The Evolution of Sales and Marketing Alignment in Agriculture

David Lazarenko

I In agribusiness, there are few departments that bear more of the business development burden than sales and marketing. Whether it be the quest for additional market share, the growth of topline revenue, the introduction of new products and services, the expansion into new markets or the re-/up-/cross-selling of existing customers, your sales and marketing teams are your primary growth engine. Of course, they work best when they are aligned and collaborating holistically.

Unfortunately, in agribusiness, sales and marketing alignment is not as common nor as complete as one would hope.

This lack of alignment may be the result of many factors, from conflicting personnel, to competing priorities, to legacy business structures, to limited resources. It may even be the fact that in agriculture, sales and R&D have long been the primary drivers of agribusinesses, with marketing playing a smaller, secondary role. Regardless of the reasons why, the reality is agribusinesses are unintentionally limiting their ability to grow by managing these teams as independent versus interdependent entities.

As such, if you are an agribusiness that isn’t consistently achieving your growth goals, we encourage you to determine where your organization falls within the following evolutionary stages of sales and marketing alignment. Once you do, you then see where and how to improve this alignment and get these two critical teams performing optimally, together.

Stage 1: A Siloed Existence

This stage of alignment is characterized by the level of separation between the sales and marketing teams, where each operates independently with little, if any, shared goals, planning and effort. Of the dozens of agribusinesses we have worked with over the years, roughly 60% would fall within this stage. The most common structures being a large, field-based sales team and a much smaller, head-office based marketing communications team.

Also indicative of this stage of evolution is the setting and pursuit of very different team goals, where marketing is generally focused on generating demand (as measured by awareness and engagement) and sales is focused on generating leads and sales (as measured by market share and revenue).

20TS12930 Stage1Graphic
20TS12930 Stage1Table

Stage 2: A Shared Existence

This stage of alignment is best characterized by the sharing of overarching goals and objectives with a strong degree of separation in execution. Sales and marketing are still very distinct teams, but they work together collectively and collaboratively during the planning process, defining shared goals, objectives, and measures of success, before working independently on tactical development and execution.

At this stage, sales and marketing will likely have a strong definition and understanding of the sales process and sales funnel, with each team embracing how they are responsible for impacting it: marketing will focus on awareness and lead generation/qualification, while sales will focus on proposal development and closing deals to re-/cross-/up-sell existing customers. The sales and marketing teams will likely have shared data and reporting tools used to guide both teams throughout execution.

Finally, a strong indicator of this stage of evolution is the presence of an SLA (Service Level Agreement), a contract prepared between sales and marketing that details marketing goals (like number of leads or revenue pipeline) and the sales activities that will follow and support them (like engaging leads that were qualified by the marketing team). Roughly 25% of the agribusinesses we have worked with fall within this stage.

20TS12930 Stage2Graphic
20TS12930 Stage2Table

Stage 3: A Synergistic Existence

As the definition of “synergy” would suggest, this stage of sales and marketing alignment is best characterized by a level of consistently meaningful interaction and cooperation between sales, marketing and others that produces a combined result greater than their separate efforts. Of specific note in this definition is the intentional inclusion of “others” in the overall business development engine. This includes teams such as customer service, finance and accounting, and even human resources, given the roles they play in attracting, engaging and/or delighting the customer.

In this final stage of evolution, teams are aligned around an ongoing customer journey or overall customer experience (versus a linear sales funnel or path to purchase). Teams understand where and how their efforts continually move new customers into and through the many facets of the business. The dividing lines between different teams/departments become blurred as they may commonly work together in interdisciplinary cohorts focused on specific customers (i.e. business structure becomes driven by the customer, not the operation). Additionally, all teams involved typically work with an integrated set of customer data collection, analysis and engagement tools that provide a single, consistent “source of truth”, which is referred to in real-time through shared dashboards and reporting.

Finally, at this stage SLAs are the norm and likely exist amongst and between each and every team that has any form of contact with or influence on the customer experience. Roughly 5% of the agribusinesses we have worked with would fall within this stage.

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If you are interested in improving the alignment between the sales and marketing teams of your agribusiness, please feel free to contact us.


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