It’s no secret that sales and marketing teams often fail to see eye to eye on what marketing pieces and activities work best to attract and close more sales. Except for the most progressive distribution companies, I’ve seen this as a constant in the distribution industry.
The institutional disconnect between these two functions can lead to a very real sense of opposition. This disconnect cannot continue if a company is going to survive, let alone thrive.
Remember — the marketing and sales teams actually share the same end goal: to increase revenue by increasing sales.
The time has come for the two teams to work TOGETHER in tandem and stay focused on making that happen. As was said to me earlier today by a distributor I’ve been working with, “Marketing is no longer about setting up golf outings.”
For distribution companies in particular, consider some revamping, and some new learning within your marketing team with regard to what they do and what they know, and it is imperative that they work more closely with and in support of the sales function.
In order to get started on the journey of partnering your marketing and sales teams, there are five key areas they can meet on regularly and constantly tweak, at least until they start seeing results from their efforts. Think of these as the first five steps to better sales success.
Aside from being very necessary for a successful digital marketing effort, these five steps will help them break the ice, find their middle ground, and build and strengthen their relationship, which will be necessary for them to start growing your sales numbers together.
1. Create Buyer Personas (also known as Avatars)
Buyer personas or avatars are the fictional representations of your target market segments. They’re commonplace in marketing these days but they’re only valuable when they’re correct.
Too often it’s just the marketing team who goes through the persona creation process, and unless the marketing team is in the field with the sales team, they’re guessing at many of the details involved in understanding your core customers.
When your sales and marketing teams work together to fill in the details, it’s ensured that these avatars are based on factual information and not individual opinions or guesses.
And, factual market data is great for identifying the meat of your personas, but it’s a lot harder to pull out the qualitative information from those insights – such as goals, pain points, or even commonly-used phrases.
Since your sales team is on the phone or in the field with prospects and customers all day, every day, they are the true masters of identifying your customers’ primary issues, and they can probably spot a good lead from a bad lead about a mile away. Incorporate this knowledge into your persona materials to validate or refute the data you’ve collected already and fill in the gaps on some of that qualitative information.
Bottom line, the more detailed your personas become, the more targeted your marketing will be. The more targeted your marketing is, the more qualified leads you’ll collect.
In fact, once your marketing team understands your buyer persona(s), the information is helpful for everything from blog post titles, to email subject lines, to core content, to relevant calls to action. In fact, knowing those details inside and out can be the difference between a decent piece of content that hits all of your SEO targets and content that converts at 50, 70, or 90 percent.
2. Identify the Best Content Ideas
The difficulty in creating content is less about coming up with ideas and more about narrowing down the options to what will provide the most value to your audience, and as a result, generate the greatest ROI for your marketing investment while also attracting the most qualified leads. Content strategy prioritization is precisely where a sales team can be invaluable.
Again, the sales team is in regular communication with your customers and prospects, and they know what your customers and prospects need, sometimes before the customer or prospect knows themselves!
How nice it would be for the salesperson to have the exact material at their fingertips to share with their leads that will help them close a sale. But what material is that and how would a marketer know?
By partnering with the sales team during your content selection process, your marketing team can help eliminate the gaps in your buyer’s journey.
Your buyer’s journey includes the series of touch points that bring a prospect through your sales funnel. When mapped out correctly, your buyers will remain in your sales funnel until they’re ready to buy.
However, if there are large gaps between touches due to lack of valuable marketing material (aka unanswered questions or un-addressed objections), then the possibility that most buyers won’t make it through to the sale becomes very real and then those sales are too easily lost to the competition.
When the sales team can communicate the causes of these gaps, the objections being raised, the roadblocks to saying yes, or the reasons the prospect wants to wait on on the purchase, the marketing team can create content that addresses those issues raised and move the prospect closer to the sale.
Every move through the funnel, every touch no matter how small, keeps the buyer engaged. What’s even more exciting is that when you can do this with content (as opposed to a phone call or a knock on the door), it frees up the salesperson’s time to focus on leads that are closer to the bottom of the funnel.
A partnership between marketing and sales ensures that the messages stay consistent and valuable to the prospect throughout the customer journey. This gives your brand an opportunity to become top of mind — create memories of value for your prospects, and warming them up as leads before they are passed over to the sales team to close.
