Sales vs. compliance: How to overcome misalignment in heavily regulated industries.Posted on August 30th, 2019 by Jay Thomas
Compliance is a significant concern for any company subject to strict legal regulations. Industries, like finance, healthcare, and education, are particularly prone to compliance concerns. In finance, a whopping $61 million in regulatory fines were levied in 2018 alone. How is your organization handling the risk?
The threat of severe fines makes compliance a priority. However, many businesses struggle with it. Why is compliance such a challenge? Because it can stifle your sales and marketing departments. Sales reps may feel too restricted, and marketing could risk a violation with content. Many of the problems are a direct result of misalignment between sales, marketing, and technology. To overcome this misalignment, let’s first examine the challenges.
Sales challenges in regulated industries
Heavy regulation can stir up many problems in the sales process. These problems include both risks and restrictions. An undisciplined sales process runs the risk of costly compliance violations. Restrictive company protocols inhibit reps from being more effective. It's the Goldilocks principle: The sweet spot between safety and flexibility is difficult to achieve.
To illustrate, let's consider two hypothetical selling situations:
1) Salesperson Sergio finds himself in a position with lackluster sales support. He knows customized content will resonate better with his prospect, but he doesn't get materials when he needs them. With undefined boundaries, he decides to go rogue and customize his own sales content. Doing so, Sergio risks violating a compliance standard and getting a hefty fine.
2) Salesperson Suzy also finds herself in a situation with limited sales support. Like Sergio, she thinks customized content will perform better. Unlike Sergio, however, she doesn’t go rogue. Company protocols don't allow her to personalize content. Without custom materials, Suzy's selling abilities are limited. She loses out on many prime opportunities to close a sale.
Other problems with misalignment
Sergio and Suzy's issues stem from a misalignment between sales, marketing, and technology. The lack of harmony between the three leads to inadequate sales support. Any company can experience misalignment, but heavily regulated industries are especially susceptible. Besides compliance violations, misalignment can lead to:
Off-brand materials. Like Sergio, rogue reps create their own content. When they do, they may produce materials outside of the company's branding guidelines. Consistent branding is essential for business, and going off-brand can hurt your reputation.
Resource imbalances. Many companies place an emphasis on the sales department, but marketing lacks the resources to keep up. This imbalance throws off the sales support process. Customized content becomes very difficult to produce.
Low morale. Inefficient sales support causes frustration among sales staff. Reps don't feel empowered to do their job. Administrative tasks drain their energy and focus. The ongoing sapping of their power can lead to poor performance and higher turnover.
Divided teams. The discord between the departments leads to annoyance and criticism. Shortcomings of the sales department are blamed on marketing. As a result, the two teams feel siloed rather than united.
Revenue decline. Unsupported reps struggle to reach their full potential. The whole sales cycle is affected, and deals become more challenging to close. As reps miss quotas, the company misses out on a significant amount of revenue.
Alignment starts with communication. Materials and processes need to be effective and compliant. For that to happen, marketing, sales, and legal have to align. How can you foster alignment? Start by creating a detailed profile of your ideal customers. What are their demographics? What are their interests and concerns?
Next, perform an in-depth audit of the current marketing materials. Do they speak directly to your target customers? Do you have segmented materials for different types of customers? Marketing needs to work with sales to produce content in sync with the sales approach.
"Marketers overwhelmingly agree (98%) that personalization helps advance customer relationships, with 74% claiming it has a “strong” or “extreme” impact." - Evergage.
Even aligned teams need to stay compliant. To address this, get legal involved. The legal team should review all text for possible infringements. Legal should also educate sales and marketing on the latest regulations and best practices. Together, they can create a plan for customizing content while remaining compliant.
Using tech to streamline the process
Technology impacts every aspect of the business world, including content and compliance. Tools make content auditing, analysis, and customization easier than ever before. Automation also makes compliance faster and more efficient. Automation and integration create smarter, more productive teams. How so?
Companies can use technology to improve their systems. With improved systems, they'll meet the challenges of alignment and compliance. Being in a highly regulated industry doesn't have to stifle your sales. By overcoming the problems together, your teams can stay compliant and propel your organization to success.