What is the best way to coordinate marketing and sales activities? Here are 3 things you can do right now to create an integrated marketing-to-sales process.
This article describes 3 things sales and marketing leadership can do to integrate strategies and meet the buyer along any point of their decision journey, better adapt to the external market conditions and improve performance results with more a efficient and effective marketing-to-sales process.
The questions to think about when reading this article are, “How does our sales team interface with marketing?” and, “How could an integrated approach centralize our strategies, lower our cost structure and bring the sales and marketing business units together under a single strategic plan?”
Coordinating marketing and sales activities is still a relatively new concept. Like anything, there are business professionals that are either much further along in their understanding of what can be done to align these two important functional areas and also another group that still views marketing and sales as completely separate functional areas within an organization.
Either way, there are things leadership can do now to better align their organization with the new way customers buy and make purchase decisions. Eventually, all organizations will need to adapt and change to the new conditions, but like any new departure from the old way of doing things, it just takes time.
In meeting with clients to discuss their sales and marketing challenges, I have yet to have anyone say to me, “Hey John, what’s the best way to coordinate marketing and sales activities or strategies?” You and I both know it’s never that simple and there is never an easy answer or a “right” answer given the fact that every business is different, every market is different and it takes a little bit more effort to standout from the crowd with so much noise around products and services these days.
But what I do hear from clients are frustrations. Frustrations like, “We don’t have a clear focus when it comes to our marketing and sales.” And, “Our sales have been flat and we have low engagement with our sales team right now.” Or even, “We tend to play it safe and stay away from anything new.”
This article is going to examine some of these frustrations, identify some of the root challenges that are creating them within organizations and then provide 3 solutions that leadership can use to overcome them. These solutions will help to integrate activities and fill the gaps that prevent sales and marketing from working together in a fluid system.
Sales and marketing are both performing lead-generation activities
When sales and marketing are both creating potential leads for the organization, the challenges become 1.) Sorting those leads into qualification buckets (are these good leads or bad leads), 2.) Confusion around the ownership of those leads (who owns them marketing or sales) and 3.) Duplicate leads are created within internal tracking systems that contribute to multiple or repeat activities being put against a single account by differing functional areas.
Organizations that experience this frustration, spend time and dollars sorting through multiple account entries, performing data integrity activities to verify contact information and loose the momentum needed to properly work potential customer leads. If differing and multiple leads are entered into a single system from various functional areas – all with different agendas and or a different focus – the integrity within the system will be low and a deterrent for teams to use the system properly.
The solution is to agree upon a single lead generation strategy that assigns ownership to a single functional area or to a specific group of people within the organization. This can be tough since sales professionals love to hunt and to uncover potential sales leads. But, the preference would be to have sales professionals working qualified leads versus trying to find leads like needles in a haystack. With an integrated system, lead gen can and should start with marketing. Marketing knows the customer, they know the buying profiles, the demographic and psychographic information, the reasons these customers were chosen as potential buyers in the first place and also the best way to connect with them to get a conversation started.
For example, let’s say you’re a national sales manager for a software company that offers a scheduling platform for small businesses to manage employee calendars, time cards and even allows employees to exchange shifts with coworkers online. It’s a great product and one that almost any business within the phone book could use. So you slap the Yellow Pages down in front of your sales and marketing teams, telling them to get to work. Now imagine the shock coursing through their bodies as they try to decide where to start – the A’s or the Z’s – and who does what during this haphazard process.
Imagine handing your sales team a curated list from marketing that includes the customer’s name, address, business information, the number of times they visited your website in the last week, whether or not they trialed your product offer and if they had a recent conversation with inside sales to express interest in buying your product. That next phone call or visit from a team member in sales just became extremely warm and you have likely instilled confidence in an employee that may have otherwise spent days or weeks trying to find a lead with this much potential.
Leads that go to sales are not prequalified and often bad leads
When the leads that go from marketing to sales have not been worked and are not prequalified, it can create a gap in the marketing-to-sales process. This gap becomes a black hole where potential leads are scuttled because there is a lack of solid information, no immediate follow-up was made so the leads become old and there is no coordination between marketing and sales when it comes to a proper handoff.
Marketing spends time, effort and dollars on creating leads through various activities, but they fall to the wayside since the process to push them through the system does not include a qualification phase. Sales becomes frustrated, says they are not being supported and complains that the leads being passed along are no good – think Glengarry Glenn Ross and the old lead names on the stacks of cards or Boiler Room where bad leads from a junior associate are considered “wood.”
