Marketing and sales have, in many organizations big and small, operated in silos. The web has brought them together, but it takes more than technology to efficiently align them. Launch Team President Michele Nichols and One Down Consulting co-founder Ron Wille have worked to improve revenue with sales and marketing alignment, in their own businesses and in their clients' businesses. Join the conversation as they discuss trends, benchmarks, actionable tips and best practices for ever-better results in this blog series.
The Key to a Healthy Sales Pipeline
A healthy sales pipeline is crucial to a company's growth and opportunity outlook, but lack of alignment between sales and marketing can create costly leaks. This week Michele and Ron sat down to discuss the opportunities for improvement and best practices for true alignment between sales and marketing.
Sales & Marketing Alignment: Q&A with Ron and Michele
Q. What do you see as the biggest gaps in the sales process?
Michele: Lead follow-up, for sure. It takes 8-12 touches to close a complex sale, and in our reliance on email, a lot of people simply aren’t picking up the phone. The hand-off from marketing to sales is also an area of improvement. We often see leads just sit, growing stagnant, especially after a live event like a tradeshow. A lot of companies struggle with lead follow-up, but immediacy counts a lot.
Download our free sales guide for tips on building a healthy sales pipeline and a productive sales organization.
Ron: It’s not rocket science. In many industries, the norm is such a poor level of follow-up that just increasing your sales rigor will allow you to beat out the competition. A lack of infrastructure and process also causes major problems—usually causing leads to die between sales and marketing.
Michele: Discovery and qualifying is another frequent gap. We still see a lot of order-taking. Companies that ask the right questions to unearth client pain points are able to create more customer value by problem-solving and therefore increase their deal size.
Q. What do you see companies doing well in terms of sales and marketing alignment?
Ron: First, investing in the infrastructure. Investment in sales and marketing automation has to be number 1, 2 or 3 in a company’s technology investment priories, maybe right after ERP. Whether they have a strong sales and marketing process or not, this investment can really help to grow sales. We have some clients who are wise to use a CRM or a tool like CallDown “out of the box”—these best-in-class processes can impose a system for salespeople to follow. We customize a lot for clients whose sales processes are already well developed and tested.
Michele: Watching the numbers, and beginning to make data-driven decisions. Marketing is no longer a “fluffy” intangible. Leaders can and should measure awareness, engagement, qualification through close. Where do prospects get stuck in the funnel? How many days do prospects typically take to close? Then you can pinpoint your opportunities to increase your win rate.
Q. What is marketing's job, and what’s sales' job?
Ron: Marketing is responsible for creating leads. Usually when I ask the sales team to interpret what the marketing team does they tell me that marketing has the "fluffy, creative" job. In reality, the marketers are the ones that are creating opportunities for the sales team.
Michele: Yes, marketing should answer to sales. With good communications between sales and marketing, marketing can continually improve lead flow and quality. Relationship building is shared, but conversion is the job of sales. A single executive leader can help ensure a holistic view of the sales funnel.
Q. What’s one best practice for sales and marketing that companies can use to increase close rates?
Ron: Creating common agreement on what is a lead. Nine times out of 10, there’s a disconnect on whether or not it’s a lead. From there, it’s easier for marketing and sales to work together, creating an implicit contract on lead follow-up, and defining number of steps/touches before closing a lead.
Drip campaigns can also make a big difference. They’re very effective for prospects who are “not ready.” With sales and marketing automation tools, you can assign the prospect to the campaign or area of interest that best fits them and send regularly timed, personalized and targeted information. You’ll be able to gauge their level of engagement and stage of readiness, and then move them back into active sales.
Michele: Companies who are able to target their ideal customer and really understand their needs, language, concerns and buying behaviors are able to market and sell so much more effectively. We pay attention to customer personas and work to create content targeted to their needs. Even at the proposal level, changing the format to “you” vs. “me” can substantially improve win rates.
This also helps with disqualifying prospects—rather than qualifying them. Identifying when it’s not a fit can save you lost time, expense and false hope, while building your credibility and trust with a prospect.
To get started on your customer personas, download our worksheet.
Watch for more posts in this series throughout the month for insights on getting the best from your process, technology and people.
One Down Group specializes in sales technology consulting and implementation. Launch Team provides the strategy, tactics and content needed for inbound marketing success. Both work with market-leading software platforms to create a powerful sales and marketing engine.