Let’s get real for a moment. As much as we love the work we do as marketers, if the brands we promote do not sell anything they won’t be around for much longer. The work we do has to contribute to generating income (and making our lives better).

Rather than treat sales and marketing as separate entities, success relies on the two working together to create and nurture leads, drive sales and boost the business’ bottom line. Something we all know, but worth reminding ourselves of regularly. 

But how about you? Do you understand what the sales teams need? AND are you educating the sales team about what marketing can deliver? 

Customers are different from what they were ten, five and even two years ago, and will vote with their wallets if they're not confident your marketing and sales teams are aligned.

How well do you know your sales team...really

Be honest: as a marketing manager, do you really understand everything about the sales process and what pressures your reps are under? Do you understand what support the sales team needs from marketing to do their jobs well? Are you aware of what happens to a lead after they take it over? 

If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these, it’s time to do something about it.

Learn (and accept) the lingo 

Pipeline, funnels, hot leads, qualified leads… if you want to achieve symbiosis with sales, learning the terminology is vital, and vice versa.

In some companies, there exists an unspoken hierarchy between marketing and sales. If you maintain the belief that the work sales do is somehow beneath you then you should reconsider. We read a spot-on mantra on the Talk Selling blog:

‘We need to be as great – and as proud of – sales as we are our engineering and business plans. If we are not, they will never have a chance of succeeding.’ 

Hear, hear.

Moving leads through the pipeline

It’s not marketing or sales’ responsibility to navigate leads through a pipeline; it's both.

Sales depends on marketing to attract, educate and warm leads up, so that when it’s sales’ time to step in those leads are receptive to a sales conversation. Meanwhile, marketing needs sales to close the deal, so that their hard work pays off and generates sufficient ROI for their campaigns and investments.

This means that as marketer at every opportunity, you should ask yourself: Is this lead qualified to the level where it’s appropriate for sales to take over? 

BUT take a step back from this.... Does everyone share the same definition of what a Lead actually is (...and then MQL, SQL, SAL....)?

If you’re noticing sales are failing to convert the leads you've given them, take ownership of this.

Working closely with the sales team will help you pinpoint exactly where in the pipeline needs more support. Yet it could be the sales team have fallen behind with their market knowledge, so as the connector between the customer and the sales team it's your duty to speak up for customer. 

Transparency, strong inter-departmental communication and data sharing between teams are vital to the success of a shared strategy.

Adapting to a new type of customer 

Sales and marketing strategies must evolve to meet the changing demands of customers. If communication is clear and open between you and your sales team, but they’re still not succeeding in converting leads, consider your organisation's strategy might be out of date.

A study by Forrester cited by Forbes found customers are increasingly wanting to take product and service research into their own hands, which some may argue is making part of a salesperson’s role redundant. In 2017, 68% of customers expressed this ‘don’t call me, I’ll call you’ preference, representing a 28% increase over the 2015 survey. A mere 16% of customers said they find interacting with a rep superior to self-service research.

Research from Harvard Business Review has shown that the average number of people involved in B2B purchases has risen from 5.4 two years ago, to 6.8 people. Is everyone in the buying team being "touched" by your marketing, or are you missing a linchpin?

If the market place and the leads are changing from what they were two, or five years ago, it’s your job to make sure your organisation and its sales and marketing strategies change with it.

The customer will decide whether you've got this right

Principal analyst at Forrester Research, Mary Shea, rightly acknowledged: “If marketing and sales aren’t aligned and if they don’t collaborate, they will be disintermediated. By buyers themselves who find other ways to get what they need or by more agile competitors.”

Ultimately, without sales, there is no business. Sales targets change and grow, and marketing has to support that. With more understanding of the entire process, marketers can become better at their jobs, fine-tune messaging, generate quality leads, meet the needs of the sales team and spearhead the overall performance of the business.

All hail, smarketing?