How Marketing And Sales Work Together To Increase Lead Quality

Let’s face it, there often can be a disconnect between a business’s marketing and sales departments. According to at least one LeanData survey, more than 50 percent of sales and marketing professionals aren’t happy with communication and support from the other department.

Any business that wants to grow, however, has to get these two teams working together. Why? Simply put, salespeople have knowledge that can help marketers, and marketers have power and influence that can help sales. When you get these two teams aligned, sales can guide marketing and marketing can prepare leads for sales. Your business becomes more efficient.

How do marketing and sales work together to increase business leads? Here’s a look.

Sales Empowers Marketing to Answer Prospect Questions — for Better Campaigns

Because the sales team has direct access to new prospects, it has the firsthand knowledge of what questions commonly arise. By giving that knowledge to the marketing team, it empowers marketers to craft messages that better target their audience.

  • What to ask. Salespeople know what prospects are asking, so savvy marketing professionals tap into that knowledge. Marketers can ask salespeople directly, listen to sales calls, scan sales communications with clients, etc., to find out what prospects want to know. Are potential customers often wondering how exactly a product works, for example, or about what makes the company different? Do prospects want to see demonstrations of how to use a certain tool or examples of a device in action?
  • What to do. If marketing can answer questions for prospects before the sales team has to, it expedites the buying process and makes sales easier. That’s why common customer questions are valuable market research — information that fuels web copy, blogs, email newsletters, videos, etc. When the marketing team understands where its audience is coming from, it becomes better equipped to reach that audience.

Marketing Helps Overcome Prospect Hurdles — for Better Leads

The sales team also can be invaluable for providing the marketing team with common hang-ups that stall sales. When marketers understand what hurdles need to be overcome for a purchase, it has a great place to start with marketing materials.

  • What to ask. Marketers need to ask the sales staff about what prospects cite as reasons to delay or decide against a product. What issues are preventing them from moving forward with purchases? What holds them back? When marketing understands what clogs the sales cycle, it has fodder for marketing messaging — ideas for building relevant, compelling material that will reach the target audience.
  • What to do. Some of the most effective marketing channels will speak directly to prospects’ hurdles. If committing to a purchase is a deterrent, marketing might feature a free trial. If credibility is a problem, marketing could focus on building trust with testimonials, endorsements, before/after pictures of service, or a money-back guarantee.

Businesses that want to stay competitive and reach growth goals need to take the marketing-sales relationship seriously. By getting these two departments working together, everybody benefits.

This guest blog was written by Shanna Mallon. She is a contributing writer for Straight North, a leading Internet marketing agency in Chicago providing SEO, web development and other online marketing services. A freelance writer, Shanna has been creating online content professionally since 2007.

What I Learned About the Future of AI and Sales

I had the great pleasure of recently attending the AA-ISP AI Sales Summit. It was the first of it's kind and it definitely delivered a really insightful experience. I was interested in attending to better understand how we can leverage AI to align sales and marketing to make more efficient decisions based on data. 

Below are some of the things that I found interesting...

  • AI can write content that is nearly impossible to detect that it's not human. How does this effect creating relevant, on-demand content for customers?
  • Majority of lost sales are going to "No Decision" (Victor Antonio - keynote speaker)
  • Customer don't want more information - they want insights about their business.
  • We are losing quality interaction data by requiring sales people to enter it manually into a CRM system. The new corporate asset will be conversation data. (Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve)
  • It's not B2B or B2C - it's about connecting with people - B2P
  • Both Sales and Marketing must focus on Customer Experience (CX) to be successful in the future. We must remove the friction from doing business with us or customers will go with another provider. 
  • If we want to empower salespeople with new technology, we must start to speak their language and help them understand how it will help them sell more effectively. They want to win, hit quota, and make money!
  • AI can help with lead scoring which has implications to helping both Sales and Marketing sift through leads and take action on the ones with the most potential to lead to new business.
  • The CRM will become a nucleus or central repository for data throughout the entire company ecosystem. AI will sit on top of it and guide us to the optimal actions to take in order to achieve the outcome we want based on its learning over time. (We are in the future folks!)
  • Companies have a lot of data but most of it is "dark data" which can't be acted upon. (Arun Shastri - ZS Associations)
  • 61% of businesses said they implemented AI in 2017, up from just 38% in 2016 (Narrative Science Report)

 

Oracle Taught Me Customer Service Can Help Align Sales and Marketing

It was such a pleasure being invited to attend Oracle's Modern CX conference this past week as a marketing influencer. I was really interested in understanding how the principles of customer service (CX) could be applied to helping B2B organizations align Sales and Marketing. The I also learned a ton from interviewing CX thought-leader -  Shep Hyken. Be sure to check out our Facebook Live Interview where we discuss the conference, how CX has changed over the years, and his upcoming new book. 

