How Top-Notch Marketers Can Bridge the Sales-to-Marketing Gap

How Top-Notch Marketers Can Bridge the Sales-to-Marketing Gap

It’s commonly noted that sales and marketing departments are often at odds with one another. In what should be a seamless marriage of two departments working together toward customer acquisition, we often find that it is more of a clunky prospect-to-customer handoff. 

In fact, a LeanData survey confirmed strain between the two departments, “[…] 51 percent of marketers are not satisfied with the level of communication between the teams and 53 percent of sales professionals are not pleased with marketing’s support.”

On both sides of the table, 1 in every 2 marketing and sales professionals feel that the other side isn’t pulling their weight. Something’s got to give. 

As a marketing professional, you know the energy and resources you put into building your system that helps bring in prospective leads for your sales departments. But what if you could do better? The fact of the matter is, you can. And once you do, you can position yourself and your team as the shining star department of your organization.

In this article, we’ll go over the various ways you can improve the strategies and processes of your marketing department in order to see a greater ROI between your marketing and sales efforts.

Align the marketing to sales mission

Many marketers believe this goes without saying, however the two departments are often developed in relative exclusivity. Often times, different sales and marketing material are made in isolation of one another. A marketer might develop a “buyer’s persona” metric and a salesman may create a sales pitch deck. The problem is, they aren’t always sharing the creations with one another. In fact, a recent CSO Insights study indicated that 32% of a sales rep’s time was spent looking for or creating sales content. This is important because a sales professional should be focusing on the lead and closing them rather than spending a third of their time creating sales content. When building the sales & marketing strategy, the teams should be working in unison – from the top of the sales funnel all the way through. 

You have an understanding of the audience that your organization is aiming for. By developing targeted content and material for your sales team, you are helping bridge the gap and any lapse in organization-branded messaging. Maintaining a consistent experience is vital for any prospect that is currently progressing through your sales funnel

Create a shared data and process reporting system

Another way a marketing professional can improve the lead hand-off is by compiling lead intelligence through the qualification stage. What you should be charged with here is gathering any and all information of the leads including:

  • Contact information
  • Demographic information
  • Areas of interest
  • Level of engagement 

All of this information can be uploaded and shared in your organization’s CRM and will allow for a clearer picture of what the prospective customer’s buying intents are. It’s also important to note here what method of communication does the lead prefer? What forms have they filled out? Each detailed dimension added will help sales know how and when to approach the lead and what tools they can use to secure the sale.

It’s also important to collaborate with the sales department to obtain all the information they get from the leads: conversion rates, revenue generated, customer lifetime value etc so you can continuously improve your processes. 

Handover better qualified leads

Not all leads are created equal. 

Did you know how important it is when qualifying leads to be the first to contact a lead? Research indicates that when you’re the first to respond to a lead, you’re 3X more likely to convert the lead. Furthermore, 78% of leads buy from the first responder

You are in charge of gathering leads, but you’re also responsible for making sure that the leads that are gathered are qualified to be sent over to sales and to be converted. 

Both the marketing and the sales team can be stretched thin on resources throughout the course of business. If you can respond to a lead instantaneously, you position your team to hand over more qualified leads to your sales department. 

Construct the optimal sales funnel

Your organization’s sales funnel is the various process points your customers pass through before, and often after, their purchase of your product or service. Every organization’s sales funnel will have its unique intricacies. This is where you can use your savvy marketing know-how to help define the various stages of your organization’s sales funnel, what the potential customer will experience as they progress through the sales funnel process and what your marketing team can provide in order for the purchase stage to be a seamless handoff for the sales team as possible. 

Collaboration on the sales funnel process can help identify and mitigate friction points: stages during the process where leads can be lost or lose traction in the process. Once friction points are identified, it can open the door to implementation of automated marketing processes that help further qualify the leads headed towards sales. 

According to a survey, 91% of the most successful marketers believe that automation is “very important” to their campaign’s success. What’s more, is it’s noted that marketing automation can result in 14.5% increase in sales productivity when implemented correctly in an organization’s sales funnel.

Conclusion

Many organizations find that there is a gap between their sales and marketing departments. In fact, 25% of organizations believe that their sales and marketing efforts are “misaligned” or “rarely aligned.” 

Your organization doesn’t have to be a statistic.

