Sales and marketing departments are inevitably linked when it comes to business success. Their goals and top priorities are consistent with each other: Increase the number of new business opportunities, improve the quality of sales leads and win more deals. Yet even with parallel objectives, each group cites clashes in achieving their goals, while operating in silos with processes that remain unaligned. What can be done to put sales and marketing on a mutually productive path – particularly when they are being held accountable and measured more stringently than ever?
As a first step, organizations must consider the sources of the conflicts and the environments in which sales and marketing are working. Top pain points for marketers are developing better and more accurate target prospecting lists; identifying valuable leads; establishing repeatable and measurable success; and the ability to demonstrate the value of marketing. Similarly, sales claims their top pain points are too few qualified leads; lack of timeliness and quality of leads; a lack of pipeline; too much time spent researching and prospecting; and the ongoing threat of not reaching their numbers.
The tension of the relationship between marketing and sales often derives from misaligned expectations and goals. Sales expects marketing to deliver abundant and “real” leads – i.e., to give them true opportunities to call on, so they can focus on the sale. Marketing expects sales to act on every lead, track progress and provide feedback at a granular level. Because marketing often does not know what has happened to the leads they have sent to sales, it is difficult to understand which programs are best aligned with sales needs. On top of that, each is working to grab the attention of the hard-to-reach customer, while navigating through multiple communications channels, an explosion of available information and the fear of change held by corporate buyers – all the elements that prolong the sales cycle.
It is clear that the largest area of improvement, and the key to sales and marketing harmony is simply better, more aligned prospecting. How can these groups collectively cut through the noise and get ahead of the competition?
Consider a 4-Step Program
- Know your customers’ buying triggers – develop a clear understanding of what creates buying requirements in your customers’ businesses
- Immediately identify companies with these drivers
- Divide and conquer – determine which drivers are early indicators of a need, and those that signal an immediate need. Early indicators go to marketing for nurturing and immediate needs go directly to the rep
- Track and refine
First: Know your customers’ buying triggers
Companies are largely passive when it comes to purchasing – they are resistant to change, avoid the sales call and only really buy when there is a specific, compelling need for new products or services. It is the understanding of what creates buying requirements in your customers’ businesses that will put sales and marketing on the right path. For example, it may be a merger or acquisition that will signal a need for IT systems, management consulting or new HR packages. New funding, changes in management, expansions in real estate or new deals may create other types of buying requirements. These events are “triggers” of a potential need for help, new solutions or additional resources.
Second: Immediately identify companies with these drivers
Every day, newspapers and online media sites report all kinds of information about such events, and demonstrate your customers’ buying requirement characteristics. Of course, neither sales representatives nor marketers have time to scour the vast news sources to find these nuggets of opportunity. Casually monitoring the day-to-day activities of a targeted organization doesn’t yield much insight into potential purchases. Instead, sales and marketing can leverage the expertise of new companies that filter the news and produce reports on the most relevant, actionable sales triggers, which indicate that a company is likely to need products/services. These opportunities may not have otherwise been discovered, yet are more lucrative because they represent a real need.
Third: Divide and conquer
While the identified opportunities signify a high propensity to buy, it is important to determine which drivers are indicators of an immediate need and which represent the beginning of a buying cycle. Often, changes to business may not lead to immediate readiness to buy, but the early indicators can go to marketing to open the discussion and cultivate the relationship. Marketers can then bring a more informed approach to nurturing the right account with the right products and services.
The more immediate indicators can go directly to sales to get to the heart of the need and its solutions. These triggers give sales “a reason to call” with specific information that allows them to engage in substantive, meaningful conversation. This focus on the shorter-cycle opportunities reduces time wasted, improves the yield and conversion rates, and lets the sales representative focus on closing the deal.
Fourth: Track and refine
Sales and marketing should leverage their CRM systems to track the success of their opportunities – from the stage of identification and throughout the sales cycle. With a closed loop system, sales and marketing can evaluate metrics (including conversion rates), as well as revenue results and returns on their investment. Sales and marketing can refine or redefine driver characteristics, and then trigger profiles as necessary to optimize success.
In summary, the less silo-centric and the more integrated the sales and marketing teams are within an organization, the more fruitful the bottom-line results will be. With sales and marketing working together to define the profiles of their prospects, companies will be able to:
- Understand what triggers their customers’ buying needs,
- Use systems to help identify the most relevant and actionable prospect opportunities,
- Divide the relationships by the stage of their buying cycles, and
- Track their sales effectiveness.
Both sales and marketing will benefit from both the growth in net new pipeline and more sustainable customer/prospect relationships.