It’s a digital world. Whether a company is B2C or B2B, marketing has moved into cyberspace. Why? Because even companies/businesses that are searching for products or services begin those searches online. And businesses that have already been customers want to be kept informed, educated, and coddled.
But, this new age of digital marketing brings with it some key challenges. One of these is how to align the marketing and sales functions of a B2B company.
Traditionally, marketers have generated leads through advertisements, emails, social media presences, etc. They then turn these leads over to the sales department for follow-up and, hopefully, conversions to sales.
With the advent of digital campaigns, these same functions can occur. Through their content, email, and social media channels, marketing departments can still generate leads and turn them over to sales. This seems reasonable and fulfills the traditional function of each department. But it’s not reasonable or effective in today’s digital world.
The problem is this: If sales departments are not fully aware of the details of the marketing campaigns from which these leads have come, there may be a disconnect with a potential customer. Likewise, the marketing department may continue to target customers that are already well into the sales funnel because of the work of the sales department.
Marketing and Sales Must Collaborate
One of the things research shows is that, when sales and marketing are aligned, good things happen. Here are some recent statistics:
- When sales and marketing are aligned, there can be as much as a 20% more annual revenue.
- When sales and marketing teams are aligned, together they are up to 67% better at closing.
- When sales and marketing teams are aligned, companies report as much as 36% higher customer retention.
These figures cannot be ignored. And given the technological advances in marketing and sales automation, there are now lots of tools that can bring collaboration into reality.
While marketers look more at the big picture of customers, using data analysis and segmentation for strategic campaigns, sales staff have the little picture, looking at each customer by his/her individual needs and preferences. They thus have very different perspectives, but neither one of them provides a full understanding of what motivates customers to make purchases. When they are aligned in collaboration, they get this full picture.
So, how to achieve this alignment? Here are five things that companies can do to bring about more harmony between these two departments.
1. Bringing Sales into Content Marketing Efforts
Content marketing is a comprehensive activity that involves educating customers and promoting a positive image and trust for the brand. And the overall goal of content is to demonstrate to customers that their problems can be solved by what a company has to offer. And what research has shown is that this marketing venue, if done right, costs about 62% less than traditional marketing activities while generating almost three times as many leads. This is especially true for content that is interactive.
Typically, sales is not involved in content marketing efforts, and this is a major negative for an organization. Despite all of the data that the marketing department can gather about target audiences, it is the salespeople who know customers more intimately and can provide great insights into the pain points that should be addressed.
2. Promoting Real Conversation
If sales and marketing teams are really to collaborate, then they need to have regular conversation and sharing. A sales force needs to know about the latest marketing campaigns. The marketing team needs to know what efforts seem to be bringing the most success and what new questions or issues customers are bringing to the table that content can address.
Often, sales team members are spread out, on the road, and in locations throughout the country. Given today’s technology, there is just no excuse for lack of communication and conversation among all members of both teams.
One of the best strategies B2B companies can apply is developing communication flow inside and outside the organization. On one hand, the marketing teams know how their target audience looks like and what marketing strategy they should use to satisfy their needs. On the other hand, the sales forces feel their customers’ pulse and can bring valuable information directly from the field. Thus, these two functions should constantly communicate and share ideas and plans if they want to create a clear and on-target marketing plan”, says Michael Graham, Marketing Director at The Word Point.
3. The Power of A CRM System
A CRM tool can provide another key ingredient for collaboration. It will perform many functions:
- It will track leads through every part of the sales funnel and will provide a one-stop place for both sales and marketing teams to see every bit of contact and communication with individual leads and prospects.
- It will show all sales in a pipeline and levels in a sales funnel.
- It will show where leads have come from and the specific details of every contact.
- It will provide valuable information about the contacts at a client company and what sales have already passed through that contact.
- It will be mobile-enabled, so that a salesperson in the field can pull up information on the spot.
When both marketers and salespeople have access to all of the same data, their efforts are more coordinated and customers/potential customers are served much better.
4. Collaborative Efforts on Social Media
Social media has become one of the most powerful marketing and sales tools out there. If you have any doubt, check out the social media platforms of General Electric. It is the place where companies can develop relationships and build trust, and who better to do that than marketing and sales teams working together to maintain social media platforms? When salespeople feel a part of the overall marketing effort and can add their insights through posts about products and services, new items, etc. This activity is a great “buy in” for sales departments who sometimes feel they are left out of larger company goals.
5. Create a Safe Space for Sharing
People do not agree, and this can be especially true when marketers and sales forces get together for conversations. But brainstorming sessions to address issues and pose solutions need to occur, and they need to occur in a fully open environment. This means that no idea is criticized or ridiculed. When a safe listening environment is established, everyone feels equally empowered. And once solutions are determined, there is much larger buy-in from everyone.
In this age of digitally-savvy customers, marketing and sales departments can no longer afford to separate themselves from the other. They must be on the same page and be a part of the larger picture of generating leads, courting customers through their sales funnels, and establishing the relationships that both secure and retain customers. And the research is clear – when these two functions operate in collaboration, long-term revenue growth is far more predictable and assured.