Create love between marketing and sales - and realise your full profit potential
Aligning Sales and Marketing
A guide to generating demand – and creating
love between marketing and sales.
Buyers don’t care how aligned
your sales and marketing departments
are so why should you?
Well, you care when a prospect doesn’t get followed up, or stops getting
communications from you despite meeting all your lead qualification criteria.
And you care when a loyal customer doesn’t realise you have a whole other
product offering so buys elsewhere. You care about potential business
slipping through the cracks between marketing and sales – so making sure
there isn’t room for leads to be lost should be high on your agenda.
We me... ...g
Companies with tightly-aligned sales and marketing
had 36% higher customer retention rates and
achieved 38% higher sales win rates – MarketingProfs
42% of sales reps feel they do
not have the right information
before making a sales call –
Lattice Engines/CSO Insights
In this industry we have been talking
about sales and marketing alignment
for a number of years and made
some good progress.
But progress has been too slow and buyers are way ahead of us.
Expectations are high in a world where buyers can get what
they want in an instant and are used to good customer service.
So if they’re looking for you, your marketing and sales teams
had better be ready!
It’s all about sharing
We know that marketing and sales are working towards
the same goal so why wouldn’t you try to better align their
methods for following up leads and converting them to customers?
The answer is usually because they view the prospect from
different angles. One is trying to generate demand and create
volume at the top of the funnel, the other is working 1-2-1 with
prospects and building individual business cases to convert them
into customers. But the reality is the more they share responsibility
for prospects throughout the buyer journey, the more they will
realise that their goal is always the same.
Longer buyer journeys in B2B are more prone to losing business if
leads aren’t recycled or the handshake between sales and
marketing doesn’t have any Service Level Agreement (SLA) to
ensure prospects don’t get missed. So in this guide we will be
talking you through some of the steps to take to get your sales and
marketing teams to think differently about leads at each stage of
the buyer journey, and understand how to make the most of every
lead that you have worked hard to generate.
steps to a long lasting
1 Lead sharing
The Marketing and Sales handshake
If marketing could take the lead through to sale then you
wouldn’t be reading this guide. If sales could generate
demand whilst focusing on closing individual deals they
wouldn’t need marketing. It’s the point that marketing
involve sales and the parameters around nurturing leads
that are still causing problems in most organisations.
So how can this be addressed?
Leads aren’t ‘handed over’
they are shared
Leads shouldn’t be handed over to sales; they should be shared
with sales when a prospect reaches a point in their buying
journey where they need 1-2-1 attention. Describing it as the lead
‘handover’ already gets you off to a bad start as it implies that the
job of marketing is done at this point, which is not the case.
Marketing should share a lead when they reach a pre-agreed
stage of engagement and qualification, consulting sales
on the readiness of the lead. Sales have a
responsibility to further qualify the lead and
feedback to marketing on quality and
readiness. It sounds simple and it is if there
is a strong working relationship and a trust
between the two teams.
accurate and everyone is fulfilling their duty to keep the
CRM clean and up-to-date. That’s why this should form part of
the SLA between marketing and sales and can even be a
contractual obligation or related to bonus payments.
50% of marketing leads
are qualified but not
yet ready to buy –
The best way to encourage trust is to provide
both teams with visibility of leads via your
CRM at every stage through closed loop reporting.
That way sales can see where the lead has come from and
marketing can see what is happening during the sales
qualification process. Of course this only works when data is
Deciding on sales
between MQLs and
You may have worked with each other for a number of years to
refine lead criteria for sales but if you are working from a yes/no
checklist then you still haven’t mastered it. Whether we like it or
not, lead criteria is ambiguous at best and personal to each
individual sales person at its worst. A short checklist at this
stage has the potential to stop attempts at sales and
marketing alignment in its tracks.
…is 1-2-1 qualification. There is no substitute for this and whether
you are dealing with large volumes of low value leads or low
volumes of large value leads – and regardless of average lead time
– you will need to find an efficient and effective way of qualifying
MQLs before sharing them with sales.
You need to define the parameters which sales are prepared to
work within for each point in your list and accept that they are not
likely to be yes/no answers. Some of these parameters can be
built into your CRM and Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)
as validation rules for new leads but some of them will need
qualification by your inside sales/telemarketing team before
they become a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL).
Your lead scoring model should score each lead on their digital
behaviour and their fit as a person you can do business with;
but this model can only do so much. 1-2-1 human qualification
is always required at some stage.
