Aligning Sales and Marketing

Building a Single Revenue-Generating Engine

Or how to stop the sales and marketing tug of war.

Nobody enjoys teams pulling in different directions. Typically, people are working hard, but because of the misalignment, the hard work doesn’t impact the bottom line.

Animation showing a boat tug of war.

Ever seen this scenario? Marketing doubles down to generate lots of leads, but the sales team ignores them. It’s just a matter of time until things erupt: ‘I need people I can follow up locally. But these are all from an internet cafe in Bangalore!’ 

But you never said that when you briefed us! You just bellowed that we’d better get you 150 leads by Friday. And we did!’ 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What is needed is a paradigm shift. The great news is that shift is already taking the place. The question is, will your company be part of it?

Changing times

In the old paradigm sales teams would contact people coldly. Marketing lists consisted of people who had no affinity to the product or service. The hope was that by sheer volume of numbers they’d make some sales. But this method is dying.

In a digital age, communication is overwhelming people. They barely keep up with emails and calls from people they know. So calls from strangers get short shift.

So what does the new paradigm look like? Put simply, sales teams only follow up warm leads. I.e. people who already have affinity to your brand and the product or service you sell. Cold contacting disappears. And sales personnel are happier.

So, how does this happen?

Closing the Marketing-Sales Loop 

Most sales teams have a systematic approach to the opportunities that come their way. It’s called the sales pipeline. And with the revolution in marketing automation, many marketing teams have something similar.

With this in place, it’s only a small step to combine the whole process across the two teams. In doing this, you’ll be able to track people at every stage. You’ll see when they first peaked interest right through to making a purchase. Here’s what it looks like:

Diagram: the marketing - sales funnel

There are four stages to this: attract, nurture, sell, and win.

Marketing’s job is to attract visitors and nurture leads. Sales’ job is sell to opportunities and win customers.

With a complete system like this, you are able to see the numbers of people at each stage of the process. Some companies even create a service level agreement between marketing and sales teams. This way, expectations and goals are recorded. Genuine ownership and accountability can happen at each stage of the process.

This is really helpful, but to do it right each stage of the process has to be defined clearly:

Stage 1: Attract Visitors

Diagram: the marketing/sales funnel - Attract Visitors section highlighted.

At some point people make contact with your business/brand. They may see a billboard, browse your website, or connect with your social media. The goal is to get them to engage more. If they like what they experience, they may go on to read content on your blog. Or they may start following you on social media, or visit your premises.

Once a visitor is engaging at this level, the next step is to find a way to identify them. For example, they may chose to download your white paper, and so they fill in their name and email to do so. Or they may come to a business breakfast and they need to give you their details to register.

Once they have been identified they move from being an anonymous visitor to a named lead. A great CRM system will be able to connect all their previous anonymous engagement (e.g. website browsing) and connect it to the named record.

Now that they have been identified you are able to begin nurturing them.

Stage 2: Nurture Leads

The aim of this process is to hand over only warm, useful leads to sales. The process of creating a warm lead is called nurturing.

Nurturing occurs by giving the lead more information about your business and product. This needs to be done at a pace they are comfortable with. The aim is get them to a place where they are considering buying from you.

This happens through giving information. Information via articles, blogs, newsletters, surveys, special reports, events etc. You can use many channels to do this: SMS/email/calling/social media etc.

This process is all tracked in a CRM system. Each type of engagement has a score. The more meaningful the engagement (e.g. requesting a demo or sales call), the higher the score. The more a lead engages the higher their score becomes. Once a lead reaches a certain score, a marketing team member investigates to see if this is a good fit for sales. This is called qualifying the lead.

If marketing has qualified the lead, sales will also do their own qualification. If sales agrees with marketing then the lead will be converted into a sales opportunity. If they disagree, the lead will be returned to continue nurturing, or be disqualified.

Stage 3: Sell to Opportunities

Because a member of the sales teams vets each lead before acceptance, sales only has warm leads to follow up on. Now called an opportunity, the record enters the sales pipeline. With an over-arching CRM system, the sales pipeline can be tracked alongside the rest of the process. The pipeline is visualised and accurate forecasting happens in real time.

Stage 4: Win Customers

On passing through the sales pipeline, the opportunity either becomes a deal, or is lost. The process doesn’t stop here, though. The the aim is to get lifetime value from a customer. Retained customers can be sold to again and again. It’s much easier to sell to somebody who already has affinity to your brand than somebody who doesn’t. Some retained customers will even market your product to their friends on your behalf.

It’s here that a CRM system comes into its own. By holding all the customer information in one place, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities abound. Wherever a customer makes contact with your business, your staff will see full purchase history. Your CRM system will prompt your staff with suggested purchases. The suggested purchases are made by analysing buying history, or customers similar to them.

As your system matures, the information you collect becomes more useful. Your targeting improves and so do your processes. You learn more about your customers, enabling you to better predict behaviour, increasing automation.

Your single revenue-generating engine pumps out more deals, and your bottom line increases.

It’s a win for everyone.