Even the best companies can struggle with getting separate departments in their organizations to work together to accomplish the same objective. This is especially true with marketing and sales—entities who have historically operated in their own separate silos.
The breakdown tends to occur as each department works independently toward their own goals. But in the end, of course, they’re ultimately working together to achieve the same thing—more sales orders. Even prospective and current customers expect cohesiveness. In fact, according to a recent Salesforce report, “Most business buyers say that sales teams’ awareness of marketing initiatives is a factor in winning their business.”1
So, when it comes to the marketing department generating qualified leads for the sales team, it’s worth finding a way to bridge the divide.
Even though there is acknowledgement among both buyers and sellers that the old ways of selling (cold calls and cold outreach) are not as successful as they once were, this continues to be a struggle. Often sales people own and manage their prospect/customer lists on their company’s CRM platform and they have a particular process for following up or nurturing leads.
Marketing, on the other hand is charged with creating visibility on a broader scale. They focus on getting in front of the right audiences with the right content and messaging, driving traffic, and encouraging people to raise their hands when they are ready to learn more or buy.
These two worlds work best together when marketing generates and nurtures leads into sales-qualified leads and lets sales take it from there. Sounds simple, but it takes collaboration to accomplish.
In our experience working with B2B clients in fortune 100 and 500 corporations, we have learned a few things about this breakdown between departments. Here are some issues we’ve seen, along with insights, and ideas for addressing them to keep in mind as you embark on your next marketing campaign.
Neglecting Internal Communications
The moment a new marketing initiative is approved, your internal communications should begin. This shows everyone that you’re considering the effect of your actions on their lives and gives them a heads up to prepare (and even make suggestions for segmenting and messaging, if appropriate).
Involve your sales department (inside and outside sales), customer service, and other customer facing departments. Heavily communicate the program, its opportunities, and ideal program outcomes to executives, employees, and vendors if they are involved.
As plans progress, keep sales updated along the way—what you’re doing, when you’re launching, when to expect leads, and how many leads to expect. And, while this may seem obvious, it’s critical to identify who is responsible for following up on the leads once they come in. An automated response generated from your landing page or marketing automation tool is a good start, but when you’re selling large-ticket items in a B2B environment, a person-to-person response to anyone showing interest in buying is the best way to nurture a hot lead.
Additionally, as you’re creating content, talk to your sales team about questions that come up during the sales process. With their input, you have the opportunity to create topics for white papers, blogs, sales guides, and FAQs that ensure you’re hitting on relevant topics that anticipate the needs of your customers. This type of content not only engages and attracts the right prospects, but it can also be repurposed across channels and used in follow-up situations via sales reps and through marketing automation. This is a win-win for both departments.
Incompatible platforms and/or lack of the right technology for your situation are big barriers to sales and marketing working well together. Often the sales process is set up on a platform that is cumbersome and not conducive to the fluid introduction of new data, such as leads and lead nurture.
What’s more, many companies are not fully using the functionality of their platforms because they don’t fully understand its complexities and user interface. In addition, the marketing systems, while more intuitive and designed to automate lead nurture, may not integrate well with the CRM. This leaves both departments in a position of patching things together manually at the last minute.
Again, starting early is the key. Involve IT, systems, or other tech departments early in the discussions and ask them to help problem-solve some of the potential issues. Prior to setting up the program, think about the customer journey from the first marketing communication through to the final sale and work out as many bugs upfront as possible.
Lack of Respect or Competition Between Departments
We’ve heard it before: The sales team questions the quality of the leads, and the marketing team can’t get salespeople to follow up on them. This age-old battle can be solved with time and effort. As mentioned previously, upfront communication is the first step toward creating buy-in.
When deciding how the lead handoff process will look, marketing may want to manage the lead a bit longer in the case of an over-worked or under-tooled CRM platform. This could include automated emails to leads informing them that someone will be in touch in soon, and possibly a link to some additional content. In other words, marketing can do some upfront nurturing before sales takes over, if that’s appropriate for the situation. Either way, there should always be a way for the prospect to immediately contact someone if they so desire.
As leads begin to accumulate and get distributed to the sales team, ask them for feedback on the quality of the lead, and adjust your campaign as necessary. This will not only improve lead quality, but will also show your sales team that you’re genuinely interested in their feedback and respectful of their position as the closer.
As an agency with an outside perspective, we know we’re just scraping the surface of the work that needs to be done to ensure the success of cross-departmental programs. But we also know that setting the groundwork through communications, collaboration, and anticipation of technology needs can help smooth out the marketing to sales process to help both departments be more productive, leading to increased sales.
1 B2B Marketing Trends; Insights from the Frontlines of B2B Marketing; Salesforce Pardot; 2019