So if you are sharing MQLs with your sales team, you could
damage their view of leads generated by marketing and give them
the impression that marketing automation doesn’t work which
may lead to hot leads not getting the follow-up they deserve.
Only bring sales into the mix when a lead has been qualified by a
tele-qualification/business development team or similar. That way
sales know that the information and scoring gathered by marketing
has been verified and interest levels have been established in a
1-2-1 conversation. This process ensures that sales are dealing
with the best quality leads and any that are not yet ready
to be nurtured by sales can stay with marketing for
further nurture until they are ready.
Giving sales the right level
of information to give them
a head start
Sales don’t need reams of information on each lead, just the key
points that will guide their initial conversations and give them a
head start. So select only the highlights from your marketing
insight to feed through to your CRM on each lead and build a
profile that really means something to your sales team.
Each sales person monitors body language, behaviour, responses
to open-ended questions and responses to qualifying questions
such as the decision making power of the individual. If marketing
can monitor this behaviour digitally and deliver the highlights
when sharing the lead, sales have a head start and a real chance
of making that first conversation more like a second or third.
Beware of taking marketing insight too literally though, prospects
can be fickle and their priorities can change overnight so both
marketing and sales need to understand that there is always
room for a prospect to fall back a few steps in the buyer journey.
However, it is still a warm call, so the caller should be prepared –
to maximise the opportunity.
When this works well it is a great example of marketing
and sales working together to accelerate prospects through
the buyer journey.
The responsibility of sales
to follow up a lead
Sales or marketing holding on to a lead that isn’t going anywhere
is not helpful. If a lead has stalled in the journey then everyone
needs to work together to get it moving again even if that means
taking it a few steps back. To ensure that no lead suffers from
long periods of inactivity it is important to get rules of
engagement in place such as:
n ow many times should sales call
and over what length of time?
n f a meeting doesn’t happen what
is the next action?
n hose responsibility is it to follow
up a lead after a meeting?
n ow often should sales update the
CRM and record activity?
Defining the answers to these questions is the responsibility
of both sales and marketing, as both share responsibility of
the lead throughout the journey to greater or lesser degrees.
These rules of engagement are not there as sticks to beat
each other with but to ensure that each prospect gets the
attention they deserve and therefore becomes
a valuable customer more quickly.
Aligned organisations achieved an average of
32% annual revenue growth while less aligned
companies reported an average 7% decline in
revenue – Forrester Research
2 Lead recycling
When marketing should recycle
a lead and why
When leads are ‘handed over’ to sales and they subsequently stall, accusations can
start to fly about the original quality of the lead generated by marketing and likewise
the quality of the follow-up and nurture by sales.
To realise that the majority of stalled leads is due to changing circumstances that we
as a vendor can’t control, frees marketing and sales from a blame culture and pave the
way for a robust plan to recycle leads.
Sales must learn to re-engage marketing when, for example, a prospect has had budget
cuts and therefore won’t convert to sale until a much later date. Marketing must equally
have a tailored nurture programme in place for these leads so that when they are ready
to restart the project, you are the vendor they call first.
to recycle leads
Just as sales has a responsibility to follow-up every SQL that
marketing share with them, marketing has a responsibility to
effectively recycle leads that sales believe are not ready to
move towards a decision. Don’t think that the leads that sales
has turned down are at a dead end, they may just not be ready
yet. Some of these leads will re-engage again at a later date and
need an effective nurture programme to ensure that they get
the relevant additional information they need in the meantime.
Case studies, testimonials, tools that
support the business case and ROI
calculators will all help your prospect
to build the case internally and
restart the project.
A decision maker who has had their budget cut or been forced
to reallocate resource to another project is still a valid lead.
If they restart the project at a later date you want to safeguard
your position as vendor of choice.
Equally important is the opportunity to educate your prospect
about your other products/services. They will still have budget so
if they’re going to spend it on other services you offer make
sure they know about them while you still have them engaged.
When is a lead not a lead?
There comes a point in the lifetime of a
lead when it becomes clear that they
are not going to re-engage with you
anytime soon. Some prospects can
be classed as timewasters or lacking
decision making power and there comes
a point when you need to accept that they are
no longer worth creating content and communications for.
B2B organizations with tightly aligned
sales and marketing operations achieved
24% faster growth and 27% faster profit
growth over a three year period –
Moving disengaged leads back to the top of the funnel will clean
out your nurture data and give you a better picture of who you are
talking to at each stage of the buyer journey. You need this clarity
to plan effective messaging, content, communication and nurture
for each segment.