The solution is to bridge the gap between marketing and sales by having an inside sales team that performs lead profiling and lead qualification activities. This will help to bridge the gap between marketing and sales as well as prevent potential leads from becoming lost causes. Inside sales can be 1-2 people or as many staff as needed in order to properly work the volume of leads coming into your organization. Inside sales is also a great place to start future sales professionals and a way to expand or contract with 3rd parties based on your needs and budgets at any given time.
For example, let’s say you are the owner of a mid-sized real estate firm that uses a website to generate buyer and seller leads. You use a contact form and a property value calculator to capture personal contact information for everyone that visits your site and fills out a form. Once they hit submit, that lead goes directly to inside sales for follow-up instead of directly going to a sales agent. Why? You have no idea if that person is really interested in buying or selling and they may be simply trying to figure out their home value and thought your site would be a quick, easy way to do it.
In having that lead go to inside sales for further qualification, you are preventing your sales folks from becoming frustrated by bogus leads. The role of the inside sales person in this process is to verify and get solid information. “Hi Mr. Johnson, I noticed you filled about a contact form on our site today. I was just calling to verify some information. Is this your current address? Great. And it says that you are interested in a new home, is that correct?”
Within the first few minutes of that conversation, an inside sales professional can get up-to-date, accurate information and determine whether or not that person is motivated to sell or buy. And even narrow it down to specific city or neighborhood where you may have a listing for this buyer. Imagine being that sales agent and receiving a “golden lead” like this to work. An inside sales team can bridge the gap from marketing and turn a simple visit to your website into a potential lead for your sales team.
Handing off leads creates too much correspondence between marketing and sales
Transitioning leads from marketing to sales can be challenging and difficult to manage. It can create additional emails, numerous phone calls and an unnecessary amount of back-and-forth between functional areas. This extra activity can derail staff from more productive initiatives and make the pleasurable process of converting a sale more trouble than it could be worth.
Marketing and sales teams tend to use traditional methods to relay this information like email and phone because it’s more personable. But a phone call can turn, what was supposed to be a quick handoff, into a long conversation about everything but the actual lead and the process can then bottleneck between two people. Or an email goes missing or unopened and the turnaround time for that lead goes from minutes to days.
The new solution is to take the human element out of the equation and use marketing automation and sales CRM software to avoid bottlenecks. Software and automation tools create a lot of efficiencies within marketing-to-sales systems and can eliminate extra back-and-forth correspondence by automating tasks instead of having them completed by people. Marketing software and sales CRM could be the tool to put your marketing-to-sales system into hyper-drive.
For example, let’s say you are a global operations manager at a small biotech firm. You have a product designed for healthcare providers as well as a set of complimentary services that go along with it. Your strategy is a low cost product through a high volume system. You want marketing to create leads, move those leads to inside sales and then have inside sales qualify those leads and hand them off to sales professionals in the field as fast as possible.
Marketing creates leads using an email marketing system. A potential buyer visits your website, they fill out a contact form and you follow-up with an email. The buyer clicks on the email, goes back to your site, watches a video about your product and you track their activity using web analytics software. That interaction is converted to a lead and is sent to inside sales. Inside sales calls or emails that contact asking if they were able to find what they were looking for or if they want additional information. If the customer says yes, the account info is added to a sales CRM platform and a notification is sent to a sales team member that is now responsible for the lead. The marketing-to-sales process is now faster, more efficient and free from human-driven triggers within the system.
This article discussed the 3 things any organization can do right now to create an integrated marketing to sales process:
- Create a single lead generation strategy for the organization
- Use inside sales to prequalify leads before going to sales
- Use marketing automation and sales CRM platforms to make processes more efficient
These suggestions can help sales and marketing leadership integrate strategies to meet the customer at any point in the decision journey, better adopt to the changing market conditions and improve performance results with more a efficient and effective marketing-to-sales process.
After reading this article, how would you now answer the questions, “How should our sales team interface with marketing?” and, “How could we use an integrated approach to centralize our strategies, lower our cost structure and bring multiple business units together under a single strategic plan?”
Let us know what you think and share your comments below. And feel free to share with others using the social media buttons and links on this site.
PLAN | MARKET | SELL:
Find out about PLAN | MARKET | SELL here:
CONNECT WITH US:
Use the button to connect with us about an upcoming project: