When customers own their engagement with your brand – where, when, and how it happens – when engagements are smaller and more personal, and when it takes more to keep hold of a customer’s attention, the lines between sales and marketing begin to blur. Sales would love marketing to deliver qualified leads, and marketing campaigns begin to look a lot more like sales conversations. But the success of your organization depends on these two teams working together.
A recent Aberdeen research report, commissioned by SAP, stresses the importance of the sales and marketing relationship for “best-in-class” companies. Each team needs to understand who’s bringing what to the table, and how best to collaborate to close more sales.
To start the conversations at your own company, here are a few key priorities to get the teams better aligned for success.
1. Ownership of a lead must be shared by both sales and marketing.
It may sound obvious, but in practice it can be difficult to differentiate whether lead generation and nurturing falls to marketing or sales. Parts of the process may fall to either team, and when each team feels like they’re working toward their own goals instead of a shared objective, that can lead to confusion and duplicate or conflicting efforts.
Does this sound familiar? Marketing creates leads to pass to sales, but sales already has leads of their own. Or your marketing team is driven by quantity and delivers leads to sales that don’t seem to be high-quality.
Figure out a way to determine what qualifies as a good lead, and establish from the get-go who’s responsible for it when. Marketing and sales should engage each other regularly for feedback to optimize the entire lead-gen process and work towards a common objective, instead of battling it out internally or blaming each other for a lack of qualified leads.
2. Share data and info to personalize customer experiences.
In order to deliver the amazing customer experiences you imagine, you need to know your customer – to really understand their industry, and dive into the challenges they face. You need to be able to talk to them on their terms, so you need to understand where they’re coming from. Thankfully, in the age of connected tech, we have the data to do that. And it’s handled by the marketing team.
Marketing does the research to get to know the customers and their industries. They have content that is relevant to every stage of the selling process. If sales leverages the expertise of the marketing team, they can guide customers along their journey, eventually leading them to the sale.
Sales can then personalize the entire customer experience, tailoring the conversation and engaging customers on a deeper level. And marketing can act more as the experts and thought leaders, doing the research and gaining a wealth of information on various industries and challenges. The entire experience is elevated.
3. Leverage analytics and insights to drive higher-quality understanding.
Beyond an understanding of a customer’s industry, high-quality analytics can be used to better understand how best to close a sale. With effective data collection tools, marketing has access to a wealth of information about a customer’s engagement with your brand – how and where they’ve engaged with you, the type of information they’ve sought out, how many pieces of content they’ve downloaded, what events they’ve attended – all of which illustrates where their interests and priorities lie.
Sales can use this industry-specific information to nurture leads in a deeply personalized way, knowing where the customer is coming from and where they are on their journey. They can use historical data – past customers in similar situations – to determine what content and information to pass onto the customer, and how to effectively address their needs and make the sale. They can seize opportunities for cross-selling. They can look at a customer’s journey and attempt to replicate it with suggestions and recommendations that serve the customer.
In turn, sales can then report back to marketing with insights as to which leads and opportunities are the most promising, showing the most potential to close, to help drive marketing’s future content-to-conversion research.
No matter what, communication and collaboration are key. The feedback loop must be closed between the teams, with each group providing feedback to the other and adapting for more effective processes. By working closely together internally, you’ll be able to engage customers more personally and more effectively.
Want to dive more into how marketing/sales collaboration is key for success? Read the full Aberdeen white paper: “Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?”