Sales efforts and marketing efforts are completely different, yet for a company to grow successfully, the two have to work together synergistically. Many companies, large and small, constantly struggle with getting the two aligned. Can sales and marketing teams work together effectively? Below are 5 strategies that work. Read on….

The sales/marketing problem in a nutshell

One of the most difficult challenges that small businesses face is how to integrate the efforts of sales and marketing teams to turn it into a well-run system that generates qualified leads that will ultimately turn into sales. Too often in small businesses, potential leads are nurtured the same, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle. The sales team says they don’t get qualified leads from marketing, and the marketing team says that sales are throwing away perfectly good leads. Who’s right? Likely they both are, and neither are. The overall issue is that they’re not aligned. If marketing doesn’t understand what resonates with potential buyers (insights that sales should be providing) then you may very well be attracting unqualified leads. And if sales doesn’t understand what marketing efforts attracted the lead in the first place, their sales approach may be off-based and ineffective (marketing should let them know where the leads came from). There is a way to get these two teams (or people if you’re a small company) back on track and working together seamlessly. The importance of sales and marketing integration cannot be emphasized enough!

Create sales and marketing strategies around the customer buying process

Look at your customer buying process first, THEN create sales and marketing efforts around that. Marketing and sales should be organized around the steps that the customer goes through to become exposed to, form purchase intentions for, and ultimately buy the company’s products and/or services. Take the time to map out exactly what this buying process is, and determine which points of contact should come from marketing, and which should come from sales. If you involve sales too early in potential customer’s buying experience, you may lose the business. Involve sales too late, and the customer may lose interest and go elsewhere. Understanding the customer buying process is key, and getting sales and marketing to work together on it is critical.

Get your marketing team (or person) more directly involved with prospects

There was a time when marketers were in the background, pushing out messaging they thought potential clients wanted to hear, sending out information about the company and hoping it would resonate. But those tactics are no longer effective. Marketing nowadays isn’t about pushing out information about the company, it’s about providing information people are looking for. To attract qualified prospects nowadays, marketing needs to be providing information, answering questions people are asking, and overall positiong the company as a subject matter expert.  You can’t do that if you don’t get more directly involved with prospects. Marketing needs to learn from sales what people are asking, what kind of information they’re looking for, and what kind of problems prospects are hoping the company’s service or product can solve. While there used to be a clear delineation and “handoff” of a lead from marketing to sales, now that line is blurred as marketers are engaging in more of a conversation with prospects long before they’re handed over to sales to close the deal.

Encourage the sales team to give feedback to marketing about quality of leads

This will build a strong, effective collaboration between sales and marketing, and elevate the company overall. Promote constant and open communication. Encourage the sales team to give feedback on lead quality each month. This process will help marketers better understand which types of leads are most likely to close so they can generate better quality leads, thus improving future marketing efforts that will result in more qualified leads.

Facilitate a shared environment for both sales and marketing

Sales efforts and marketing efforts tend to be siloed from one another, but this is a huge mistake. If you can get the two teams to exist in the same environment, share information, and collaborate, you’ll see a much better integration between the two. One way to do that is through an integrated CRM. Using a CRM for sales and marketing efforts will help build business relationships with potential customers, nurture existing client relationships, assist in customer retention and drive sales growth. Marketing can effectively track where leads come from and determine how qualified they are. Once turned over to sales, sales has a history of lead source, how long it took to go from lead to prospect in the marketing cycle, and better attune their sales efforts to each prospect individually. Integrated customer information from lead to the close of the sale is critical to long-term success.

Align sales and marketing incentives

While communication and shared environments are great, if the incentives for success for marketing and sales are at odds with one another, integration will never be successful.  The two groups’ performance is judged very differently. Take the time to see what the company is asking of marketing; in other words, what is the marketing team accountable for?  More leads? Better leads? Less expensive leads?  Now, look at what the company is asking of sales: more sales?  Higher close rates? Higher dollar deals overall?  Last, see if the two teams’ incentives are aligned or directly at odds. If marketing’s main incentive is more leads, then likely sales will end up with higher quantity, less quality leads, which means it impacts sales negatively. If on the other hand, sales is incentivized merely by more sales (not necessarily better sales), quantity over quality works. However, that’s not good for the company long-term. Instead, incent marketing for bringing in stronger, more qualified leads, and incent sales for more qualified sales that are likely to retain long-term. Once you integrate the incentives and the metrics on which those incentives are based, you’ll create a positive sales and marketing environment.

Sales and marketing integration is critical for any organization. Whether your company has large sales and marketing teams, or you’re a small company that has one-person departments for each, leveraging these strategies will help your bottom line overall.

Patty Hughes
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