14 ways sales and marketing can combine
Marketing can save your sales team time, stress and effort by allowing them to refine your sales pipeline and focus on more of the best quality leads.
You just need to learn how to make marketing your secret sales weapon.
Your content marketing program should be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for your reps: reeling in leads, answering frequently asked questions, and identifying leads who are ready to talk to a salesperson by observing the way those prospects interact with your brand’s content.
Below is a step-by-step process for enabling sales and marketing to work better together so they can generate better leads and hit your sales targets.
1. Tell marketing what questions Your prospects are asking at each stage of the sales process
Sometimes you’ve got to give a little to get a little.
Marketing is desperate for insights into the prospect’s wants and needs. Your sales reps talk to those people every day. They know what prospects want and how often certain questions are asked.
If you can give a list of those questions to marketing, the team can build content that answers those questions so your sales reps don’t have to waste your time continually covering old ground.
Marketing can create content in the form of a FAQ page, blog posts, or other content sales reps can easily share with prospects. Your prospects will welcome this; according to research from Forrester, 78% of buyers were put off by the fact that salespeople weren’t offering them relevant content to help them research and understand your offering.
2. Ask marketing to share their buyer personas with sales
Marketing puts a lot of work into creating buyer personas: profiles of very specific ideal customers for your product or service.
These personas include information like age, position in the company, pain points, even favorite television shows.
Deals are often lost because salespeople don’t know who their ideal customer is, and where to find them.
For proof of that, look no further than the research from Forrester, which found that more than 75% of prospects feel the salespeople who contact them don’t understand their business, role at work, or even the problem they’re trying to solve.
Those are huge oversights that can be solved with a simple buyer persona developed in conjunction with sales and marketing teams.
3. Explain why the leads sales is getting from marketing don’t work
According to Demand Gen’s report, one of the top complaints sales has about marketing is that they’re not sent good leads, while one of the top complaints marketing has about sales is that the leads they send over aren’t being followed up.
Explain what a solid lead looks like for the sales team, based on what leads have converted in the past. Use that information to develop a lead scoring that works for everyone.
4. Examine your sales team’s biases about “good leads”
Is your idea of a good lead based on data or your gut? Is your team ignoring bona fide marketing qualified leads (MQLs) because they don’t “feel right”?
To quote Paul Wander of Inviqa, “feelings are not always a good thing” in sales.
Once you’ve got a solid formula to determine MQLs, use it and follow up on all those leads quickly and efficiently to make sure you’re not wasting time on leads that won’t go anywhere.
5. Know that the definition of an MQL is always changing
Keep working with marketing to refine your formula for qualifying leads.
On the marketing side, this means keeping an eye on how leads behave when they engage with content, and whether that behavior further qualifies them.
On the sales end, this means measuring the leads that convert and adjusting the MQLs so that new leads resemble existing customers.
It may also mean adjusting your process; tools like Pipedrive’s Contacts Timeline can show you what activities prompted a lead to convert, so you can duplicate the process with other, similar leads.
6. Work together to refine the fields in your lead generation forms
If you’re not getting good leads from marketing, maybe the web forms on your site don’t match your needs.
Maybe your best leads are college administrators who have a specific minimum budget.
A well-crafted lead generation form with the right fields can isolate those leads and get them directly into your pipeline.
7. Keep the data in your CRM up to date
Things change. People leave jobs. Companies move. Businesses close. Don’t let MQLs sit in your CRM forever.
Strike while the iron is hot, but also make sure the data doesn’t decay, or a solid lead now might be useless in a few months.
Pipedrive’s Founder and CEO, Timo Rein learned the importance of how to lose better in sales the hard way:
“Like most salespeople, I made a lot of mistakes early in my career. But I was taught an axiom early on: ‘70% of all deals should be winnable.’ Learning to mark deals lost earlier in the sales process and of my own accord helped me spend more time on deals that were winnable and less on those that weren’t. Consequently, I felt that the deals I spent time on were genuinely at least 70% winnable, keeping my sales pipeline clean and my sales velocity high.”
Every week, review all open deals as well as the lost deals from the previous week. Understand your losing and winning categories (on price, on product features, in a specific industry, or other) and make this clear to your sales and marketing team. Together, you can fine-tune your tactics on a regular basis by learning from this knowledge.
Work to make sure both sales and marketing know your ideal customer profile and figure out how to get as many prospects who fit the profile into your pipeline.
