As marketers, we know how important it is to have strong alignment with our sales teams. After all, if you’re going to effectively close customers and generate more business for your company, you’re going to need to make sure your marketing team is not only providing your sales team with quality leads, but that you’re also providing them with the information they need to have the best shot at converting those leads into customers. But creating that alignment? It's not always so easy.
We talk a lot about closed-loop marketing -- being able to tie every single lead, customer, and dollar back to the initiative that created it. But another important part of closing the loop is getting your sales team to report back to you about the quality of leads you’ve generated -- and what became of them -- so you are better equipped to generate high-quality leads going forward.
Starting to pick up on the pattern here? The key to maintaining a happy sales team is communication. Two-way communication, at that. So if you’re just generating leads and throwing them at your sales team to see what sticks, I guarantee you’re not generating as many high-quality leads, or as much revenue, as you could be.
Okay, so I need to communicate with my sales team to improve both our teams’ effectiveness. But what am I supposed to talk about with them? What kind of information should I be giving them, and what should I be getting from them in return?
5 Key Pieces of Information Marketing Should Communicate to Sales
1) What Your Marketing Goals Are
In order to set them up for success, it’s critical that you inform your sales team of your marketing team’s goals for that month. Your sales team needs to know what kind of lead volume and quality to expect, so they can prepare accordingly. For example, if you’re anticipating that you won’t be able to generate as many leads next month as you did in the previous month, your sales reps will probably want to work those fewer leads more deeply. On the other hand, if they know you’re planning to increase the number of leads you generate by 20% next month, they have the flexibility to be more selective about the leads they work so they can spend their time on those they believe will be the best fits.
Sit down with your sales managers and set up an SLA, a service-level agreement, by which you’ll set clear goals for both teams. Think of it this way: You’re saying, “We, the marketing team, agree to generate this quantity (and/or quality) of leads for you,” and the sales team is saying, “We agree to generate this much revenue for the business from those leads.” These two metrics are co-dependent by nature, so it’s important to establish your marketing and sales goals together.
2) What content you’re using to generate leads.
You might think your lead generation strategies are really only important for the members of your marketing team to understand. Hey, we’re sending you leads. Why do you care where they’re coming from? Well actually, it’s extremely necessary that your sales reps know where your leads are coming from if they’re going to close them effectively.
Think about it from a sales perspective. Someone came to your website and downloaded a piece of your content; maybe it was an ebook. You’ve never spoken to this person before, and you’re about to try to convince them that your product or service would be beneficial to them. You’ll want as much information about your lead as you can get, right? And more specifically, you know that this person expressed some interest in your content. So wouldn’t it be useful to know what that person was interested in learning more about? By giving a sales rep information about which content a given lead has downloaded, you’re providing them with a way to start the conversation with information and questions that are relevant to that lead. Using tools like a centralized marketing database and a CRM system, this transfer of information to your salespeople can be incredibly simple.
3) What other information you have about these leads.
On that note, any useful information you have about your leads should be passed over to your sales team -- not just what piece of content they downloaded or read. The easiest way to gather this information is through your lead-capture forms. In other words, before your visitors download your content, ask them to provide you with a few pieces of info about themselves. What size is the company? Is it B2B or B2C? What is their role at the company? At HubSpot, we also include a field on our forms that asks our visitors to identify their biggest marketing challenge. This gives the sales rep another solid foundation for building a conversation around the lead’s needs and interests. It also provides a good starting point for identifying the lead’s goals, plans, and timeline, all crucial factors to understand in order to execute a well-targeted sales approach.
Beyond demographic information, if your marketing software collects other key pieces of intelligence about your leads' activity -- such as how many (and which) web pages they've visited, whether (and how often) they've interacted with you in social media, how frequently they've come to your site and downloaded your content, etc. -- this can also be extremely helpful bits of information to pass on to your sales team.
4) Which team is responsible for handling leads at each stage.
Lead nurturing is an essential part of the buying cycle, because it allows marketers to maintain communication with leads in two scenarios: when the lead has not spoken to a sales rep and is not yet ready to do so, and when the lead has spoken to a sales rep but is not yet ready to buy. In both cases, it’s important to nurture these quality leads instead of just throwing them out simply because they’re not ready to buy right this very second. In fact, according to Market2Lead, nurtured leads have a 23% shorter sales cycle.
