Sales and Marketing Need to Bridge the Gap

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To someone on the production floor, sales and marketing functions seem like the same thing. Don’t tell that to the internet marketing gurus developing a PPC campaign or the account rep dialing for dollars; they would strongly disagree.

sales and marketing alignmentPut simply, marketing is about generating leads, and sales is about converting those leads into new business. Even though Sales and Marketing share objectives they can often be at odds when it comes to the tactics.

If everyone’s job is to help the company make money, why is marketing seen as a cost center while sales is seen as the sole revenue generator? Don’t both departments contribute to revenue?

A first step in the mutual-respect journey is to acknowledge that each function is essential to a growing, healthy business.

When Lead Generation Goals Conflict

Blame game – When sales revenue goes down, the finger-pointing begins. Is the problem that the crappy leads weren’t qualified or that the excuse for a  sales team couldn’t convert them? Without identifying the real problem, this animosity can continue to build with no sustainable resolution.

Sense of immediacy – Traditionally, Marketing promotes the company brand through trade shows, direct mail, advertisements, surveys, collateral materials, and a web presence.These are all long-term goals that rarely result in immediate new business.

Because Sales operates in the now, it can be blind to the long-term goals of marketers. Marketing strategies that don’t immediately boost leads can be seen as pointless, including strategies that focus on reputation and trust building.

Marketing’s impact on revenue is not immediate- but it is essential. When leads from marketing are plentiful and strong, then sales reps can focus on closing new business and Marketing can continue to fill the top of the marketing funnel and nurture leads through the middle and top of the funnel as well.

Targeted lead generation/lead conversion - Is every tradeshow visitor a lead or did they just drop by for the schwag? Is anyone who downloads a whitepaper ready to buy or are they just doing early-stage research?

The business needs to develop criteria that determine when a lead is “sales-ready”. Salespeople don’t just want leads, they want targetedready-to-buy, qualified leads. Theirs is a direct revenue-generating function and they can’t limit sales productivity by talking to the wrong people.

Lead Management Best Practices

We can address sales and marketing alignment with some of the following realizations and strategies. 

Measure the results – Neither department can point the finger without pointing to data. If leads need to be warmer, or they are already warm enough, you need a way to measure it. If sales is not following up on hard-earned leads, you need to know that too. Even simple sales contact management software can help to increase sales by tracking sales effectiveness.

If there’s no way to measure it, there’s no way to test and then fix it. 

Get the goals in sync – If marketers are only looking for more leads, and sales already has more leads than they can handle, you have a recipe for wasted resources. Ultimately, sales and marketing have the same goal: more long-term sales. It’s the smaller goals that put these departments out of sync. 

Build communication into the system – To work together, departments need to understand each other’s needs. This can’t be achieved by making it company policy or by passing around a memo. Both teams should have conversations that develop empathy and understanding (notice  I didn’t say meetings?) and help bridge the gap. 

Develop a scoring system – One way to get on the same page is to implement a lead-scoring system. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated but it must be mutually agreed upon. If you’ve never utilized a scoring system, then start simple and build upon what works.

  • A prospect who completes a survey has invested time and effort and would rank higher than someone who’s provided you with an email address to download a free whitepaper.
  • The visitor who downloaded the whitepaper and completes a subsequent call to action from a earns more points.

It’s your system; you decide what earns the highest value. You want to err on the side of “sales-ready” and pass along leads as they move through the funnel.  Now that your teams are talking to each other they can provide feedback on what’s working and make recommendations on how to continuously improve.

Get the incentives right – If your goal is to build long-term relationships with customers but your sales team is only incentivised for short term sales, you will not have long-term happy customers. If your goal is to nuture leads until they are sales ready, but you’re rewarding your marketing department for only the quantity of  leads generated you’ll run into a similar problem.  

When both sales and marketing feel their efforts are under-appreciated and their challenges are misunderstood, it’s time to take a hard look at your processes and get goals and objectives in alignment.

Why else are sales and marketing sometimes at odds? What else can be done about it?

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