Below are a few of the many highlights that I gained from attending the conference:

  • Marketing is active throughout the entire buyer's journey and can do significant damage if they don't truly understand the needs of the customer.
  • Knowing you product's purpose is critically important via David Beebe (Content Decoded)
  • We must invest in strong analytics to understand what is happening with our customers
  • Marketing should be a pipeline partner with Sales
  • The top 4 questions Marketing needs to help Sales answer every morning
    • Who should I talk to?
    • What do I need to know about them and their organization to have impact?
    • What products or solutions have they shown interest in?
    • What content should I use to support this conversation?
  • Marketing needs to provide data and context about leads to improve sales outcomes
  • "Do what you can't" via Casey Neistat (a little motivation for those they are determined as I to make alignment happen)
  • Value creation unlocks customer Revenue(if you offering value to your customers, they will give you their money)
  • CMOs are finally starting to hold revenue goals via Shashi Seth
  • The MarTech 5000 is real and only growing!
  • Marketing's new mission is to create clarity amongst all the noise

As leaders, I hope we continue to connect with and learn from those that are outside of our direct line of sight as many times they have perspectives that spark a new way of thinking. Thank you Oracle for such an outstanding conference and opportunity to connect with passionate CX professionals. 

create togetherness.

How Sales Can Win Before 57% of the Buyers Journey is Over

This guest post was originally published on the Linkedin Sales Blog

There has been a lot of talk lately about the news that CEB released some time ago that shows us that the typical B2B buyer is already 57% through the purchase process before reaching out to sales. Additionally, the average number of decision makers on a typical purchase has increased from 5.4 to 6.8 according to Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at CEB.

Many sales professionals and leaders perceive that these changes in the buying process are making it increasingly difficult to consistently hit revenue targets in B2B. I, however, see this as an opportunity for forward-thinking sales leaders to better align with their marketing colleagues to dominate the space where prospects are spending the majority of their time. 

While many sales organizations are only focused on aggressively bombarding prospects during the last 43% of the buyer's journey (which has become extremely annoying and ineffective), there exists a significant opportunity to get in front of customers before they enter the "buying window." This period is critical because it is when most buyers start to figure out what they need, want, and desire regardless of actual product or solution.

To make your product stick in the mind of the buyer, sales and marketing leaders need to approach them together during this period of the purchasing process before the buyer reaches out to sales. The goal of this outreach and content should be to generate higher-value conversations with prospects. This outreach should focus on helping decision makers clearly identify their business problem and develop a vision for how they will go about solving it. This conversation should not focus on product features and benefits, but on shaping the way the prospect sees their business issue and views potential solutions.  

Play Where There Is Less Competition

RAIN Group released research that specifically addresses the myth that buyers don't want to hear from sellers early in the decision-making process. In fact, their study shows that 71% of buyers want to speak with sellers when they are exploring new ideas to improve business results.

The problem that most buyers find is that the early stages of the buying process are extremely difficult, confusing and frustrating. This is because there is too much information — The Paradox of Choice. This overwhelming amount of information from sellers and other sources actually impedes the buyer in identifying which types of solutions they should pursue and ultimately makes the buying process much longer.

But what if B2B companies could help buyers navigate all this information and give them clarity about how to accurately assess their business problem and evaluate potential solutions? This kind of useful information would be a game changer for the buyer and a winning strategy for the seller. What's the best way to achieve that at scale? Aligning with marketing. 

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Alignment's Direct Impact on Revenue

Sales leaders must understand, now more than ever, how Marketing can help Sales achieve revenue targets. With this knowledge, the sales team needs to make clear asks from Marketing that have a direct and measurable impact on revenue. No longer can sales leaders not understand the entire revenue funnel — all the way up to the top where historically only Marketing has operated. Sales leaders must look at the entire revenue funnel to ensure that their teams are being set up for success. Understanding the complete funnel is about more than just lead volume. It is about ensuring that collectively both teams are engaging customers at the right time, with the right content, and the right messaging to provide value and ultimately close more deals. Getting this sequence of outreach right is best done when Sales and Marketing are aligned and going to market together. 

