At a Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas, speakers painted a portrait of conflict between sales and marketing teams. The presentations had titles like, “Marketing and Sales: From Infighting to Inspiring” and “Ending the War between Sales and Marketing.”
At the same time, I noticed a universal agreement that these teams need to learn how to collaborate. Research supports the idea that high-performance sales teams have extremely close ties to marketing:
- 62 percent of salespeople meet quota when they have a formal definition of a qualified lead, as opposed to 55 percent who don’t. (CSO Insights)
- A “strong” relationship with marketing correlates with 99 percent team achievement of yearly sales quota and a 13.1 percent year-over-year increase in revenue. (Aberdeen)
Positive change nearly always starts at the executive level, and a collaborative mindset between your teams is probably not going to happen organically. To start, sales leaders need to meet regularly with marketing leaders. Here are at least four questions to put on your agenda.
Question No. 1: “Do you feel we have a clear value proposition?”
Ask your salespeople to tell you what your company’s value proposition is. If their answers are fuzzy, then 1) your value proposition needs work, or 2) your salespeople need to learn how to articulate it clearly.
Question No. 2: “Are salespeople providing useful feedback on our marketing materials?”
Routine communication facilitates collaboration. When salespeople think marketing materials are “worthless,” they generally don’t talk about it with marketers. They just stop using those materials (or go rogue and create their own). To help your salespeople provide marketing with constructive criticism, ask them these two questions below. The answers will provide a starting point for improvements.
- Do our marketing materials focus on features, or the value our solution provides?
- Do our marketing materials do a good job of focusing on the business problems of our target prospects and existing customers?
Question No. 3: “What is our buyer’s journey?”
Marketing leaders should be tracking the buyer’s digital footprint and gathering data on how customers find you, engage with you, and purchase from you. If they don’t have a clear picture of how your segments behave online, it’s going to be that much more difficult for your sales team to target the right leads and close deals.
Meanwhile, sales leaders can make the most of digital marketing campaigns, lead scores, and lead-qualification efforts by shifting their own mindset about customers. Namely, your sales metrics need to match the buyer’s journey. At the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova said “legacy sales metrics” (number of calls made, social touches, and emails sent) are hopelessly out of date. That’s because buyers don’t follow a linear path to purchase. Don’t ask your salespeople to adhere to a rigid sales process. Empower them by helping them follow the buyer’s journey.
Question No. 4: “How are we leveraging (or planning to leverage) predictive analytics?”
Predictive analytics process mountains of your existing data about customers and their digital behaviors, and highlight the most logical course of action to help you win. On a strategic level, such tools can tell you which deals are likely to close (and within what time frame) so that you can better choose which territories to target. As for your salespeople, predictive analytics can tell them:
- Which accounts to call on first.
- Which prospects are currently receptive, not yet receptive, or definitively not receptive.
- Which marketing materials, messaging, or value proposition the prospect likely would be most interested in seeing.
- Which form of communication (phone, email, social media, or in-person meeting) would get the best engagement.
Creating peace, not war, between sales and marketing teams will require a mix of both high-level and ground-level initiatives. Change starts with sales and marketing leaders. If you create a vision for collaboration and chart a course for success, you’ll be able to reap the revenue benefits that go along with sales and marketing alignment.