Within your marketing department, you know the importance of bridging the gap between generating the lead on your end and handing it off to the sales department to make the sale. By using the strategies laid out above, you can work towards building seamless integration of your marketing and sales efforts so you can see the revenues within your organization soar and you can get back to doing what your department does best – generate and qualify more leads. 

KPI Alignment for Sales and Marketing Improves Revenue Growth

KPI Alignment for Sales and Marketing Improves Revenue Growth

To be effective, sales and marketing teams need to operate in a symbiotic, KPI driven relationship. They need a way to learn and communicate with one another so the effort of one is enhanced by the work of the other. Yet the sales/marketing dynamic can often be filled with tension, which can result in poor lead conversion and disastrous effects on revenue.  To avert this, companies need meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) to understand where breakdowns in the sale-marketing continuum exist.

Only 8% of companies have figured out how to align their marketing and sales teams and establish shared KPIs. According to Sirius Decisions, companies that have disciplined and tightly aligned sales and marketing efforts recognized 24% faster revenue growth in a three year period and 27% faster three-year profit growth. 

The effort to get sales and marketing aligned can be somewhat complex, but adhering to KPIs and relying on the help of expert partners can improve both lead velocity and effectiveness. Companies can focus their efforts on maximizing effort at top of funnel and bottom of funnel activities while a trusted expert deals with the hand-off, optimization, and conversion of leads. But no one will really understand how effective your efforts are, nor will they be able to analyze and improve them, if there aren’t any measurable data points that identify where failures and successes exist. 

Initial KPIs are about identifying the most important metrics which include those that explain speed, effectiveness, and general performance. Innovative organizations will focus on these measurements:

Velocity of Lead Funnel

Insights into the speed at which sales and marketing teams acquire, convert, and close leads is critical to alignment effectiveness. Understanding lead workflow helps teams determine where and how bottlenecks are preventing better, faster outcomes. To measure how well and how fast leads are worked through the funnel, follow these steps:

  • Identify criteria for each phase of the funnel: this may include MQLs, SALs, SQLs, Opportunities, and Closed-Won deals; or it may be some unique mix of qualifiers. You may also choose to include milestones that are based on CTAs, like “Meeting Scheduled” or “30-Day Trial Completed.” Be clear about what defines each step so you can measure each step.
  • Determine a reasonable timeframe for stage advancement: you’ll want to get the sales and marketing teams together to come up with a timeframe for each stage, who is responsible for managing each stage, and how long a good lead should take to move from one to the next stage.
  • Look for breakdowns: some stages may advance with great speed, while others may be stalled. This could be because some stages simply require more time, or it could be that there is a breakdown between the efforts of the teams involved. Look for patterns and quickly identify how to remove barriers.

SQL-to-Close Rate

Knowing the rate at which SQLs close is directly related to both sales effectiveness and lead targeting. Both help determine if sales is achieving its most important KPI: closing the qualified leads they are receiving. Another thing to keep an eye on within this area would be why highly qualified leads are lost – do they stop responding? Are you getting beat by competitors? Or, is there some other factor? Armed with the knowledge of SQL-to-Close rates, teams may come to identify, and ultimately fix, issues around things like:

  • Lack of definition for qualified lead: this often happens when marketing is finding the wrong types of leads, or sales reps accept leads based on criteria different from that which marketing is using.
  • Poorly defined handoff between marketing and sales: this might indicate that marketing and sales are not totally clear about where the handoff exists and the protocols for handling it.
  • Ineffective SLAs: either there are no SLAs for moving leads through the process, or one team or the other is not managing their agreed-upon timelines.  

Content KPIs

Aberdeen has said that 62% of companies prioritize lead generation as the primary objective of their content strategy. But if the content isn’t targeted, and if it’s not in the right channels, then it can’t be an effective tool for marketing OR sales. Companies need to use the analytics tools available to them (Google Analytics, Hubspot, Marketo, or others) to understand and develop KPIs around the following:

  • Themes and topics: use SEO, Google Analytics, or other tools to understand if your prospects even care about the content you’re producing. It may be great content, but it might not be targeted at the audience you want to reach. Get sales and marketing together to inform one another which topics prospects are most interested in.
  • Asset types: you may be working a target audience that loves to consume videos, yet you keep pushing infographics at them. Back out of the data to see differences and similarities among the different content assets you use in your outreach efforts.
4 Marketing to Sales Failures that are costing your team big money

4 Marketing to Sales Failures that are costing your team big money

There is a disconnect between marketing and sales teams in almost every company, and it is a killer for lead generation and qualification. The reality for most fast moving businesses is that marketing and sales teams operate with different goals and fail to identify how to best support one another. In fact, according to Forrester, only 8% of companies have strong alignment between their sales and marketing departments. Neglecting to align planning efforts and capitalize on opportunities leads to execution misfires and wasted effort. It also negatively impacts revenue.