But because these leads may be at different points in the buying cycle when you’re nurturing them -- and because Sales has worked some but not others -- you need to make it very clear to your sales team what criteria determine which leads you are nurturing, so they know exactly which leads are receiving your marketing emails and which they should follow up with themselves. Setting up an agreement that clarifies which team is responsible for a given lead at each stage of their lifecycle will help you ensure that none of your leads are slipping through the cracks and not hearing from either of you.
5) How you’re nurturing your leads.
Along those same lines, it’s important for your sales team to know more than just that you’re nurturing these leads. You should also make sure they have some concept of the strategy behind your nurturing as well. Are you just sending them educational content? Are you following up in a more personalized way that asks the leads to respond to you with any questions they have? Are you sending them further information about your product(s)/service(s) or company?
While it’s not critical that the members of your sales team understand every little detail about how you’re handling lead nurturing on the marketing side, a general grasp of what you’re doing will give them a clearer understanding of how these leads have been communicated with and how much they know about your company -- before they even get on the phone with them to start the sales conversation.
5 Key Pieces of Information Sales Should Communicate to Marketing
1) What the overall lead quality looks like.
Your sales team should be able to provide you with a clear picture of the overall quality of the leads you send them each month. This month, for example, was there a higher volume of leads who had no interest in your product? Were the reps struggling to connect with them in the first place? It's easy enough to keep track of the volume of leads you're generating, but you really need input from sales to understand what lead quality looks like. As a result, you'll be better equipped to pinpoint the source of high- or low-quality leads so you can apply lessons learned to your future marketing efforts. Did you that contest you ran in social media result in a excess of low-quality leads? Was that ebook you launched a huge hit, generating a large amount of high-quality leads?
2) Which sources and content topics generate the best leads.
If you're creating a variety of different offers for lead generation, your sales reps should be working leads who have converted on each of these different offers. Do they find that leads who have shown interest in a particular topic tend to be higher in quality? Which topics perform better or worse, not just in terms of number of downloads, but also in terms of lead quality?
If you're implementing various inbound marketing strategies, you should also be generating leads from different sources, such as your website, search engines, your blog, your social media presence, your marketing emails, etc. Take a look at your lead intelligence to keep track of where each of your leads is coming from, and find out from your sales team which sources yield the best quality leads, so you can focus more of your efforts around those, and improve or spend less time on channels that don't yield high-quality results.
3) What your leads are saying about your content.
Are your sales reps using the content and offers your leads have downloaded to start the conversation with them? If so, chances are they're getting some feedback on those offers! Did the person enjoy the read? Did they learn something valuable? Maybe they told the rep that the offer wasn't what they had expected, and they didn't find the content to be helpful. This is useful feedback for you to know so you can improve your marketing content moving forward.
4) How many leads they're connecting with and closing.
It's also important for you to be informed about the performance of the sales team, and to know what their funnel metrics look like. Of the leads you're sending them, how many are they able to connect with? Of the leads they connect with, how many agree to have a more in-depth sales conversation, be it a product demonstration or something else? Of the people who agree to a sales talk, how many become customers?
Knowing these metrics will help you understand where your sales team faces the greatest challenges, and will enable you to lend them a hand where they need it. If they're having issues closing from the sales pitch, maybe you can set up a more in-depth product training session for the reps or provide them with some additional product content that can help them close more sales deals. If they're having trouble connecting, maybe you can nurture those leads with targeted emails until they're ready to talk to someone. Having both teams aware of the others' performance is key to successful alignment.
5) How else the marketing team can help.
What other areas of opportunity do the members of your sales team see for Marketing to step in and help out? Should you be nurturing a certain group of leads more aggressively? Maybe you're missing a segment of leads that could benefit from a specific nurturing campaign, or some other type of marketing influence. Or it's possible that your sales reps just want a better understanding of what you're doing over in Marketing to help them target their conversations better. Just keep the communication flowing, and stay open to suggestions and new ideas.
According to Genius.com, 66% of buyers indicate that “consistent and relevant communication provided by both sales and marketing organizations” is a key influence in choosing a solution provider. As marketers, it’s your job to ensure that you’re communicating with your leads properly, and nurturing them to be sales-ready. But in order for those efforts to have any significant effect on your bottom line, your communication needs to start with your sales team. So go grab your sales managers and get your smarketing in line so you can start generating more, higher quality leads ... and greater revenue.
Originally published Dec 18, 2012 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016