TALKING SALES 170: "Aligning Sales and Marketing on the buyer journey" - Graham Hawkins

John Smibert

Sales +M Alignment01 720x450              " The right message at the right trigger point along the buying journey" - Interview by John Smibert

Marketing and sales in a B2B environment are different beasts who typically don't understand each other.  Both have similar objectives - to sell more! Yet each tend to blame the other for lack of sales.

We might have been able to get away with this misalignment in past eras - but no more!

Graham HawkinsIn the modern era we need to be strategically touching the client from beginning and end through the buying journey.  To achieve this sales and marketing need to be aligned to ensure they are collaborating on each and every opportunity

I asked sales futurist Graham Hawkins for his views on this and for his recommendations for action by sales & marketing leaders  to address the issue.

I think you will like his answer.

View the video, or read the transcript below, and tell me what you think.


Graham Hawkins is a thought leader in B2B technology sales and an author.  He has recently published his book "Sales Transformation


John:    I've got Graham Hawkins with me again - welcome back, Graham!

Graham: Thanks, John!

John: Graham, we've had a number of great discussions about how the whole world of sales and buying has changed dramatically, we've talked recently about the buying journey and everybody's talking about this, but I don't see a lot happening. In part of that you mentioned the alignment of marketing and sales, and I've heard you talk about the fact that marketing need to become salespeople and salespeople need to become marketing. I think that's a bit controversial, I really want you to help me explain that. When you talk about the need for alignment of marketing and sales, what do you mean?

Graham: It's a good question. A lot of people are talking about now, and if I think back 10 years ago to the businesses I've worked in, the marketing team and the sales team, the two functions have been very much separate, so much so that they'll even be separate parts of the office.

John:    Well, in some cases you're talking about a fairly big corporate where you've got marketing sitting in another country, and in the country you're operating in basically you've got salespeople and not a lot of marketing.

Graham: And nowhere are the two objectives of the two departments aligned; you've often got marketing working on awareness, sales working on closing and conversion rates and pipeline development. But the two should be working closely together, and they must in the future to address the new buying journey.

John:    And I've heard you and others say, and I think I totally agree with it, when you think about that buying journey... we can't rely on being called in 57% of the way through the buying process, otherwise we're just going to qualify out straight away if we're doing the right thing. We've actually got to be in that buying journey very early in the process, and to do that salespeople can't run around being involved in every single buying journey. It's a marketing opportunity, isn't it? Marketing have to be involved in the actual individual opportunity.

buyers_journeyGraham:   Correct. If we think about the return we're getting on cold calling now, it's almost a waste of time, so trying to get in early as a cold calling salesperson, I would forget that. You're right, it's marketing that needs to get that awareness early. If you look at a recent study that was put out by Buyersphere, the analyst, they said that the number one reason a buyer chooses a vendor is because they'd heard of them before they started the journey. So getting that crucial early mind share or that awareness is absolutely critical, and as salespeople we must rely on those marketing colleagues to help us build those buyer stage appropriate messages.

John:    I understand what you're saying, but making them aware of us, that's just push out all the marketing, isn't it? I think it's much more specific than that, isn't it?

Graham:    It's much more sophisticated. You've got to have the right message at the right trigger point along the journey to get the customer's attention, to enable the salesperson to go in with some level of control. Otherwise, as you say, you turn up late, when 60% of the sales journey's been done, the percentage probability of you closing that sale or converting that sale into revenue for the company is very limited.

John: So you are saying marketing need to be involved in this buyer journey right from the beginning of the buying journey.

Graham: Correct.

John: Or even before perhaps in some cases, but certainly from the beginning.

Graham: Yes.

John:     To me that means a couple of things. One is, marketing really have to be involved in the sales process, specific opportunity sales process. And two, marketing need to have the eyes and ears open, to be ready to hear when a customer is beginning a buying journey.

Graham: Yes.

John:       And that's tough.

Graham:   It is tough. I think at an operational level you've almost got to bring the two teams together physically, and set the right roles and responsibilities and make sure the objectives are clarified, so that everyone knows exactly what they're doing at each point in the process, and by process I mean buying journey not sales process.

Australia's women's eight will row for a gold medal today.

John:   Not sales process, okay. So as they move through that process, what's going to be happening and what are the different roles?

Graham: A lot of different things are happening, a lot of different tools are being used. If we think about big data and predictive analytics and all of the social tools, social listening tools that marketing people can leverage, there's a lot of... What do they say, 90% of the data that exists today has been created in the last two years? So marketing people are adept at using those tools, and they can bring those tools to bare to help the salesperson get to a point where they can actually influence the sale.

John:   And part of those tools is actually getting content to the customer at specific points in the buying journey when they need that content.

Graham: Exactly. Trigger points.

John: Trigger points through that journey.

Graham:    Yes.

John: And so that's marketing's role. They're now in the sales process, they're in the buying process for specific opportunities. You're not talking about putting this message out and trying to put out the content across a whole lot of buyers in the marketplace, you're talking about identifying every single buying activity and starting to manage the way you put the messages in there.

Graham:   Yes. And I'm not saying, John, that that's going to happen in every situation within the B2B selling world, but with key target accounts that you're trying to open up or develop, you've got to get that alignment of sales and marketing.

John:   And therefore the sales and marketing have to understand each other, understand what their roles are, be measured on similar things, and you need to have maybe service levels in place where you identify who does what and when they hand it over and what they deliver to each other.

Graham: Yes. Part of the research phase of the book, I talked about this concept of team-based selling and that's where it's headed, with bringing marketing and salespeople together, putting your best team on the field at any given time.

John: There's lot more than sales and marketing when you look at team-based selling, isn't it?

Graham:    That's right.

John:    Let's talk about that subject maybe next.

Graham:   Sounds good.

John:      Okay. The bottom line is you have to rely on your sales and marketing, you have to do that around the buyer journey so it's specific to every potential customer and specific to every opportunity or every buying activity that's occurring within that customer, so that marketing people really are part of the sales process from a buyer journey point of view.The future of selling02 270x250

Graham: Spot on.

John:        A big transformation has to happen in a lot of organisations on that - we'll talk about how in another interview.

Graham: Sounds good.

John:      Thanks very much, Graham!

Graham:   Thanks, John - cheers!


More interviews with Graham Hawkins:

"The vendor stack: Are you being culled by your customer?"

Are you ready to ride the tsunami of change?

Measuring your pipeline can be a mistake

Your sales process is killing sales



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