It's important to appreciate that the way in which prospects engage with your business has changed. Outbound marketing methods which worked for businesses, marketers and salespeople decades ago are quickly losing their effectiveness.
Prospects, marketers and salespeople have a different relationship now. Today’s prospect has more information at their disposal than ever due to the Internet, and they will look to educate themselves on the products and services your business provides before even considering engaging with a salesperson at all!
As a result, the purchase process in B2B is significantly longer. Prospects will spend their time investigating your business and what it offers - so you need to make sure that you're providing engaging, insightful and educational content to your visitors.
In order to attract and engage with the modern prospect, marketing and sales must work together. A disconnected approach to marketing and selling will decrease your ability to generate and nurture leads. Selling is no longer just down to the salesperson but down to the whole business - and in this process, sales and marketing alignment is crucial.
Communication continues to be a problem for marketing and sales
One of the biggest problems when it comes to sales and marketing alignment is with the transitional phase between marketing and selling. It’s no secret that there is often tension between the marketing and sales teams at some B2B organisations. Marketing teams think that salespeople are lazy and don't value their precious leads, whilst salespeople think that marketing teams spend all day tweeting!
This tension leads to a lack of communication - making it harder to generate and nurture leads, as well as close customers. If there’s a lack of communication at any level of the process, you could potentially lose a sale. Misalignment in your lead management and engagement efforts with prospects just leads to wasted time.
But how do you achieve inbound sales and marketing alignment? How do you get it right?
1. Realise and educate your team on the fact that not all leads are created equal - and some require more time than others
Not all leads are created equal and some prospects will be further through the purchase decision process than others. As a result, you need to define your criteria to create a journey for all your prospects, regardless of where they are in the buyer's journey.
Think about your lead qualification process. What's it like? Is everyone aware of each lifecycle stage and how it's defined? What's a Lead, a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), an Opportunity and a Customer?
If not, make sure you clearly document your lead management process so everyone is aware of their responsibilities at each stage. Clear processes will help to smooth out sales and marketing alignment.
For example, think of your lead nurturing process like growing a plant. A plant requires nutritious soil, water, sunlight, vitamins - these ingredients are essentially your marketing tools: social media, blog posts, whitepapers, offers, eBooks, events, to name a few. If you fail to nurture your leads, they will simply leave you for your competitor(s) who also have a solution to their problem.
Therefore, In this process, it’s vital that both marketing and sales agree on the lead stages so that the handoff process can be as seamless as possible.
2. Be transparent and educate each other
Stop looking at marketing and sales as individual entities. They are not. If you want to achieve alignment between sales and marketing, you need to appreciate the fact that they are the same side of a single coin - and must work together to drive performance.
If marketing can’t provide qualified leads or details on the leads they acquire, then sales can’t follow up with those leads and discuss their problems or concerns. In today’s marketing world, this level of detail is imperative and conducive to ensuring real engagement with potential prospects.
Modern marketing automation platforms, such as HubSpot, collect an array of information which you can use to inform your marketing and sales activity, allowing you to personalise your engagement with potential prospects. Ultimately, these platforms make it easier for you to market and sell!
Sales can educate marketing as well. Sales, as a department comprised of generally experienced salespeople, can identify which prospects are more qualified and “sales ready” based on where they are in the buyer’s journey and how they have behaved thus far. Furthermore, if you are stuck for content ideas, simply ask your salespeople about all the questions they get asked by prospects - that itself is a list of blogs posts you should create!
3. Meet regularly
Another good method to ensure transparency is to have regular meetings, assess the quality of the leads you’ve obtained, and inform each other of what changes and trends have occurred recently. Ideally, you’ll want to do this weekly, as the more information you have from both sides of the process, the easier the transitioning and handovers will be.
By meeting regulary, you can troubleshoot any issues - whether there's an issue with leads being passed from marketing to sales to early, or whether sales teams are being asked frequent questions that could be answered in marketing collateral.
Remember – you’re all on the same team. Ensure you share your resources, meet regularly and discuss plans together and you will be well on your way to achieving sales and marketing alignment!
Are you struggling to achieve sales and marketing alignment? Or looking to improve your internal processes that ensure both teams are on the same page? We run lead management workshops which could be perfect for you.