But don’t be too eager to write all disengaged leads off as a bad
job. It really does depend on your average lead times and typical
industry contract cycles.
3Sales enablement and support
We have already talked about the idea of marketing and sales
sharing a lead as opposed to handing it over, but what about the
final stages of the journey? Most marketing departments support
their sales teams by providing detailed product information, client
presentations templates for bids. Marketing has a bigger role to
play in guiding the content that is created and used at this stage of
the journey to ensure consistency and effectiveness.
Instant insight from
Every prospect has a
Sales know what they need to close the deal, it’s what they do
best and they have their own ideas. The sales document is often
their chance to be creative and get their key sales messages
across to the prospect. Marketing should regularly review and
audit sales documents as they are full of great content,
messaging and ideas. This is a great opportunity to see what
works well and resonates with prospects at the point of
purchase. There is instant insight to be gained from regularly
reviewing what sales are writing and creating.
Every good sales person will tell you that they approach each
proposal differently because every prospect has different
requirements and different purchase drivers. So trying to create
lots of templates for sales, so that they never have to create
any new content themselves, is virtually impossible.
Marketing have a duty to support sales in making sure their
content is consistent but easily tailored for each prospect.
If marketing try to control this process they will more than likely
fail and, in the process, reverse some of the good work that’s
been done to bring sales and marketing closer together.
Marketing’s role in
closing the deal
The real value add from marketing at the final stages of the
buyer journey is the ability to nurture the prospect when
they are not at the negotiating table. Understanding which
competitors the prospect is talking to, where they pick up
industry news, what forums or blogs they read and contribute
to, what events they regularly attend; this is the time for
marketing to gather all the insight gathered about the
prospect and put it to good use.
A joined up approach doesn’t stop once the deal has been closed.
Marketing and sales need to work out the approach for post-sale
engagement. How can you cross sell and upsell?
How do you truly unlock the potential of a new customer?
And beyond that, how do you create strong advocates for your
business, service or products.
Where there is a lock-down on communication with
decision makers during a bid, marketing can leverage
key influencers within a prospect organisation to
get positive references of their brand and services
into the building indirectly. A key account strategy
that targets key individuals indirectly can raise general
awareness in a prospect organisation at just the right time.
Sales and marketing alignment:
One step at a time
In this guide we have talked about many ways that sales
and marketing can redefine how they work together to increase
their overall conversion rates of leads to sales, but we know
as well as you do that these things take time to implement.
Cultural changes do not often happen swiftly.
80% of the average salesperson’s day is
spent on non-revenue generating activities,
including not knowing where to find good
prospects or recognizing them once they
find them – TeleSmart.com
n ake it one step at a time and
decide what the quick wins will
be in your business
n reate a road map that gives sensible timescales to changes
n et buy-in from the principle stakeholders in marketing and
sales and show them the benefit of working in this way
n nsure everyone in marketing and sales has some
responsibility for implementing at least one of
these new processes
n he Sales and Marketing SLA will be pivotal in creating
trust and agreeing the rules of engagement at every
step of the journey. If it seems like a big job in your
organisation then speak to peers that have implemented
similar agreements to get some tips
There is no doubt that the way buyers research and buy from us
has changed dramatically, so marketing and sales need to accept
that they can work together to nurture leads. Improved visibility
ensures there is no duplication of effort. Two, quite different
methods of nurture complement each other to ultimately
achieve the same goal - accelerate your prospects through
the buyer journey to sale.
Your Wish List
About Ledger Bennett DGA
Telephone: +44 (0)8458 383883
Ledger Bennett DGA
Tungsten House, Warren Road
Little Horwood, Milton Keynes
Ledger Bennett DGA
1st Floor Centric House
390-391 Strand, London
We are a B2B Demand Generation agency that uses
sales and marketing know-how to help customers
increase revenue by deploying Inbound Marketing,
Content Marketing and Marketing Automation
strategies. Our highly focused Demand Generation
programmes drive our customers’ business
performance, helping them to:
n Generate more opportunity
n Convert that opportunity into sales
n Retain customers and grow their value
Using more measurable and cost effective
techniques than traditional full service marketing
agencies we are able to maximise business revenue
in the modern world where the internet has
fundamentally changed the behaviour of the buyer.