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If you think about it, there’s a direct correlation between marketing and sales.
A customer or client learns about a great new product or service through various promotional or information channels (marketing), then goes to a supplier or vendor to buy or subscribe (sales).
Seems logical enough. But the reality for many organisations is a disconnect between the two divisions – one that leads to lost opportunities, reduced efficiency, and shrinking revenues.
Here are five easy ways to reintegrate your sales and marketing functions, and use that harmonious alignment to improve your bottom line.
1. Consider The Customer
It truly is a buyer’s market these days. And with the increased importance of online commerce, the initiative in many transactions now belongs to the customer.
24/7 access to media, web resources and social platforms are empowering buyers with knowledge, and the confidence to express and act upon their opinions about numerous products, brand identities, and services.
In this new eco-system, marketing and sales professionals are looked upon more as facilitators in the buying process, rather than the instigators of it – and their attitudes need to change to reflect this. Contacting a sales professional may be done as the customer’s first step in establishing a relationship with a vendor or brand – testing to see whether there’s chemistry there, and if an organisation can be trusted.
A co-ordinated approach is required to identify and fully understand target demographics and buyer personas, and to create the materials and interventions needed to guide them through their sales journey. This may be a largely self-determined path, informed by product reviews, social conversations, and interaction with their peers – so strategies must be crafted to take this into account.
2. Know Your Parameters
Working at cross purposes isn’t a route to success – and in many organisations there’s a confusion of interests and lack of understanding as to what should be driving the promotional or sales process, and what benchmarks need to be considered in charting its success.
Marketers may take a more holistic view of the enterprise, while sales people are typically driven by their urge to meet revenue targets on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.
Establishing a set of common goals is a big step towards fostering a more integrated approach to sales and marketing activities. Return On Investment (ROI) may be set as the goal uniting their efforts, using a relevant set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for monitoring their progress. Some industry analysts advocate an “account-based marketing” philosophy, whereby marketing strategies are aligned with outbound sales activity with an eye toward generating the biggest revenues possible.
3. Follow The Leads
From a sales perspective, there are four key ways to increase revenue:
1) Increasing numbers of leads: These may emerge by increasing advertising budgets to attract more potential buyers, expanding into new markets or verticals, or opening up new opportunities through affiliate schemes, referrals, or other methods.
2) Better quality leads: This necessitates the discovery of improved markets, identifying likelier prospects or targets, and strategic spending on promotion which is linked to actual conversions.
3) Increased hustle from sales representatives: If the motivation to set appointments, make phone calls, and engage in dialogue with customers is lacking, it should be bolstered through directives and incentive schemes – and monitored via management and integration tools.
4) Enhancing the skills of sales representatives: Fine-tuning of pitches and strategies based on training and needs analysis, with interpretation and integration of data from all phases of the buyer’s journey.
To get to this stage, it’s necessary for both sales and marketing to be singing from the same hymn sheet as to what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead or MQL (usually marketing’s responsibility, based on customer demographics, behaviour, and other factors), a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL), and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). The latter two are determined by sales as respectively a lead that’s worth following up and one that’s likely to convert.
Agreeing on terms for defining these lead types will reduce the tendency for bickering over whether leads sent by marketing are being squandered by the sales division, or that marketing isn’t delivering the right sort of leads. And in the long run, it should lead to better prospects and more conversions.
4. Foster Communication And Interaction
That last point about bickering highlights one of the biggest obstacles to effective alignment of sales and marketing efforts: a lack of mutual understanding between the two disciplines.
This issue may be addressed by promoting interaction between marketing and sales staff at a personal level. At least one representative from each “camp” should be present at meetings held by or involving the other, so that input and feedback from both streams may be obtained.
Formal and informal communication channels, group projects and team-building activities should be made available to give workers in each division an opportunity to see “how the other half lives” – and works.
5. Collaborate On Content
The emphasis on online consumption has put content marketing on a level with more blatantly “promotional” methods of appealing to potential and existing buyers. Providing help, advice, and information on topics related to a product or service, but more importantly addressing the pain points and interests of the customer is as much a part of the marketing process now as a full-page ad or video commercial.
From a marketing-to-sales perspective, content serves as an attractor for potential leads, and as a means of shepherding customers along the sales funnel.
Content shouldn’t be created by the marketing division in isolation. Sales should be consulted for their greater understanding and day to day familiarity with the needs, challenges, and objectives of the customer base. Information may then be fed back into the marketing stream, for the creation of more relevant and insightful content.