If sales leaders are not yet convinced of the importance of understanding Marketing's contribution to the revenue pipeline, they can look at the significant difference in revenue attainment that aligned teams achieve. A recent study published by Aberdeen Group, Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?, shows us just that. The study demonstrates the measurable difference in companies that "get" alignment and those that don't. The two metrics that are probably the most telling for sales leaders are (a) increase in average deal size and (b) team attainment of sales quota. What's even more incredible is that aligned teams saw over a three-fold increase in average deal size. This proves that alignment has a direct impact on revenue.

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Where Marketing Provides Value to Sales

For many sales leaders, having to understand how Marketing contributes directly to their team’s success may be a new concept. Thus, it’s important to empower sales leaders with the necessary information they need to evaluate if Marketing is providing them with the right things for their teams to win. Laura Ramos, principal analyst at Forrester, published a great paper, From Priming The Pipeline To Engaging Buyers: The B2B CMO’s New Role In Sales Enablement, that helps us understand the most important things that marketing leaders can do to help Sales be successful.

The research highlights the fact that although there have been significant advances in marketing automation which has improved the lead-to-revenue process, more work needs to be done on the part of the marketing leader to create a more interdependent relationship with sales that focuses on the customer (I call this creating “togetherness”). We learn that successful B2B marketing leaders are achieving this by doing the following:

  • Shifting from just passing leads to sharing more context of the buyer/opportunity
  • Making Sales the face that buyers see
  • Developing higher-value content that sparks conversation with the buyer
  • Supporting customer success management with ongoing marketing-lead communications

When we get more granular and ask how Marketing specifically can help Sales be more successful some very interesting things emerge from the perspective of marketing colleagues. I think capturing this information is vital because it gives the sales leader some tangible things to ask for as the two leaders start to develop a more interdependent relationship. It also empowers the sales leader with a language that uniquely speaks to the marketing leader in the way that they see the business. The only precaution I would give sales leaders in looking at the top 5 responses below is No. 3. Although in marketing terms brand awareness can be an important factor depending on the size and maturity of the organization, as a sales leader I would focus on marketing producing content that helps Sales have higher-value conversations with customers and helps prime the customer to be more open to have a conversation about how and why their business needs to change. More and more, the biggest competitor for B2B sales professionals is the status quo, not another product or service.

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I think this feedback is a great place to start the conversation between the head of Sales and Marketing to ensure that the teams are moving toward alignment and can take advantage of the significant opportunity that lies within the first 57% of the buyer’s journey that many consider to be lost. 

How I Achieved Alignment with my VP of Sales

I've talked to many leaders about the need to align B2B Sales and Marketing. Through those exchange of ideas, I've learned a lot about where a majority of companies are in their journey toward alignment. Now that a significant amount of attention has been directed at alignment, we are starting to see more research that helps us better understand its impact on revenue. This evidence has given more leaders confidence in taking an alignment initiative between Sales and Marketing serious. However, two major challenges persists -(1) knowing what good looks like and (2) knowing how to get started. Because of this, I wanted to share my thoughts on how I would go about aligning with my sales counterpart.

As the CMO, I think its important to have an idea of the areas that need to be addressed in order to achieve better alignment between our teams before having a sit down with my VP of Sales (let's call her Janice). I want to ensure that we can establish a clear roadmap, metrics and milestones to help us stay focused and in sync as we begin transforming the company.  Doing this work will also help us secure the support of the CEO (why not call him Mark) which is vital to the success of any alignment effort. 

The key areas that need to be addressed in any alignment effort are: Communication, Process and Data. These are the top reasons for misalignment according to a recent study published by Inside View. Using these areas of friction as a framework, we can start to organize our thoughts and efforts around what we need to be focusing on while hopefully causing minimal distraction for our teams.

So now that I a general idea of the areas that Janice and I need to address, where do we actually get started? In my opinion, a broken process is probably the root cause of many of our problems. Then, let's start there!

If marketing is to effectively support sales, then we need to start by getting everyone on the same page regarding what success looks like. If you don’t invest the time to align on the big picture, then don’t expect to move the needle when you look at lead quality and quantity.
— Jim Dickie, Research Fellow at CSO Insights

Process - Focus on pipeline Revenue

One of the most impactful opportunities in an alignment effort is to focus on creating a robust prospect-to-customer process. The most effective way to do that is to ensure that both teams focus on the pipeline revenue. This laser focus on revenue ensures that everyone knows exactly where we are in hitting our revenue target and also know how their work directly impacts us achieving that goal. Marketing should be able to say "Yes! We are 98% to goal." just as the sales team already does (at least that's want Janice tells me). 

