It's the stuff of CFO nightmares.
A late-night, coffee-fueled examination of the latest profit and loss (P/L) statement reveals a disturbing trend - sales are down. The cost of goods sold and operating expenses remain stable yet the declining sales are impacting net income, the bottom line. These realizations can't always be understood with a spreadsheet.
Fortunately, these nightmares can have happy endings with plenty of black ink.
Here's how to analyze your sales and marketing efforts to determine why sales are down and how to fix it.
Lack of Marketing and Sales Alignment
Siloed marketing and sales teams are often the culprits of downward trending sales. The ability to track leads with CRM software is established but underutilized. Here's a marketing and sales alignment checklist.
- Lead Management - The core of CRM software is identifying, managing, and tracking leads. Leads originate in the form of a website visitor, contact form submission, referral, webinar attendee, outbound cold calls, etc. CRM and marketing automation tools allow teams to score leads based on their actions and interest level. This scoring system must be handled equally by marketing and sales teams. Marketing teams focus on converting marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs). Sales teams focus on treating leads correctly depending on where they are in the nurturing process.
- Content Creation - Content marketing and asset creation is an essential marketing team function. But too often marketing teams produce content that is irrelevant for sales. Not every piece of content needs to be for sales reps, there must be a collaboration and a feedback loop between teams.
- Department Structure - Marketing and sales collaboration requires the right structure. For instance, a CRM specialist (e.g. Salesforce Admin) can foster collaboration by generating reports for sales and marketing intelligence. Each team should be balanced with a similar number of higher-level executives. Team symmetry makes it easier to develop common goals.
- Communication - Before making any investments or big changes, think common sense and simplicity. A lack of communication creates team silos. Marketing reps might not feel comfortable asking sales leaders for feedback, or sales reps might not be passing on customer feedback. A culture of communication and trust between teams is required.
Lower sales might be attributed to misguided or lackluster marketing efforts. Here's how marketing might be dropping the ball.
We know the importance of collaborating on content. Without that collaboration, marketing teams might be producing content with various issues.
- Too much "top funnel" content. This means marketing is creating too much content for the awareness stage of the buyer cycle. This content informs, casts a wide net, and generally performs as compared to "bottom-funnel" sales-focused content. A balanced content approach is crucial because sales teams need product-specific content to nurture prospects.
- Addressing the wrong type of customer. For example, marketing content is directed toward marketing directors, but sales need to explain to CTO's how the product integrates. Organizations must create customer personas then decide where and how content should be distributed.
Lastly, a marketing problem that hurts sales is a lack of competitive research and industry awareness. Sales teams are pitted against the competition every day. Marketing teams need to study competitor strategies and how rebuttals are handled. Copying competitor strategies will only make things worse, but marketing teams must understand the competitive landscape.
Sales Process Breakdowns
Sometimes sales issues aren't tied to data, analytics, or fancy strategy plans. They come down to human motivation. Sales teams are only as good as their compensation plans, training, and processes. Here's the starting framework for motivating salespeople.
- Compensation plans - Commission structures must be easy to understand and provide consistent motivation. Comp plans should be monthly instead of quarterly to avoid "hockey stick" jumps in the final two weeks of a quarter. They should maximize motivation and loyalty without hurting the company's revenue. This balance requires deep research and adapting as necessary.
- Meritocracy - The nature of sales is competitive with a built-in scale of success. Sales organizations that don't follow this standard usually fail to motivate their reps. Top reps won't stick around if they aren't compensated fairly, while lower-performing reps need some pressure applied to turn around the performance.
- Training and Hiring - Creating a sales meritocracy is impossible without an organized hiring and training process. New hires must receive equal training information and ramp up time. Not all new hires will be good fits, but managers need to track turnover rates and keep training consistent. This is especially important as products or pricing change, sales teams need to be informed immediately.
Here’s How to Increase Sales
As noted, there are many factors that can determine why your organization’s sales are down. Assessing the dynamics of your sales and marketing teams is a great place to start when identifying the challenge areas.
At Synchronicity, we understand the importance of aligning your marketing and sales teams. We help our customers improve their internal processes to achieve maximum efficiency and communication within the organization. Combine our knowledge and experience with your hunger for sales to help you reach and exceed your goals.