Marketing is tasked with creative product and brand messages that are baked into the brains of prospects. Through content, email, digital channels, and other sources, marketing is trying to capture the attention of potential buyers and turn it into a hot lead. Yet, while marketing is doing this, they may not be taking into account the needs of sales.

 

1. Poor marketing and sales coordination creates bad leads

This is the essence of the disconnect; marketing needs to create messages and content that are consistent with the goods and services that sales is actually selling. Unless there is a disciplined effort to bridge marketing and sales, a company may be targeting the wrong people and wasting time trying to convert bad leads. Changing this dynamic can have a huge impact; research from Marketo indicates that aligning sales and marketing can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing efforts. Clearly, it’s worth the effort.

In the absence of effective lead qualification, go-to-market teams measure for quantity, not quality. But this just burdens sales development teams with more work, much of which may be wasted effort. So even if marketing creates more leads, if those leads are poor quality, the entire buyer journey is misaligned. The objective should be for a system where marketing creates effective content to engage the right audience, and for sales to increase velocity in closing those leads. Bridging that gap is the key to getting the most out of both marketing and sales efforts.

 

2. Improve sales and marketing communication

A great deal of the inefficiency between marketing and sales has to do with communication; mostly because there isn’t any. Poor communication creates two sales killers that can cripple a company’s lead conversion efforts; lack of sales and marketing communication costs companies almost $1 trillion every year, according to Salesforce. The rapid nature and the increasing sophistication of buyers means that companies have only a short time to attract those with short attention spans. To educate and transform leads further down the buyer lifecycle requires an effective strategy for communicating WHAT content needs to be created, WHERE it should be populated, and to WHOM it should be delivered. 

For starters, the sales and marketing teams can start to put their heads together around prospect objections. If there is a process for cataloging those objections, sales can provide that to marketing, along with context, and marketing can begin to develop a content strategy that addresses these objections. With that vantage point, they can build corresponding content assets, and should do so in a way that demonstrates the product and its value. Doing this will provide enough of an introduction to the product/solution, which will help sales; they won’t have to start at square one. The important thing here is to show, don’t tell; give the prospect a reason to want to know more. This can be most effectively done through highly visual ebooks, blogs, and infographics. Marketing should also create videos, podcasts, and other highly engaging formats for demonstrating products and how they work.

 

3. Outsource for lead conversion

With effective processes for collecting feedback and generating content, it’s surprising how many organizations still fall short in converting leads. This hand-off can become a black hole, but disciplined companies have figured out how to outsource. Consider it this way: marketing understands the prospect audience, can find them, and then engage them, and once this starts moving in a continuous motion, they will be in a better position to move these leads to sales. 

The middle stage of lead response includes smart and targeted follow up, nurturing, and conversion is time consuming and takes constant iteration and improvement to be effective. But by being focused, a solution like Agentology works leads into opportunities that can be delivered, with background and intelligence, to salespeople who are most effective when they are closing. 

The outsourcing stage of lead conversion is optimized through integration of backend CRM and marketing automation tools so the right customer data is being worked. The integration of these apps and data sources builds trends and other informative data points that help both marketing and sales refine their processes.

 

4. What sales and marketing alignment looks like

In an ideal world, sales and marketing teams sit together, communicate constantly, and use lessons from each other’s worlds to inform their efforts. The reality, however, is that speed is critical and we often act before we have all available (or necessary) information. Yet, efforts to improve the relationship between these two teams can have incredibly impactful benefits. Marketo says that sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals. So it’s clearly worth the time and effort to find a way to make this work.

You can do this by finding days to share data, campaign strategies, and messaging information. Try using informal lunch-and-learns, or regular stand-up meetings. Consider a “buddy system” that pairs marketing and sales people together in a tag-team effort at knowing and servicing prospects. Help these teams accentuate the positives, outsource time consuming tasks, and build your company into revenue-generating, customer-first, leading brand.