Janice and I would talk about each part of the traditional sales funnel and the resources/processes necessary to win at each stage. A very popular topic for both of us would be everyone's favorite topic - lead gen. I would want to go beyond just talking about how we are going get new leads and talk about the things that are going to enable us to get the right leads - quality over quantity. Some of the things we would cover would be:

  • Customer Personas - who are we targeting and what business problem(s) are they struggling with?
  • Positioning - What is the unique value that we offer that no one else can and how do we communicate that clearly and consistently?
  • Messaging - How do we speak the language of our customers so that it is easier to connect with them and start a conversation?
  • Market Intelligence - How can we empower our sales people to have higher-value conversations with prospects that position them as a strategic advisor rather than just a sales rep?
  • Content - How do we thoughtfully produce content that addresses the needs of the customer and key stakeholders at each stage of the buyer's journey?

Data - Insights enable growth

Janice and I are both data-driven folks so that's a great start. Data is in the DNA of the company. However, data is not enough to win. We need insights to help us make informed and intelligent business decisions. Before we get to that though we need to first ensure we are even looking at the same numbers. With all the new additions to our Revenue Stack (sales + marketing tech) we need to do an audit to make sure we are speaking the same data language. This tech audit also allows us to see where gaps and redundancies exists. And there is one metric that wins above all. We start every meeting together by addressing it. You probably guessed it.....Revenue!

Beyond just having data to be "data-driven", we would focus on using that data to produce insight into what is happening at all stages of the pipeline and how our teams can address any suboptimal performance issues throughout the buyer's journey. I would also want to focus on Marketing's contribution to revenue so that I can clearly evaluate the ROI of my team's efforts and specific campaigns. This is also a chance for Janice to determine where her sales team needs coaching. One example for me would be using customer LTV (Lifetime Value) as a benchmark when making decisions on whether to spend marketing budget on specific demand generation efforts. Here are some other KPIs we would cover in our joint sales and marketing meetings:

  • Revenue goal attainment
  • End-to-end conversion rates
  • Sales cycle length
  • MQLs to opportunity ratio
  • Opportunity to customer ratio
  • Top revenue-producing channels
  • Content utilization by Sales
  • Average deal size

When sharing data we would continue to ask each other "So, what does that mean for the business?" to ensure we are getting at business insights and not just doing a data review to check a box. These insights are the fuel for our growth. 

Communication - Collaboration is about People 

In order for us to win together, Janice and I are going to have to learn how to collaborate - for real. One thing that I have learned is transforming into a truly collaborative relationship takes time and has many stages. We can not just say we are going to collaborate. We must take into consideration how we as leaders can create an environment that supports this effort and provides the necessary resources to do so.  If we want Sales to tell Marketing what is/is not working but don't encourage honest feedback or give them an organized way to give it, then we really aren't serious about creating this communication link between our teams. 

 1 The original Collaboration Continuum, which included Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating, comes from Arthur T. Himmelman, Collaboration for a Change: Definitions, Decision‐making Models, Roles, and Collaboration Process Guide. January 2002, Himmelman Consulting, Minneapolis, MN.

1 The original Collaboration Continuum, which included Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating, comes from Arthur T. Himmelman, Collaboration for a Change: Definitions, Decision‐making Models, Roles, and Collaboration Process Guide. January 2002, Himmelman Consulting, Minneapolis, MN.

And if there is no other area I get right around communication, I want to ensure I do whatever I can to get feedback from the sales team. What I've realized over my time as CMO is that sales is my fastest and cheapest market research. Speed to market is the vital differentiator many times in B2B. Having this close relationship with my sales colleagues is extremely important to me as a marketing leader. A side effect of this effort is that it also helps gain credibility and trust with Sales; something that many marketing teams don't have. 

Janice and I also discuss how often we would meet to check in on our progress on alignment. As folks who hate superfluous meetings this can be tricky. We both realized though that you have to inspect what you expect and the only way to do that is to have joint sales and marketing meetings on a regular basis. Meeting frequency depends on the size and maturity of the company, however for a new initiative like this I think monthly leadership and quarterly team meetings sound reasonable. The leadership meeting would focus on the data and figuring out if our alignment efforts are effective and positively impacting revenue. The joint team meetings would focus on major cross-functional metrics/insights, our attainment of our revenue goal thus far, and any wins achieved by cross functional teamwork to continue to promote cohesiveness between the teams. I would also use these meetings as a way to identify opportunities for the sales and marketing team members to work on special projects or find ways that they could actively learn from each other. 

