Co-Founder and President of Clever Lucy, a woman-owned, full service digital agency.
In the marketing world, we often measure our success by looking at engagement. How many people opened that email? Who’s watching our videos? Those numbers are important, but ultimately, we’re trying to help our organization thrive by delivering quality leads to sales.
If we’re looking to deliver leads to sales and contribute to revenue growth, we ought to be working together with our sales counterparts, which historically, is easier said than done — but why?
It’s really rather strange. For as long as we can remember, sales and marketing teams haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. What a lot of people fail to understand is that this nearly universally accepted separation leads to more than just a frustrating meeting or an uncomfortable phone call. When sales and marketing teams don’t work together, the overall business suffers. We’re going to take a deeper look at how coordinating your sales and marketing teams can change your business for the better, and why there’s never been a better time to start working together.
Understanding the root cause of this divide is the first step toward understanding how to bring the two functions together. One fundamental reason is that the benchmarks on which each is evaluated in their roles are dramatically different. While ultimately both are critical to business growth, each one is measured by metrics that don’t always obviously intersect.
Marketers measure success by metrics around engagement, click-through rates and open rates. Even a “conversion” in marketing is often a download of a piece of content or a video view and is not an actual sale. On the other hand, sales reps are measured on a single metric, and that is a closed sale. In other words, marketers spend significant time on the top and middle of the sales funnel while sales only spends time at the very bottom, and they often see the bulk of marketing efforts as fluff.
Before setting out on a journey toward marketing and sales harmony, it is important to understand the dramatic impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the business world and by comparison on both sales and marketing. The two most critical shifts are the transition of sales from in-person to virtual and changes in customer behavior.
Many industries relied on field sales reps who make face-to-face sales calls with potential customers. They relied on personal relationships, and let’s face it, it is much harder to ignore someone standing in your office door than an email. This personal approach halted dramatically. Being forced into remote working situations was challenging for all of us, but for sales reps, it’s been a serious disruption. A recent report from McKinsey indicates that 46% of those polled expressed that the new, virtual sales model is less effective than in-person. This puts additional pressure on the marketing team to make marketing tactics work even harder and deliver even more leads.
Even pre-pandemic, customer behavior was trending toward a more self-service model for many industries. The same research by McKinsey shows that in B2B back in 2019, 65% of customers preferred self-service in the research phase of the journey and 61% in the evaluation phase preferred self-service, nearly doubling in three years. This means that marketers need to take a greater role in educating the customer, and sales needs to shift their assumptions about the customer’s existing knowledge.
So how can you start improving? With our clients, we have found that a simpler approach to alignment is always more successful. The first and most practical action you can take is to start a conversation. Establish a dialogue with your co-workers about your common goals, and make plans on how you can collaborate more frequently to accomplish them. Once you’ve laid the groundwork for ongoing communication, you can move on to some more actionable goals.
Re-Map The Buyer’s Journey Together
The dramatic shifts in both customer behavior and the sales process mean it is time to have a fresh look at your buyer’s journey. Start from scratch and work jointly with sales to identify the specific path your target customers take toward purchase. Get specific. Identify each customer behavior and what motivates them at each phase of the decision-making process. Having the sales team contribute equally means you have their buy-in from the start. It also adds their valuable insights and deep knowledge gained from daily conversations with customers.
Next, define the marketing to sales handoff as a team. Find the point where your job ends, and your counterpart’s job begins. That point might differ from customer to customer, but it’s important that you communicate your expectations to avoid getting in the way of your co-workers making a sale.
For most of us, the gap between marketing and sales has always been there. Lack of communication and poor direction often leaves us feeling like that gap can’t be closed, and that the teams are simply designed to function without the help of the other. Now more than ever, organizations stand to benefit from marketing and sales alignment. If you challenge your co-workers to define common goals and develop a step-by-step plan to meet each other’s expectations, you can come out of these uncertain times stronger than ever.
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Author: Keri Witman, Forbes Councils Member