Ask salespeople what they want from marketing, and you’ll hear something like “better-quality leads.” Ask marketers what they want from sales, and you’ll hear something like “greater effort to follow up on leads.” We clearly have a problem at the bottom of the sales funnel.
We face this problem precisely because we wait until leads get to the bottom of the funnel before marketing and sales interact with each other. As a result, prospects are exposed to a disjointed handover, where the tone of communication changes and although the relationship often becomes more personal, the salesperson has no view of the actions a prospect has taken along the way to becoming a qualified lead. If we have no holistic view of the customer, how can you create a customer-centric approach?
It all hinges on content and messaging: what type of content is created, why, and how. When marketing and sales present different messages, you have a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, if you can create insightful, consistent, and interactive messages that span the entire funnel, then you will by default align sales and marketing. Consider the following:
Always Include Sales In Content Strategy And Creation
Sales teams are at the coal-face. They are the ones who speak to prospects every day. The ones who answer the same questions over and again. The ones who know why people buy and don’t buy. They understand your audience best—their goals and challenges and the most common objections.
It makes complete sense that marketing should involve sales when defining its messaging and even creating or updating the brand. Sales should also be included when creating personas, developing content strategies, and producing content. If 60% to 70% of content created by marketing is going unused by sales, you have to ask why this is happening.
The sales team’s involvement doesn’t need to be too complicated. Just include them in the initial “briefing” session and resolve to listen and learn. Then check in at the development stage to ensure that what has been delivered is relevant and valuable to the audience. We have found that it made our content better and deepened our relationship.
Create Content That Supports Sales Activities Throughout The Sales Process
Marketing’s job is to create awareness and buzz by attracting prospects at the top of the funnel using wide-ranging content. They nurture and qualify those leads, handing over a whittled-down group of hot leads. It makes sense then that marketing teams spend a lot of time and money on content (blogs, advertising, and press releases) and platforms (social listening, sharing, and advertising) to spread the message. But what happens as prospects move down the funnel?
It is worth sitting down with the sales team to brainstorm content that will help them understand prospects better and close more deals. You might find that they need more case studies (or use cases), competitor comparisons, or online reviews. It is also worth exploring how interactive content—such as ROI calculators and decision trees—can help gather information that sales teams can use when approaching prospects.
Introduce Lead Scoring And Make It Easy For Sales To See Why A Lead Is A Lead
Now that you are creating a content strategy informed by sales, with content for each stage of the funnel, you can start to assign scores to each level of content. For example, content created for the bottom of the funnel, like ROI calculators and case studies, should be weighted more heavily than broader, less targeted things like blog posts and newsletters.
Providing the sales team with an idea of the journey each prospect has taken and how high the person has scored should help solve the problem of slow or non-existent lead follow-ups and will arm salespeople with conversation-starters when they make contact.
Use Technology To Accelerate The Process And Support Collaboration
Tracking buying behavior and implementing lead scoring can get complicated if you don’t have a marketing stack designed to support your approach.
The first fundamental piece of technology is a solid content management system that integrates with social channels, email marketing, CRM, and online advertising systems. The second fundamental is a platform that connects marketing and sales content.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
We know that this approach works because we have seen it in action, especially in our account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns. An Aberdeen Group study supports this; it found that businesses with highly aligned sales and marketing teams earned an average of 32% year-over-year growth, while those who reported less alignment saw a 7% decrease in revenue.
ABM campaigns are also often the simplest to develop because there is a clear brief from people who are closest to the customer, executed by the people who know how to create compelling content, and always followed up.
We don’t have that much holding us back—just our own unwillingness to try a different approach and forge a new, positive relationship.