After all that work Janice and I go to Mark as the "Revenue Engine" team and let him know how we plan to transform the organization. And because we jointly represent how the company makes money he gladly supports our efforts 100%. High five, Janice!

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Empathy creates unity

What Janice, Mark and I realized doing this work together is that we have to create more empathy between our teams so they understand and appreciate each other more. We realized that even we struggled to always understand what each was dealing with on a daily basis. How then, were our teams supposed to get it? We are all sure that this empathy is going to be the glue that brings our teams together and charge them up to achieve better results as a unified force.

I'm excited to "create togetherness" between our teams and drive revenue!

 

The 5 Basic Layers of a Good Growth-Focused Revenue Tech Stack

With all the new B2B tech coming at companies today, it's hard not to fall victim to the "shiny new objective" syndrome. It's also sometimes even harder to push back on demands to "Fix it Now!" by not just throwing tech at it. The problem you run into is that implementing new tech is not addressing the real problem - people. I've said many times, alignment is not a tech issue, it's a people issue. Thus, continuing to adopt new tech without addressing the people part of the problem is not a sustainable approach. 

With that said, let's talk about what types of tech are necessary to have a Revenue Stack (Sales + Marketing tech) that helps you sell more effectively by empowering the sales and marketing teams. I think its more important for us to focus on the categories of tools we need before diving into trying to determine the best vendor to use. Taking this approach allows the company to clearly understand where technology gaps exists. I think doing this type of tech audit before making purchasing decisions also will help to eliminate unforeseen duplication in technology which many times creates more confusion; making the selling process even more cumbersome. 

Below is a great depiction of the current revenue stack landscape from Nancy Nardin. As you can see the options seems limitless and they are growing. This is what is causing the "shiny new object" syndrome many B2B companies are suffering from. 

What makes a good Revenue Stack?

I've had many conversations with experts in the field of sales and marketing tech and below are the categories that I've seen are necessary to have an effective Revenue Stack. My intent with this list to help sales and marketing leaders be thoughtful when proposing new technology to "fix" the alignment issue.

  • Data - Clean data is the basis of any stack as without it we make poor decisions on outdated and incorrect information. We must also take into account that on average 6.8 decision makers are involved in the decision process. Add the fact, that several members of that team my change roles or responsibilities within the sales cycle making it more difficult to create consensus. The more proactive the team can be at getting ahead of those changes, the better.
  • CRM - This system might be the most valuable tool that a company can use to conduct business if used properly. Customer relationships matter most and a CRM can help you keep track of those relationships as well as every touchpoint you have had with a customer. This helps paint a clear picture of what's going on and also reveals opportunities that you may have otherwise over looked. 
  • Marketing Automation - Beyond helping to save time and money, it's been proven to increase revenue and ROI. In addition, it allows the marketing team to focus more on an effective strategy rather than ensuring repetitive tasks are completed on time. 
  • Onboarding/Training - Bringing in new sales representatives can be expensive and the time it takes them to ramp up to full-productivity is a significant amount of lost revenue. It has also been shown that 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks. This demonstrates the need for ongoing, dynamic training. This can be achieved with tech-enabled on-boarding tools that not only allow sales reps to take advantage of on-demand training, but help them be able to reference back to things they make have forgotten to get them up and running faster and provide them with a tune-up when they need it - without the need for a formal training session and time out of the field. 
  • Account-based Marketing (ABM) - ABM has proven over time to provide significant ROI because it enables collaboration across the organization to meet the unique goals of the client. In the past, due to cost and complexity, ABM was left to large enterprises to focus on a few highly-valuable accounts. Now with new marketing tech and tools, organizations of all sizes can take advantage of this highly effective strategy to personalize outreach to targeted accounts. 

Stop before talking to tech vendors

There is a ton of new sales and marketing tech available. And, there is more coming! However, we have to stop before introducing new tech just because it exists. The more cost-effective method that will lead to better long-term outcomes is to take a step back and look at where the gaps exist in what we currently have and then find tech that helps us fill in those gaps. In addition, leaders must be cognizant of how to communicate with the sales and marketing team the reason the new tech is being introduce and how it empowers them to achieve their goals more efficiently or effectively.