10 ways sales and marketing should be working together
Sales and marketing teams, in general, have always been known to have a beef with each other — just take a look at this recent survey that shows “51 percent of marketers are not satisfied with the level of communication between the teams and 53 percent of sales professionals are not pleased with marketing’s support.” Ouch! Maybe that’s why 90% of the content created for sales by marketing is never used by sales, as data from The American Marketing Association show. This rivalry can harm your business’s growth instead of working in tandem.
When sales and marketing work together, metrics soar, costs decrease, and life cycles are more concise. In fact, companies with closely aligned sales and marketing functions have 36% higher customer retention rates.
So, how can you get your sales and marketing teams to buddy up and tackle the goals they have in common? Make sure they know that they have the same end game and have them collaborate in these ten ways. Two teams, one dream!
1. Collaborate on sales content creation
A recent CSO Insights study showed that 32% of a sales rep’s time was spent looking for or creating sales content. Creating content that sales teams can use in their proposals and throughout the selling process is a major factor in an outstanding sales enablement strategy. Both sales and marketing need to work together to understand their audience and create targeted content that speaks directly to customers and is executed at just the right time in the buying cycle.
To do this for his agency, Web Profits, Growth Marketer Sujan Patel listens in on sales calls and looks for friction points or objections. He then creates content using those insights that his sales team can use in their outreach. “During our sales calls, potential clients always ask two questions: 1. ‘How are you different?’ and 2. ‘How do you do your own marketing for your company?’” he explains. “So, I created two articles that address those questions in a more educational way. Our sales team usually sends these articles out before we have a call.”
The best way to create content like this is for marketing and sales to work seamlessly together. In fact, marketing teams already use sales metrics to measure their results. According to MarketingProfs, the most important metrics B2B content marketers use are sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%), and higher conversion rates (82%).
Marketing helps shape content that is relevant and engaging to the target audience, while sales can develop content that is personal and customized to the individual prospective customer. This type of marriage will create perfectly-balanced content that will drive leads all the way through the funnel. And most importantly, it’s more likely to get results for your bottom line.
Cara Hogan, a Content Strategist at Zaius, shares how she’s seen sales and marketing teams work together efficiently. “I’m always looking for ways to incorporate the sales team’s feedback into our content,” she explains. “I have a collaborative spreadsheet where sales reps can drop in feedback from prospects, content they feel is missing from our library, and more. In addition to the spreadsheet, I have meetings with the sales team to gather content ideas and feedback once a month. This way, I’m creating content that actually helps reps do their job.”
2. Inform outbound emails
In an ideal world, all sales would be inbound with customers lining up to get their hands on your product or service. But the reality is that, at some point, sales needs to be in charge of sourcing and contacting their own leads. To effectively do this, sales should work with marketing to be knowledgeable on what marketing materials are already readily available. Marketing and sales can also work together to create new, dynamic material that focuses on the winning strategies of each department. This creates a unified brand image and voice.
However, there are some differences in what each department should handle. Marketing should create the positioning, voice, and general feel of the outbound email content, while sales should take that content and customize it to the lead. Personalization is key to outbound, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of a singular brand image.
3. Systemize lead scoring
Marketing and sales teams need to have an ongoing conversation about lead conversion — what’s working, what’s not, who it’s working for, etc. Creating and converting MQLs to SQLs and, ultimately, to win deals is an always moving target — that’s why it’s important to ask these questions, to figure out why it’s working or not working.
Those changing results and targets of a company’s “why” increase the urgency for clear communication and getting on the same page. Both sales and marketing teams need to create one system for scoring and evaluating. The system is entirely conditional and depends entirely on the product, the audience, and the buying cycle. Turning an MQL into an SQL too soon can hurt conversion, so you need to find the sweet spot in the life cycle. This can only be found by trial and error, communication, and evolution.
4. Develop buyer personas
Sales is the front line of any successful company. They know who’s buying and why those customers are motivated to buy in the first place. Marketing understands the industry at large and who they should be targeting. The best buyer personas are born from a mixture of marketing research and insights from your actual customer base.
Hogan shares, “When I outlined our buyer personas at Zaius, I met with multiple members of the sales team for feedback. Because they’re closest to our buyers, I wanted to find out exactly what objections they face from specific roles, who they feel like can be an internal champion for Zaius, who is usually a blocker, and much more. Without the sales team, I could never have put together our buyer personas effectively.”
The sales team can provide important insights and generalizations on the leads they’re interacting with the most, while marketing research can inform broader insights like patterns and commonalities. Sales and marketing must direct their efforts at the same prospects and be completely aligned on decisions and pricing.
Together, sales and marketing need to create comprehensive buyer personas to better target their ideal customer, increase acquisition, and create targeted ads and pitches that are symbiotic.
5. Leverage marketing to showcase your sales team’s expertise
Ideally, sales teams are brilliant at lead generation and closing sales but aren’t always their own best advocates when it comes to selling themselves. That’s why they need your marketing team’s power to create materials that showcase their expertise.
