Marketers and salespeople are the most critical links to a company’s customers. And the moment inbound marketing was implemented into your organization, your marketing department merged with the sales department. They are no longer separate, working on different islands. And they must work together at each stage of the sales funnel.
Aligning your marketing department with sales can make all the difference to the success of your inbound marketing strategy. The effectiveness of the alignment will determine how well your organization attracts leads, converts them into customers, and closes deals. Your relationship with sales isn’t just about a simple lead hand-off—it’s the foundation of your company’s revenue growth.
In order to improve your relationship with sales (and vice versa), you should consider using these ten tactics.
At the top of the funnel, your leads have just been introduced to your company. You haven’t contacted them yet. In fact, you don’t even know if they’re qualified at this point.
1) Align the Marketing Message with the Sales Message
Your messaging should be consistent throughout all of your content, your campaigns, and your marketing channels. All of your messages should mirror each other. But that’s not all. Your messaging should also be consistent with the sales message at your organization for great results.
This needs to be discussed with all relevant parties before a strategy is implemented. The direction, the target market, the tactics, voice, and style used, and the basic messaging of how your company adds value must be consistent. This will increase your brand awareness and allow for clarity.
If your marketing message is different than the sales message, you’re only going to confuse your customers and frustrate your sales team. By aligning your marketing message with the objectives of the sales team right from the beginning, your marketing department can successfully attract the right kinds of leads and the sales department can then talk to the ideal buyer personas.
2) Create Buyer Personas Together
More often than not, marketers create buyer personas on their own, without the input of the sales team. Unfortunately, this widens the sales and marketing gap and often leads to messaging that isn’t targeted to the right buyers.
Salespeople are trusted advisers and they could be extremely helpful in developing buyer personas because they have built relationships with your customers. They know who the buyers really are because they’ve had one-to-one interactions with them.
The result? You’ll receive unique insights into your buyer personas, and this will help you craft your messaging more effectively in order to target the right audience. Your sales team will appreciate this, as all sales people know all too well how frustrating it is to waste time and effort on the wrong prospects who aren’t likely to buy.
3) Ask for Feedback about Customer Interactions
The sales team is interacting with customers each and every day. Through these customer interactions, they learn a lot about their wants, needs, desires, and pain points. They get a first-hand look into the behaviors of your buyers and know what they are and aren’t looking for from your products or services. This added visibility can be incredibly helpful to you while you attempt to create strategies that target other buyers just like those customers. Simply asking your sales team for feedback about customer interactions can enable you to do your job better and open up the lines of communications with sales. You can even suggest listening in on their sales calls to hear the conversations first hand.
4) Collaborate On Content Marketing
Content is key at the top of the funnel. Your marketing team is tasked with creating relevant, buyer-focused, interesting content that will get web visitors interested. But you don’t have to do it alone. The sales team can collaborate with you to create blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, videos, and more.
Because sales people are talking to customers, they will inevitably notice trends in pain points, challenges, and opportunities that marketers can then use as topics for content. For example, sales might notice that many customers talk about a common industry problem or have a frequent objection, and marketers can work on developing new content to answer common questions and target common issues.
The middle of the sales funnel is where you have solid prospects who are qualified and will likely purchase, but aren’t quite ready yet. In the middle of the funnel, the goal is to work with sales to nurture these prospects in order to help them move down to the bottom, where the sales department can do its magic.
5) Collaborate on Creating Lead Nurturing Templates
Lead nurturing is about providing leads with the information they need to choose you as a provider of solutions over the rest. It includes writing nurturing templates that will move leads further down the funnel. When sales and marketing work together to create these nurturing templates, they can ensure that they’re both in agreement in that the content being sent out is relevant for the separate buyer personas and their unique interests and needs.
In addition, it can help sales understand what type of content got the leads to the bottom of the funnel, so they can prepare for their sales calls more effectively. If you’re keeping sales in the dark about your lead nurturing templates, they might waste time and fail at the time of the sales call because they won’t know enough about why that person is ready to buy, what they know, and what they still need to learn. It only makes sense to include both departments in the creation of content for the middle of the funnel.
6) Creating Case Studies, Reviews, and Testimonials
Case studies show prospects what your company has accomplished in the past, using specific examples and numbers. Reviews and testimonials allow your past customers to tell their own success stories. Case studies, reviews, and testimonials can help you gain trust and credibility, which will effectively nurture leads and make it easier for your sales people to close deals.
Since case studies are created based on successful experiences with past customers, it can be extremely valuable to get your sales people involved—to get their perspective of how the sale went and why it was successful. It’s also easier to have sales people—the customers’ trusted resource and contact person—to ask them to write a testimonial or review instead of the marketers that they have never had contact with. In return, you’ll be able to create more compelling and factual case studies and you’ll get plenty of reviews and testimonials to share.
7) Perfect the Feedback Loop
When your department thinks that a lead is qualified, you pass it on to your sales team. Unfortunately, not every lead you pass on will in actuality be ready. Some might still need more time. But if your sales team just gives up on those leads, they’re missing huge sales opportunities.
Both departments need to come up with an effective way of passing leads back to the marketing nurturing mid-funnel, with feedback from the qualifying contact. Open lines of communication are critical here. This will give your marketing team the information it needs to properly nurture the lead. And it will ensure that the lead doesn’t just get put into a black hole, never to be spoken to again, so your sales team can have another crack at the sale once the lead has been nurtured a little bit longer.
Effective bottom-funnel tactics are critical. You’ve worked hard to turn your leads into prospects and nurture them to this last step of the process. Your sales people have to close the deal here in order to make the sale. And you can help.
8) Share Stories of Customers’ Pain Points
As a marketer, you are at the front of the action. You are there the moment leads realize they have a pain point and begin to look for a solution. This information, knowing your customers’ pain points, can help you better nurture leads and move them down the sales funnel. But you shouldn’t be keeping this vital information within your department. You should be sharing these stories with the sales team, because it can also help your salespeople close deals more effectively.
Knowing their customers’ unique pain points, needs, and questions can help them have more meaningful and relevant conversations that end in sales. Your sales team will be sure to appreciate your help in sharing these stories.
9) Provide Analytics to the Sales Team
Marketers shouldn’t keep their analytics reports a secret. Sales should know where prospects are coming from, what types of offers they’re downloading, whether or not they’ve looked at the pricing page, and other key data that could help them close deals more effectively.
This type of critical information can help the sales team understand where prospects are in the sales cycle and where to focus their communication efforts. Share your analytics openly and willingly, and you’ll start to improve your relationships with sales.
10) Work on Lead Scoring Together
Lead scoring involves both sales and marketing. It is the methodology that determines leads’ sales-readiness. Naturally, marketing has to make sure that leads are qualified before passing them on to sales, but what if sales and marketing don’t agree on what actually makes a lead sales ready? What if marketing is always passing off leads too soon? This can be avoided if both departments work together and come to an agreement on the definition of a qualified sales lead and the activities that need to take place before that label is placed.
When this happens, marketing will be better able to nurture leads to the perfect degree and sales will only spend time following up on the prospects who are actually ready to buy., increasing the chances of making the sale
Organizations that have a strong alignment between sales and marketing have a higher success rate during each stage of the sales funnel. Actively improving your relationship with your company’s sales people and collaborating with them can allow for better lead generation, a higher conversion rate, and higher sales. Quit the finger pointing, put aside your egos, and learn to work together.
Originally published Nov 17, 2015 1:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017