Aligning your sales and marketing efforts is vital in today’s ever increasingly competitive world of the ‘empowered’ buyer.

There has been much written about using your marketing efforts to generate sales leads, but this is only part of the issue and could lead to trouble down the road if you don’t address the whole sales and marketing strategy for your business. The following five steps plan will help marketers to successfully align their efforts with sales team:

Step 1: Communicate with your Sales Team
Sales need to understand your marketing plans and forecasts so that everyone is clear on the type of marketing activities you will be conducting and the target audiences you are going to pursue.

There needs to be a common understanding and buy in of the volume of activity and Sales need to know how they can participate and even initiate marketing activities to drive business and opportunities at outlet or branch level.

Without an understanding of your marketing goals and plans, sales will be unable to put together any meaningful territory plans. We all know that marketing doesn’t initiate all sales opportunities. Without the forecast, target and strategic plan, Sales will not know how much is expected from their own direct and partner efforts.

Step 2: Make ‘Sales’ Part of ‘Marketing’
The roles of marketing and sales are blurring as marketing communicates deep into the prospect pipeline and sales should be returning prospects back to marketing for further nurturing campaigns.

If sales and marketing collide and fall over each other, it could be a disaster.  On the other hand it can be a powerful combination if your sales team is empowered to work within the bounds of the marketing plans.

This starts with collaborative planning by involving sales personnel in your go-to-market campaign development process. Then, you need to define the guidelines for sales initiating marketing communications and provide a means for sales to return a prospect to marketing for further nurturing.

You should give Sales control over the message given to prospects in the sales pipeline and your existing customers by allowing them to select their preferences from a pre-agreed selection of marketing messages.

Step 3: Show Them What You Are Doing
We have already covered the importance of providing visibility to plans and forecasts. You now need to provide visibility to a dynamic calendar of activities in marketing. As we all know, marketing’s calendar is constantly changing…new things get added, things get dropped and things move.

Your sales team needs to be able to to access the calendar easily so they know what is happening for example when email campaigns are being done, when events are scheduled and when road shows or experiential marketing is taking place.

In addition, you should add your sales team to the mailing list for your campaigns. This can produce two benefits;

First, they can provide feedback on the campaign delivery and content and secondly receiving the campaign will serve as an alert that it is going out to their prospects and customers. They are a key conduit for successful marketing events and they can provide important follow up to campaigns sent to prospects in the pipeline or existing customers.

Step 4: Give them Leads
We said at the beginning that generating leads was only part of the process, but it is definitely important and required. You should define what attributes you wish to track on a lead. BANT (Budget, Activity, Need and Time-line) are tried and trusted factors to begin with. You will also likely want contact attributes such as title, monthly revenue or industry.

Finally, don’t miss the critical behaviour category. You should score and factor in what business they do with you e.g. as web traffic, online and live event attendance, retail shop, downloads of marketing materials, or viewing videos. Their behaviour not only indicates interest, it indicates where they are in the buying cycle (awareness, education, evaluation, purchase for example.)

Once you agree on attributes, you need to define the lead quality i.e. when is the lead ‘warm’ enough to hand over to Sales. Must all attributes to be given to sales or are some of them irrelevant to the sales team. This will vary by the product(s) / service(s) you are selling, the staffing of marketing versus sales, whether you have telemarketing or not, and the culture of the company.

These discussions should help you produce  a ‘lead score plan’ that allocates different points to the attributes and behaviours of your prospects. Lead scoring can be structured simply with one set of rules that are applied to all prospects – or your business may require a  more complex lead scoring rule set for different types of prospects based on product line interest, geography or even their stage in the buying cycle. Regardless on the complexity of the score plan, you should spend time in this definition and then allow for updates and changes as you learn how your plan works and your capacity changes.

We suggest that you do not just stop at setting up your lead scoring structure and hand-off.

Once you have this in place, you need a regular communication vehicle to keep your sales team informed as prospects continue to interact with you in later stages of the buying cycle. Provide alerts when an individual or company is having further interaction with you.

Communicate details of online and offline activity to your sales team directly in their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool so they have it in the context of where they go to manage contacts, accounts and opportunities. Keep them informed of any new event that could be the trigger to driving the deal to a close.

Use the intelligence you gain about your prospects, their “digital profile” if you like, to tailor your outbound messaging for newsletters or announcements. Today’s segmentation tools can use these attributes to segment your lists and also use this same information to dynamically build your emails, landing pages and micro-sites so they provide relevant information to your prospects and customers. This will significantly improve response / conversion rates and drive engagement that will lead to faster movement through the pipeline.

Step 5: Debrief
Communicate results of all your marketing plane so that there is a common understanding of how well something worked versus a ‘micro view’ from each individual sales rep. Sales will be looking for instant gratification so will only focus on the immediate opportunities that spring from a campaign or event. They also lose sight of the volume of activity that is happening to nurture leads to the right point in the cycle.

Get agreement on the metrics sales wants to see and then make sure you add in metrics that are important to your team as well so they see the whole picture. Use the connection between your integrated marketing solution and your sales automation tools to provide visibility into the lead flow from marketing through the sales pipeline.

Show them how your leads are moving through the pipeline at each stage and include cost per lead so you can work as a team to improve your pipeline and drive more value.

As a team, you want to drive toward improving your lead efficiency at each stage so you can lower your overall cost per lead.

Open communication to the leads at each stage can identify friction in the system and highlight opportunities for new or different messaging and tools. Good reporting and easy access to these reports will go a long way to keeping sales and marketing on the same page.

A true understanding of the successes also builds their confidence in the marketing team for future effort.

If you need help with your online strategic planning wsiims can help.

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