The buying process has changed. Historically, consumers had to speak to a salesperson to get the information they needed to make a decision on a product or service… questions like, “What colors is it available in?” or “What are my options if the service isn’t working for us?”. If knowledge is power, this put the salesperson in a pretty good place.
But things have changed.
Now, answers to most buyers’ questions are a Google search away. In fact, 77% of B2B purchasers will not speak to a salesperson until they had done their own research (The Corporate Executive Board). This requires that the modern salesperson help the buyer understand their challenges and advise them on the best product or service to address those challenges.
With marketing departments creating the content that buyers are using to educate and inform themselves, and sales departments helping advise these informed buyers to make a decision, alignment of sales and marketing teams is key. CEOs see it too: 38% of them say aligning sales and marketing is a top priority.
Let’s take a look at 5 practices for aligning sales and marketing:
Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page
Understand salespeople and marketers are different.
Before sales and marketing teams can get on the same page they have to understand they are different. Different to the core. Most marketers and creatives would break out in a cold sweat if you asked them to call a prospect, and most salespeople don’t have very little desire for tasks like writing and designing, or brainstorming videos - they prefer human to human contact.
But similar too.
Sales and marketing are more similar than most of us think. Marketers thoroughly appreciate a customer journey map – which contains all of the elements of a sales funnel. And sales often has unique insights into the creative because of their interaction with buyers.
“All too often, organizations find that they have a marketing function inside Sales, and a sales function inside Marketing.”
Harvard Business Review
Sales and marketing have the same goal.
Also understand that sales and marketing have the same major goal: GROWTH.
But growth is broad, and it shouldn’t stop there. Sales and marketing can improve alignment by developing specific goals together… And meet regularly to track and revise these goals. Having goals and accountability with regular communication will help reduce friction.
Sales and Marketing Should Learn how to Share
To really get sales and marketing on the same page, they need to freely pass information between departments. Feedback is critical to the success of both departments, there are a few practical ways to share:
Salespeople are a great source of content ideas for marketers.
Whether they know it or not, salespeople hold one of the best sources of content for marketers: The questions asked by potential customers.
Here is a simple, but effective, strategy for marketers:
- Ask each salesperson for a list of the most frequently asked questions they hear from prospects.
- Compile the questions, combine those that are similar, and develop a top ten list.
- Create content around prospects top ten questions.
Marketers help educate prospects for salespeople.
Similarly, sales people can develop a list of things they wish prospects were aware of before they reached out to have conversation. Slightly different from the “top 10 questions” list above, these may be points that prospects wouldn’t think or know to ask.
By creating content around these topics, the marketing department is helping to better educate and inform prospects. More importantly, marketing could be helping to cut through objections before a salesperson has a conversation with a prospect.
Sales and marketing should always share data. It reduces finger-pointing or the blame game because numbers can speak for themselves. Sharing data keeps everyone accountable to the goals.
Start with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Both departments will have access to all of a lead’s information and know where they are in the buying process. This will help marketing customize the content sent to the prospect, and will allow sales to be specific in their outreach.
Get Specific About Leads
Using “leads” as a key performance indicator is a common practice, and it works well to track general progress toward marketing goals. However, marketing and sales teams need to take it a step further.
Work together to define the attributes that make up each of the following:
- Lead: Any inbound or outbound contact that needs to be nurtured.
- Marketing Qualified Lead: Has demonstrated a level of interest or engaged in a way that sets them apart from general leads.
- Sales Qualified Lead: The sales team has connected with this lead and determined they are a good fit.
Sales and marketing should review the leads and criteria regularly and ask, “is this working?”. Check out This is Why Your Inbound Leads are Dying at the Bottom of the Funnel for more on this.
Use Lead Scoring
According to HubSpot, lead scoring should be used to “attach values to each of your leads based on their professional information and the behavior they’ve exhibited on your website”.
A few steps for getting started with lead scoring:
- The marketing team should work with sales to find the last few deals that were closed without issue. This could be defined as smoothly, easily, quickly, etc.
- Marketing should decide on a final value that should tip the scale, designating a lead is ready to hand over to sales. Choose something round, easy to work with like 10, 100, etc.
- Reverse engineer the behavior these leads exhibited as they interacted with your company and decide how they should be weighted accordingly.
A few examples:
Downloaded an ebook: 5
Downloaded a case study: 15
Watched the demo video: 20
Visited the pricing page of the website 3 times: 25
- Make sure the final score for these leads you’ve reverse engineered tips the scale, triggering a transition of the lead from marketing to sales.
Sales and Marketing Should Pass Leads Between Departments
Leads should flow freely between departments, with clear communication and processes.
With a CRM and lead scoring in place, develop a set of standard practices when marketing passes a lead to sales. It should be a true handoff. Marketing has worked hard to attract, convert, and nurture this lead. With a solid process in place, sales will begin to appreciate and value these marketing qualified leads.
Also have a process that allows sales to pass leads back over to marketing. Just because the sales team was unable to close a lead, doesn’t mean the lead is not qualified. Rather than losing track of the lead, sales should use a standard process to pass the lead back to marketing, along with good notes and feedback. This will also demonstrate to the marketing team that sales values the leads the team has worked to build.
Here’s a good example of feedback that should accompany a lead that is passed back to the marketing team:
“I spoke with Tim – they like our platform and seem to be a good fit. It looks to be a bit too big for their team, but they are growing quickly. He also has some minor concerns on the cost, but doesn’t think that will prevent them from using it when the time comes.”
This kind of feedback will let marketing know how to nurture the lead and stay front of mind until the timing is right.
Why should organizations work to align sales and marketing?
- 89.1% of companies that aligned sales and marketing reported measurable increases in leads that converted to opportunities (source).
- Syncing sales & marketing makes companies 67% more effective at closing deals (source).
Aligning sales and marketing boosts revenue and makes organizations more efficient.
About the Author Casey O'Quinn
Casey founded Gravity Digital in 2000 after serving as the Internet Services Director for a Nashville-based Ad Agency. He's a rare breed that operates both left and right brain, so along with oversight of the company he's active in the creative process for our clients.
Follow Casey O'Quinn: LinkedIn | Twitter