The alignment of sales and marketing (smarketing!) is a huge opportunity for organisations to maximise their B2B lead generation and thus achieve the ultimate goal = increased revenue. When marketing and sales teams unite organisations are more effective – with an average rise of 32% annual revenue growth (Forrester).
In recent years, the market has recognised the need for marketing and sales to align, yet at INCo we often still see a disconnect between sales and marketing activities. What many organisations do not recognise is that more than ever sales need marketing and vice versa. Today our prospects do not need the help of a sales person in the same way as they did historically – they rely much more on digital content to inform their purchase decisions. Sales need marketing to engage with prospects at the top of the funnel and nurture until sales ready. Marketing in turn needs sales to close leads to support their marketing activities, prove ROI and thus maintain or increase their budget. The survival of both teams depends on a successful co-dependant relationship.
The Bridge between B2B Marketing and Sales
Let’s take a look at 4 important elements of collaboration:
1. Buyer personas
The first step is to get sales and marketing together to agree their target audience. There are two critical parts of this process: buyer personas and buying process maps. A buyer persona session defines the typical characteristics of their ideal prospects, what pain points and challenges your organisation can help address and how they make purchasing decisions. Mapping out the buying process allows the teams to assess the core set of activities the buyer engages in; the information they consume; and where they consume this information. Your sales people are on the front line and can provide invaluable information about your target audience.
2. Lead Metrics
Lead scoring allows your marketing team to determine sales-readiness – whether a prospect should be fast-tracked to sales or developed with lead-nurturing content marketing. Leads are scored based on the interest they show in your business, their position in the buying cycle, and their fit with your ideal buying characteristics. It’s an essential process but needs buy in from both marketing and sales.
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a prospect that the marketing team feel is a good potential buyer. A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is a lead that has been approved by the sales team and the sales process begins. Finally, a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a prospect that the sales team have vetted and displays intent to purchase. The problem is that, traditionally, marketing defined the qualities of an MQL, and sales decided what made a lead become an SAL or SQL – but how did they know what each other were basing their criteria on? When both teams come together to define these metrics the organisation will be more effective.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) need to be outlined for both teams. What happens when the sales team is notified of an MQL? How long does the sales team have to engage? If sales recycles the lead, what is the next step in the nurturing process? Getting these systems in place provides clarity of the roles of both teams and also provides data for analysis, so marketing can demonstrate how a prospect became an MQL, and there is a record of progressing the lead through sales.
3. Messaging and Content Alignment
Your sales team are talking with prospects all the time and know what is getting them excited about your company, what they want to learn about in the marketplace and what challenges they are facing. The problem is that a lot of times this feedback is not used to inform marketing. Make sure you have regular communication so that the marketing team understand what content they can be creating to add value to the sales process. This communication will allow the messaging across both inbound and outbound marketing channels to be coherent and thus support sales progression. If both teams contribute to content creation, the content should benefit both teams and how they use it.
4. Feedback Loops and Optimisation
This reporting should be a two-way conversation. Sales teams should report to marketing about the status of the leads they have received, so marketing can interpret how their channels and content are performing. To be an effective marketer, you need to be able to tie every single lead back to the marketing activities that created them – to prove the worth of their content and understand how to more efficiently reach their audience. It allows both teams to analyse their lead metrics and make any necessary changes, to ensure the sales team are receiving leads that are ready to engage.
When sales and marketing are aligned, everybody wins – B2B lead generation is optimised, more leads are generated, more opportunities are converted, and there is a growth in customers and revenue.
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