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 is contingent on sales and marketing working together to create and nurture leads, drive sales and boost the business’ bottom line.
Something we all know, but worth reminding ourselves of. And sometimes it’s useful to remind the sales team of that too.
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 kind of 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 the process they go through with each lead after they take it over? If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, 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.’
Moving leads through the pipeline
How well marketing and sales teams work together depend on a range of factors. Among the most important are strong inter-departmental communication, a shared sales strategy, and encouraging data sharing between teams.
It’s marketing and sales’ responsibility to navigate leads through a pipeline. 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, at every opportunity, you should ask yourself: Is this lead qualified to the level where it’s appropriate for sales to step in? Has enough been done enough to warm the lead up for the sales rep?
If you’re noticing sales are failing to convert leads, despite your best efforts, it’s your duty as marketing manager to educate the sales team if their knowledge is falling behind. Working closely with them, sharing information freely, will help you pinpoint exactly where in the pipeline needs more work.
Adapting to a new type of customer
Both sales and marketing strategies must be constantly refreshed and adapted to meet the shifting demands of customers. If communication is clear and open between you and your sales team, but they’re still not succeeding in converting leads, it might be that your strategy is out of date.
Just take a Forrester Research study cited by Forbes. It 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.
If the market place and the leads are changing from what they were two, or five years ago, it’s your job to tell the sales teams this.
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 their messaging, generate quality leads, meet the needs of the sales team, and spearhead the overall performance of the business.
All hail, smarketing.