Marketing and sales have been at odds since the beginning of time, or so it seems. One of the critical touch points has always been lead generation, with marketing working really hard to supply what they think are hot leads and getting fed up when sales doesn’t convert them. Sales people, on the other hand, often don’t like the leads forwarded from marketers, because frequently they aren’t yet ready to buy. Here are some ways to get the two departments onto the same page.
Making the Connection
Results speak for themselves, so the best way to get your sales and marketing departments to see eye to eye is to produce the goods. To do this, you need to make the connection between inbound marketing and viable sales leads. Once your sales team begins getting in business and reaching their targets with the leads generated through the website, they’ll be more inclined to spend the time it takes to convert them.
A great way to get the two departments to work together is to set up a service level agreement between them. This outlines what each group can expect from the other and eliminates any confusion about where the various responsibilities lie. As part of such an agreement, marketing could commit to:
- Generating a certain number of leads per time period
- Qualifying the leads and their position in the buying cycle, based on stats available
- Nurturing leads that aren’t yet ready to buy until such time as they are ready for sales to make contact
Sales department should agree with the marketing department to make a certain number of attempts to connect with each lead before abandoning it, and to provide feedback to marketing that helps improve the inbound marketing process.
Building Your Community
When sales people have an established community to sell to, they’ll be happy. The thing is, sales is operating in the here and now, while marketing has to keep an eye on the future. Inbound marketing gurus HubSpot recommend focusing your attention (and budget) on putting in place systems to generate more traffic and leads in the long term, rather than immediate sales. Growing your reach this way will help you to attract visitors and build your community of followers with a view to converting them later.
Creating a Lead Stream
Once your current pool of leads is exhausted, sales dry up. If you don’t have a stream of leads flowing into the pool, sales department is going to be unhappy—again! It’s marketing’s responsibility not just to keep the pool filled but to ensure that miles upriver, there’s a wellspring to keep feeding it.
In inbound marketing terms, this means developing plenty of informational content that creates interest in the brand, makes prospects more receptive to approaches from your sales staff and ready to discuss their needs. You can’t do this just by publishing optimized calls to action offering free consultations, because these methods have fairly low conversion rates.
What you need to do is find a way to identify the leads that are the best possible fit with your product or service, and pass these on to your sales team.
Delivering on the Promise
A service level agreement between sales and marketing can only work if both groups operate on the same principles. Market research is critical to ensure that they are aiming at an agreed group, and the creation of detailed customer personas can reduce misunderstandings about who to target.
The key to getting this right is for both teams to work together to define the characteristics of the ideal customer. Ask sales for input on what constitutes their ideal lead, and compare or combine this with the customer personas developed by the business. This could be based on demographic information, external factors or the prospective customer’s needs and wants.
Keeping it Going
The real challenge in making sales and marketing work together is to keep the relationship going. To do that, your service level agreement requires constant work in the form of communication, updating the research from both departments, and tweaking and adjusting as needed to keep it relevant.
Markets are constantly changing, and you need to stay abreast of those changes by whatever means you can or your sales will suffer. Task sales with providing regular reports and feedback on the efficacy of the leads provided, and task marketing with keeping up to date on the changes to inbound marketing principles that could affect the way you do business.
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