B2B Content Marketer Brittany Berger shares, “When I worked at Mention, we would bring members of the sales team into our marketing webinars to co-host with us. Marketing would still drive promotion, the content structure, and stuff like that, but it gave us the opportunity to showcase how much our account managers knew.”
There are dozens of ways to help your sales team stand out, but content marketing is a practical place to start. Create a content marketing strategy where the marketing team ghostwrites valuable posts and articles on behalf of a salesperson. The articles and posts should also include the salesperson’s byline for credibility purposes. Positioning your sales team as thought leaders can help land more leads, build more trust, and create better relationships with your target market.
Shayla Price, a Content Marketer, says, “Content is an effective way to bolster your sale team’s credibility. In my experience, I’ve witnessed sales reps receive a handful of leads as a direct result of one bylined article. Content gives your sales team an extra layer of respect. So prospects approach your sales reps as trusted consultants.”
Berger also suggests, “Any time you’re struggling to fill your editorial calendar, talk to the sales team for 10 minutes or join them for one customer call. I’ve never hopped off of shadowing a sales call without a bunch of new ideas for addressing real, specific issues for our leads.”
6. Brainstorm crossover KPIs
The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of your marketing and sales teams don’t need to exist in separate silos that never intersect. This isn’t a scenario where “never the twain shall meet” should occur. Your business has a higher chance of increasing your ROI by focusing on KPIs that are significant to both departments.
- Lead generation
- Email sign-ups
- Social media engagement
- Cost per lead
- Landing page conversion rates
Your teams can also have the same KPIs but still have different agendas. For example, the marketing department may be looking at lead generation to determine what target market and types of leads they should be targeting in future marketing spends. Meanwhile, your sales department is likely looking at which leads are most lucrative and fastest to close. Together, these agendas can help develop a stronger revenue cycle for your business.
7. Hold regular meetings
Even the most amicable and aligned departments need actual face time to develop their internal relationships and sense of how the other works. Hold regular meetings to discuss new strategies, go over the results of current campaigns, and learn more about each team’s processes. An added benefit is getting marketing’s feedback and insight on the sales team’s agenda, and vice versa.
“From my experience, having meetings every week helps the marketing organization gain more insights around campaigns sales will promote,” Sweta Patel, Director of Demand Generation, says. “Sales will only promote campaigns that help them close the deal – this is why it is vital for marketing and sales to have weekly meetings that go through programs, landing pages, emails – enough so sales has an idea for the campaign.”
But what if your sales team works in the field? These meetings can also be done online with apps like Slack to help manage projects. You can launch a video call or group chat to discuss an internal initiative, then make notes on the meeting to address the following week. This helps create more accountability and shows how things are evolving between your teams.
8. Break down barriers
Aligning your sales and marketing teams may require more than weekly meetings, and it might take a refresh in terminology and perspective. Break down departmental barriers and replace the concept of a sales funnel with a revenue cycle.
Work through the foundation of what that revenue cycle should look like. This is the time when both sales and marketing get to flex their muscles and bring their expertise to the table. Remember, some areas will overlap, but they may be called different things. The marketing department may be focused on digital assets and ROI, while the sales team may be looking at the same assets regarding what types of sales leads they generate. Work together to determine the best lead generation techniques and ROI as a team instead of by department.
9. Use collaborative analysis
When you’re trying to align two departments, it’s not enough to just focus on KPIs and collaborative practices. When you’re breaking down departmental barriers, the lines will likely blur between what the marketing and sales teams are working on.
It’s important to analyze and measure the results as a team, which will help everyone get on the same page about ROI and understand how collaborative efforts are impacting your bottom line. Your team ROI may require both departments to analyze email campaigns or lead generation data to determine what’s working and what’s not. Looking at these numbers individually just pushes your teams back into a silo situation where the work becomes fragmented.
Christina Hall, who heads up Marketing and Growth at Leadfeeder, says, “I’m a big believer in a collaborative analysis as a driver of sales-marketing alignment. There’s so much valuable information already in your data if your teams know how to use it to maximize conversions.”
“Just remember – with Google Analytics on its own, it can be tough to know if your website content is attracting the right audience. Even metrics like bounce rate or average session duration can be misleading. The only real way to know if a visitor fits within your ideal market is to identify them.”
“If marketing can identify what companies are visiting sales enablement website pages, such as case studies, product or service pages, they can then signal sales to make a warm connection or follow up with an existing lead.”
10. Establish and maintain company culture
When sales and marketing don’t get along, and tension rises, it’s inevitable that your entire strategy also suffers. Both departments work to grow the company and increase awareness and revenue, so when there’s discontinuity between the two, customers feel it.
For example, if a customer is reading an email or following the company on social media, and then they get a sales call with a completely different tone and personality, it’s off-putting and detrimental to their buying process. When sales and marketing don’t work together it creates not only a divided office but a fragmented brand image and confused and dissatisfied customers. If sales don’t act as the left hand to marketing’s right, growth is a whole lot tougher.
You can encourage collaboration and camaraderie by going on outings as an office, working on a volunteer project together, creating standard processes, and agreeing on mutually-beneficial goals. Like Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
What ways have you helped your sales and marketing teams to work better together? Let us know by leaving a comment below.