The B2B Buyer’s Journey: Then & Now – Pt. 3
Sales and Marketing are One Team
In Part 1 of our B2B Buyer’s Journey blog, we covered the traditional, and outdated, journey that looks like Awareness->Consideration->Decision. We proposed that today’s informed buyers don’t always go through the sales funnel in order.
In Part 2 we presented a new B2B Buyer’s Journey with stages fitting of a buyer who has done online research and will respond to engagement and education in a journey that resembles Discover, Explore, Buy, Ask, Use and Engage.
In this blog we ask, how should sales and marketing teams respond to the new, fluid, B2B Buyer’s Journey? The answer is to join forces.
Why Bring Them Together?
Sure, it’s great when team members work together, but why should they? Marketing and sales teams frequently act as independent silos (see our blog on this), with the marketing team working to produce leads for sales and ending the relationship there, and sales standing by waiting for qualified leads without giving marketing any guidance or feedback.
Combining these two groups might seem pointless. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Today’s sales teams need content and tools to guide their conversations with prospects. This material turns sales reps into subject matter experts and gives them an edge over the inaccurate and outdated information that turns up in a prospect’s independent search results. As such, the reliance on marketing has never been greater.
For the marketing team, their efforts culminate in conversions. But in the world of intangibles and professional services, that conversion is hard to measure.
A lead may fall into the funnel and land in the lap of a salesperson who is neither prepared nor informed enough to manage the inquiries of the prospect. All of the best marketing campaigns are meaningless if the person guiding the sales process can’t close the deal.
Additionally, if marketing isn’t getting real feedback from the sales team, their perspectives on the market will be skewed. Buyer personas, customer pain points, trends in the market; all of this rich information comes directly from the sales team in the trenches.
Without a cohesive team, the cycle of sales and marketing is busted. It will be evident in the company’s performance and, more importantly, in sagging customer loyalty.
“There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.” July-August 2006 Harvard Business Review
How to Combine Sales and Marketing?
For marketing and sales to align, both parties have to agree on goals.
This seems fairly obvious. Beyond just focusing on revenue, marketing targets and sales quotas must meld together. The new joint team should ask themselves these questions (in order) to gain a greater collaborative vision:
- What is our company’s revenue goal?
- What is our average deal size? Aka, how much are we currently earning per customer?
- How many customers must we reach in order to achieve our revenue goals? Divide revenue goal by average deal size.
- How many of our leads convert to customers?
- How many leads do we need to reach revenue goals?
Ideal Leads, Defined by Both Teams
The sales and marketing team must also work together to define an ideal lead. The sales team’s experience will be the most valuable resource in defining the ideal lead, because they typically have the highest level of interaction with prospects. They engage leads directly and thus understand the buyer’s pain-points, concerns, and questions.
Marketing’s role in defining the ideal lead can be as a data resource. Using information collected during the sales cycle, marketing can identify certain traits in leads that have historically led to conversion. For example, marketing’s data insight might reveal that a high percentage of conversions start from a prospect seeing a Facebook ad targeted at women, aged 30-40, living in Florida and married with children. Sharing this type of lead information can help the sales team decide which days/times would be best to send an email and what kind of content they need to convert the lead.
With both teams focused on shared goals, the next step is to analyze and score the leads. Evaluating a lead based on fit and interest can help determine their stage in the buying journey. If the lead needs an offering (fit), but isn’t interested, marketing can ramp up nurturing efforts. If the lead both needs (fit) and wants (interest) the offering, sales can quickly deliver a conversion. Each step in the buyer’s journey can trigger specific actions by sales and marketing that continue to bring the buyer closer to the final conversion.
The communication within the joint team can produce better coordination and a far more sophisticated understanding about the ideal lead. Ultimately, ideal leads, or at least better-qualified leads, will reduce the amount of time the sales team spends courting prospects who aren’t ready to buy or have no interest whatsoever.
“B2B sales and marketing teams need to prepare their reps to have high-value conversations with prospects. This includes tailoring collateral and content to meet the needs of new buyers, so that sales reps are providing answers to the questions buyers are asking at each stage of the buying cycle. ”
– Kurt Andersen (@SAVO_Group)
What To Do To Unify
Hopefully by now you’re a believer, and you’re ready to break down the silos of sales and marketing. Embrace the “we are one,” mentality. However, before you send a company-wide email announcing the new “Salarketing Team,” consider some facts.
A survey by Demand Gen found that the three biggest obstacles to sales and marketing alignment were: Communication (49%), broken and/or flawed processes (42%) and working towards different metrics (40%).
Here are some tips for improving communication and operations:
- Embrace Closed Loop Reporting
Marketing shares data/info (such as lead background information) with sales, and sales reports back on the effectiveness of marketing content. “Closing the loop,” means that sales shares with marketing which leads converted, thus helping marketing determine their best (or possibly worst) lead sources. Sales managers must develop accountability processes that keep their sales team engaged in the process.
- Develop a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement
Sales and Marketing can create a document that defines what each team will do to help each other. Much like the service level agreement you sign with your clients, the Sales and Marketing SLA is a series of activities and obligations the new joint team carries out in order to respond quickly to daily sales and marketing actions.
- Establish a Communication Space
Move the sales and marketing teams next to each other in the office. Make it easy for them to bounce ideas off each other and quickly share info. In general, the cultures of sales and marketing are not that dissimilar. Both are known for free-spirited demeanors and “work hard, play hard” attitudes.
To better facilitate insight, launch an online dashboard or other tracking system that provides data on leads, results of marketing campaign, sales analytics, etc…anything to keep the communication transparent and flowing.
- Share Success
When sales teams hit their goals, they usually enjoy rewards and accolades. Does marketing? In the new joint team, victory should be celebrated both individually (because salespeople love their trophies!) and together as a team who fought the war together. Marketing may not be as individually competitive as salespeople, but they still experience the “high” of crushing company goals.
In summary, combining your sales and marketing teams won’t be an effortless challenge, but you’ll reap the rewards through better lead engagement and, in turn, higher revenue. In B2B Buyer’s Journey: Part 4, we’ll bust the “One And Done” attitude and study the value of nurturing an ongoing buyer-seller relationship. The Art Of Service is in the long-lasting relationship, not quick and dirty transactions.