include product introductions in your messaging.


5. Don’t measure what you’ve done, measure the effect it’s had on the buyer

When measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, don’t just concentrate on what you (the seller) has done. Think bout the effect its had on the buyer. So it doesn’t matter how many emails you’ve sent! How many buyers clicked through? Measure buyer progression, not seller actions.

We’ve taken everything we’ve learned across these 500 projects and this system, and built a DIY tool so companies can do it themselves rather than hire consultants like us. It’s called Funnel Plan and it has customer-centricity built in at every stage. There’s currently about 1500 plans that have been built around the world using that funnel plan, following the same process our consultants use. It allows you to:

  • build a customer-centric sales and marketing plan together ,
  • measure what’s going on, and
  • get customised coaching from the app to learn and improve.



Hugh Macfarlane is founder and CEO of align.me

align.me is currently offering Marketing readers a free Funnel Plan trial and ten minute coaching session here.




This article was produced by or on behalf of a partner and does not necessarily reflect the views of Marketing Mag or Niche Media.

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