3. Nail Down the Sales Cycle Length
Depending on the business and the persona, a sales cycle could be anywhere from two minutes to two years or more. Knowledge of the average sales cycle timeline is a basic ingredient for a sales team member and it’s important for marketing, too.
We’ve all experienced those companies whose marketing teams bombard us with never-ending emails without any regard to relevance or frequency. More is not always better! Sometimes more is just annoying.
When marketing has a better understanding of your personas, especially those who typically have a longer sales cycle, they can complement your sales team with a well-timed marketing campaign containing only content that would be valuable to a particular recipient at a particular time in the sales process.
A major component of understanding the sales cycle is an accurate description of each of the stages of the buying process each of your personas may follow and then making sure the content they are interested in is easily found by them. This process is appropriately called ‘mapping content.’
Products and services with longer sales cycles are more likely to have longer, more detailed individual stages with measurable factors each step of the way and the more precise the mapping, the more you can count on that buyer moving in the right direction through your funnel.
4. Define Quality Leads
Have a clear definition of the difference between a market-qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL). These vary from company to company.
Whether you’re using an agency to pass SQLs along to your sales team, or you have an internal marketing team, SQLs are the best measurement of lead quality (before revenue generated), and so as not to waste the time of your sales team, it’s important that the marketing team knows when to pass a lead over to them.
By using a robust marketing automation system, exercises such as lead scoring and monitoring customer behaviors are easier than ever.
However, your sales team is the group closing the deals, and so the marketing team simply cannot set your parameters of what constitutes an SQL without first talking to the sales team and collecting accurate definitions from them first hand. When these conversations take place and the processes of identifying these leads are actually automated, both teams have access to very valuable data about every prospect in your sales pipeline.
5. Determine and Then Focus on Metrics that Matter
There are a lot of potential measurements when it comes to digital marketing. From traffic to engagement, to bounce rate, to conversion and everything in between, marketing dashboards can quickly get overwhelming.
The knowledge the sales team passes over to marketing through the four steps above will also help the marketing team prioritize analytics on the metrics that resonate the most with the executive team — those that are directly tied to the bottom line.
While vanity metrics like traffic can provide insights to marketers, they are worthless to a CEO unless one can prove how the content is impacting the bottom line — difficult to do without taking the first four steps above into consideration. A close partnership with sales will help your marketing team keep that ROI perspective in check, and as a result, the success of every marketing campaign becomes very measurable.
Why Spend Time on This Exercise?
Would it benefit your salesforce to have information such as
- When an existing customer is looking at new products on your website (opportunity for upsell?),
- When a prospect opens up and reads an email or, better yet, clicks a link for more information from your company,
- Where a prospect is in the sales pipeline,
- Who is active on which social media platform and what are they responding to,
- Who is part of which trade associations, who are they already buying from, and who is attending which trade shows,
- The list goes on …
When you have a CRM combined with a strong marketing automation system, the lead information that can be communicated back to the salesforce is invaluable and right at their fingertips. This can only happen successfully when the sales and marketing teams partner up.
Getting the two teams together does not have to be a one-time occurrence. Marketers can attend regular sales meetings to learn where things are going right (or wrong). When marketing team members have questions, let there be open access to your salespeople.
On the other hand, consider having the sales team give up a small portion of their meeting agenda to marketers so they can discuss or ask about upcoming content that the sales team needs changed or wants to use in the future.
If these activities result in more sales, then why not?
While it’s understood that both the inside sales team and the outside sales team are very busy, there is a true advantage to having the inside sales team available to the marketing team in between meetings to 1) review and contribute to whatever content the team is producing and 2) paint a clearer picture for marketing of what it is the sales team needs to help close the sale. This way, marketing is empowered to provide the most valuable supporting materials possible, and there are no hold-ups.
In closing, one piece of advice… The key to successfully keeping sales and marketing moving forward with a collective effort is to have a set schedule of meetings planned, perhaps every two to three weeks to start, less frequently as they begin making progress; and always have an agenda.
Stick to the agenda, lay out the deliverables at the end of each meeting, including accountability, consider incentivizing the process, and you will be good to go!
Good luck, let me know how you do, and call me with any questions!
About Next Level iMedia
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