In my first “real” job, my boss (head of sales and marketing) once said, “If you go on a sales call and they buy something, it’s sales. If they don’t, it’s marketing.” I’ve spent much of the balance of my career trying to counter that perception.
Once upon a time, sales and marketing were more discrete disciplines. Now, with marketing automation, demand generation, lead nurturing, and other strategies, the line is blurring. Marketing is now taking on the role that used to be handled by inside sales teams. We’re bringing leads to sales that are further along in the decision-making cycle, generally more qualified, and we can offer more knowledge when sales engages. In fact, we’ve represented this in the model shown below:
As you can see, in the New World Order, marketing engages prospects more fully early on, and then becomes less involved as the sales team ramps up.
Now you’re thinking, “That’s great; so what?”. A valid question indeed. Here are six actions we recommend:
- If you haven’t been a salesperson, talk to some. Living with a number, and having your professional existence hinge on that number changes your perspective. If you haven’t seen the parody “A Few Good Expenses”, I highly recommend it. Cultivate relationships with the top performers in your sales organization. You’ll quickly learn the objections they face, the sales cycle they work in, and more about the subtle nuances that can make or break a deal. I can guarantee that you will learn valuable information for use in your marketing programs.
- A marketing-savvy sales force is your best ally. Many sales people I’ve encountered don’t fully grasp what we in marketing do, and how we do it. Make time to educate the sales force on your upcoming campaigns and the strategies that are driving it. Show them how your strategies tie to their objectives. If you have branding campaigns, give them the long-term vision so they understand that while this won’t give them leads tomorrow, it will make their next 3-5 years much more lucrative.
- Understand how the sales cycle differs from the marketing cycle. The sales cycle is a common topic. We all spend a lot of time talking about it. But, if you think about it from a sales perspective it starts when that prospect first enters into a sales dialogue. In reality, we should have started a marketing dialogue with them through branding and demand generation efforts months, or even years earlier. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend a marketing cycle that is 2-3x whatever you consider your sales cycle.
- Have a good filter. A lot of mediocre sales people become vocal when they’re not hitting their numbers. “The lead quality is poor.” Or, “I need a brochure.” Perhaps, “Google leads are lousy.”. While the top performers are investing that time into exceeding their sales goals. Also, remember that due to its more immediate nature and shorter cycle, sales is inherently more in the moment. Often, a salesperson’s biggest problem is the one they faced today. You don’t have to react to EVERY bit of feedback you receive.
- Align your planning. Marketing exists to fuel the selling process. Period. But that doesn’t mean you’re a slave to sales. It means working together. Finding out what sales objectives are, and finding ways to align marketing objectives. But don’t give up complete control and become sales’ lackey. This can quickly lead to a 3,245 fragmented campaigns. And, no marketing organization has the resources to support this effectively. Remember – you’re the Air Force, softening up the beachhead for the invading ground infantry.
- Don’t forget enablement. This seems SO simple, but it’s astounding how often it’s overlooked. When you’re planning a marketing campaign, be sure to review it with sales. Generating qualified leads when the sales force is unprepared to deal with them is wasted effort. Several years ago, we built a comprehensive integrated campaign for an industrial processing equipment manufacturer targeting a specific vertical market. Advertising. Direct mail. E-mail. Trade shows. AdWords. A dedicated web landing page. Then we launched it. And, the call center started getting inquiries. Unfortunately, no one on the marketing team had presented the campaign to sales, so they were totally caught unaware. Fortunately, within six months, the company had seen significant growth in this vertical, so there was clear evidence of marketing effectiveness.
All too often, sales and marketing are enemies. Fighting for scarce resources and management attention. The reality is that if we can work as a team, while respecting the inherent differences in our roles, success will almost inevitably follow.