There’s no longer room for a Great Divide between sales and marketing. Integration delivers proven benefits – up to 20% more revenues, in fact, as found by a 2010 study by Aberdeen Research Group. We at Cognizant have also been achieving excellent results. As Marketing Director at Cognizant Switzerland, I have a great relationship with the Sales people because I know we are all working with a common process and language – through smarketing, or integrated sales and marketing.

Integrated sales and marketing: aligning objectives

Integration isn’t self-evident. For starters, sales and marketing metrics are traditionally different. Sales traditionally talks about pipelines, calls and appointments, whereas marketing focuses on funnels, volumes, traffic and leads. Marketing measures ad clicks and page views. Sales looks not at clicks, but at quality leads.

But by aligning objectives, we get people traveling in the same direction. Instead of siloed KPIs for each team, the focus is on the performance of the business as a whole. We agree goals together, and there is one dashboard, with a closed-loop reporting system, to show the status of all the issues that matter. Nor do we leave it just to desktop metrics. We hold weekly alignment meetings to discuss progress, and quarterly joint reviews to check how well objectives have been achieved and figure out what we could be doing better.

Agreeing on a target audience

The main barrier to integrated sales and marketing is agreement on the target market, according to a 2018 study by marketing intelligence organization Inside View, so it’s vital to iron out differences early on. We make sure everyone knows who exactly we are engaging with, and leverage AI and data analytics to forge valuable links between previously separate areas. With shared responsibility for the customers, rather than the traditional “hard” handover of leads from marketing to sales, we find we can engage with customers on multiple levels, and progress these relationships beyond the original sales contact.

Changed B2B decision-making

Our integrated sales and marketing approach at Cognizant is in alignment with how B2B investment decisions are now made. B2B buyers rely far less on traditional sales pitches (the maze of decision-makers in a B2B deal makes reaching the right people a challenge anyway). To win over B2B decision-makers, it’s a case of building relationships (and trust) over time, and offering people various touchpoints to obtain the information they need. (For instance, a 2019 study by Edelmann-LinkedIn showed that over half of B2B buyers use thought leadership pieces to reconnoiter potential providers.)

What comes first, however, is building and nurturing these important relationships with customers. Everyone at Cognizant understands this. And with this common understanding in place, it’s not such a big step to install the shared metrics to measure how well we are succeeding, and for sales and marketing people to pull together as the unified team that they are.

Jobs of the future

Greater integration, powered by technology and to some extent AI, will also impact on the nature of jobs in sales and marketing. In its study on 21 Marketing Jobs of the Future, Cognizant looks where trends are heading. Yet however unusual some of these integrated sales and marketing roles might sound (“Sixth Sense Analyst”, anyone?), they still have much in common with the jobs today: namely the work of connecting people to stories, brands and experiences.