Overcoming the Disconnect Between Marketing and Sales and the Critical Role of Brand Strategy

By Steve Patti

In this second article on Sales Enablement, industry expert Steve Patti builds on the recent post by Andrea Fabbri and explains why meaningful sales conversations start with a differentiated brand strategy.

Sales enablement has grown in importance over the past several years. The formation of the influential Sales Enablement Society in 2016 by Scott Santucci, who founded the sales enablement practice at Forrester Research, provides evidence of its acceptance and increasingly important role in many organizations.

While definitions and organizational reporting structures vary by company, sales enablement can be generally defined as equipping sales personnel with the tools, training, and content they need to have meaningful sales conversations and accelerate the sales cycle.

While sales organizations are usually quick to adopt technology tools in pursuit of efficiency gains, like their marketing counterparts they often learn quickly that any technology platform is only as effective as its messaging.

The question of why marketing and sales teams struggle to keep leads engaged during the sales cycle, is a vexing one for many organizations. In my experience, it can often be traced back to two issues, both of which are essential for driving revenue:

  • Lack of relevant and compelling brand positioning – a description of how your company is different or better than your competitors;
  • Lack of relevant and compelling value propositions – the value your prospect receives from using your product or service.

The 5 essential questions you must be able to answer

In most selling situations, sales people must be able to answer 5 questions to be able to close the sale:

  1. Why Me? (Industry trends impacting the prospect that create a need for change)
  2. Why You? (Why your company is the best/safest choice — brand positioning)
  3. Why This? (Business and personal value to be realized — value proposition)
  4. Why Now? (Cost of doing nothing to create urgency)
  5. Why Price? (ROI)

Without a clearly defined brand position and subsequent segment value propositions, sales organizations are setup for inevitable failure.

The brand strategy link

So why does this disconnect exist in many sales organizations and, more importantly, how can it be resolved? The answer can be found in brand strategy.

An effective brand strategy should (among other things) create preference for one brand over another, thereby making the sales job easier. However, branding has become a confusing and often tainted term. Many companies confuse brand strategy with brand identity – a love affair with logos, taglines, and color palettes, and the critical line-of-sight between branding and revenue is lost.

It is beyond argument that strong, differentiated brands can command higher prices and bigger profit margins – which in turn, drive higher market capitalization and return on equity. More to my point, a differentiated brand shortens sales cycles because it helps answer Question #2: Why you? (the reasons for your company being the best/safest choice).

When Marketing leads any brand strategy initiative, the Sales organization should be fully engaged during the process. Both teams must agree on the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) which becomes the “target” within the brand positioning statement. Clearly defined customer targets allow for building powerful value propositions and tailored sales enablement content.

To summarize:

  • Sales needs more than technology tools to close more deals – they need differentiated narratives that align to what their ICPs find valuable.
  • A well-developed, differentiating brand strategy is the foundation of any sales enablement initiative. This includes positioning and quantifiable segment value propositions that help answer 5 questions that are core to any sales cycle.
  • Marketing should engage Sales as a part of a brand strategy initiative and this includes defining ideal customer profiles (ICPs), research-based buyer personas and journeys, and tailored sales content.
  • Brand strategy work that never makes it outside of the marketing organization is a wasted effort. To impact revenue, messaging must be endorsed and adopted by front-line sales people.



About the Author

Over the past 30 years Steve Patti has been a CMO, sales leader, entrepreneur and university professor. His international marketing experience includes hands-on expertise with buyer insights, branding, demand generation, sales enablement, channel management, and growth strategies. Steve has also led multiple brand strategy initiatives for employers and clients alike.