8. Let marketing turn your reps into thought leaders
Customers aren’t always excited to hear from a sales rep, but according to LinkedIn, 92% of B2B prospects will engage with someone who is seen as a thought leader.
Marketing can use the info you give them to create content that makes your sales reps into experts who share information that speaks to your prospects’ needs.
Your sales reps use their social media to send out the content your marketing team creates
It’s a win-win-win: the content makes your reps look good, prospects start seeing your reps as experts, and you can turn that newfound industry authority into trust, which will help you convert more deals.
9. Share sales data with marketing, so they can give you content to share for every stage in the sales funnel
What’s worse than checking in with a prospect by sending an email with the subject line: “Just checking in”?
You know what you’re doing, the prospect knows what you’re up to, but you have to touch base with them, so here you are.
Marketing can make this awkward exchange go away by providing sales with premium content.
Use your marketing assets in conjunction with your knowledge of cognitive bias to make sure you can avoid the awkwardness and develop genuinely effective sales conversation starters.
What is premium content and how does it solve your subject line problem? This sort of high-value content (e.g. infographics, white papers, ebooks and case studies) is usually stashed behind lead generation forms. Since your prospect is already in your pipeline, you can use this content to get back in touch with a prospect, especially if it speaks to that prospect’s needs.
It’s a helpful reason to contact. Rather than saying “just touching base” you can say: “Hey, I remember that you were trying to improve your organization’s internal communication with remote employees. We’ve just published a white paper that deals with that issue.”
Once you’ve added value for that prospect, then you can move them further into the funnel.
10. Let marketing nurture your leads
There’s one more simple way for marketing to cut down the leads in your pipeline (and cut down on those awful “just checking in” emails).
Develop a process for marketing to find prospects who aren’t ready to buy and take them off your hands.
If a qualified lead is passed to the sales team but they aren’t ready to buy, you need to pass the prospect back over to marketing and let them nurture the lead until the prospect really is ready for you.
(Work out clear sales definitions and criteria for triggering this process ahead of time, so your sales team is not shooting a curt email about an unqualified lead to the marketing team.)
11. Look past closing the deal
You want to sell once and keep the customer for life.
Keep sending premium content from marketing to prospects even after you’ve made the sale, especially if that content directly relates to the prospect’s needs or pain points.
The next time that customer needs something your organization can provide, they’ll go to their trusted, helpful authority source. You earn credibility with your content. You can convert that trust into more revenue when the time is right.
In the meantime, you can encourage your customer to share your content with their network and act as an unpaid brand ambassador.
12. Trust marketing to do the marketing
Even if your sales team gets comfortable with using content to help you in the sales process, discourage reps from creating content marketing themselves.
A recent Demand Gen Survey found 75% of buyers are put off by salesy language.
It’s marketing’s job to write content that’s not a hard sell.
Remember, if sales has a good relationship with marketing, everyone can focus on what they are best at.
13. Talk to your sales and marketing team. Regularly!
This one seems like stating the obvious, but regular meetings between sales and marketing are easier said than done.
When surveyed by Demand Gen Report, 49% of sales and marketing leaders said the biggest challenge to alignment between their teams is communication. Sales and marketing just aren’t talking.
So the most important task to help sales work with marketing to close more deals is to develop a regular meeting.
The sales and the marketing teams are going to need to come up with a set of unified goals and work out how best to hit them to keep driving your business forward.
14. Use a CRM tool that benefits both sales and marketing
Communication is important, but so is using a CRM tool that gives sales and marketing teams the tools they need.
From workflow automations and custom reports to sending bulk emails, with Pipedrive you can manage your sales and marketing initiatives in one place.
It’s easy to lose track of hastily written notes across different documents and sheets, or for important updates to be missed by the people who need to see them most.
To give your teams the best chance of success, make sure you invest in a customizable tool that allows users to track and share their work, while keeping everyone focused on business objectives.
If your marketing and sales teams are working in silos, you may be losing potential customers before your sales reps even get a chance to talk to them. These teams work best when they exist to support each other.
Now you know the difference between sales and marketing and how these differences fill the other team’s gaps. Their alignment will help you create better content and align all your marketing and sales messaging. The result? Higher quality leads, engaging conversations, ideal buyers and loyal ambassadors of your solutions and your brand as a whole.
Don’t forget to track all your sales activities and results with a CRM solution like Pipedrive and customize it to your team’s needs and the specifics of your target customers.