Guest post by Payman Taei.
To be successful in any business, it’s vital that your sales and marketing teams work together effectively. While that probably sounds obvious, like professional figure skating, it’s much harder than it looks.
Far too often, organizations create structures that keep information trapped in functional silos. This prevents data (and the insights contained within that data) from freely flowing across your enterprise—meaning that the people who actually need access to that information to do their jobs simply don’t have it.
Your marketing ideas, for example, should always be informed by what is going on in sales, and vice versa. Together, your marketing and sales teams possess the knowledge to paint a complete picture of who you’re targeting and how to best get the right message in front of the right person at the right time.
Separately, they each have only half of the larger story—which creates problems. Internally, this can lead to dissention and finger-pointing. Externally, it can lead to the wrong messages, or even contradictory information, being sent to prospective customers.
Fortunately, there are practical, short-term steps you can take to move closer to smarketing, the fusion of your sales and marketing functions. If your organization is ready to start closing that sales and marketing gap and bring these two functional groups together as a cohesive whole, here are four helpful strategies.
Invest in the Right Sales and Marketing Technology
The most effective way to bridge the marketing and sales gap is to make sure both teams have access to the right communication tools.
The right marketing technology and sales tools act as a central repository for all information pertaining to your individual customers, as well as to your target sales prospects. Anyone inside your company in a customer-facing role should have the ability to both access and add to this information.
Every interaction with a customer or prospect—regardless of how small it may seem at the time—can shed valuable light on what a person likes, dislikes, and how they preferred to be interacted with.
Generally speaking, every prospect’s journey will be impacted by your marketing collateral early in their decision process. How people respond to and interact with this collateral can tell you a great deal about who they are. At a bare minimum, it can help qualify leads in a way that benefits your sales team.
That way, when the prospect moves further along down the sales funnel and as they make their way from one team to the other, your sales professionals will have a steadier stream of “warm” or “qualified” leads to work with.
At the top of the funnel, prospects are most likely to find your content through discovery: search, social media, online advertising, or influencer marketing. Once they have taken some sort of conversion action, your marketing automation kicks in. If they become an active opportunity, sales takes over the communication. But high-quality, relevant content is vital at every stage.
Develop Effective Processes
As you continue to use these communications tools, you’ll also want to come up data input standards (for things like company names, states, and phone number formats) to be used and followed by all departments to keep records searchable and sortable and avoid duplicate entries. It should also be clear who is responsible to keep each field up to date. Different systems should all access a “single version of the truth” data repository.
When you use a report tool, fields should have standard definitions agreed upon by everyone in the organization, though certainly each functional group will design its own report format focused on the data that’s most important and actionable to that team.
Though marketing and sales will look at the data slightly differently, there has to be agreement on basic definitions (e.g., what is the definition of a lead at each stage of the sales process).
Indeed, most joint efforts between sales and marketing teams fail because they don’t have clear, joint processes to follow. At a bare minimum, you need to bring together people from both camps to create a precise, unique process that will allow them to work together to move leads through the sales funnel.
This standard operating procedure can be further mapped with the same types of collaboration tools outlined above, and it should be further reinforced by training that illustrates the importance of adhering to, while constantly improving, documented processes.
As marketing works with sales to develop effective content to use throughout the funnel, sales can play a vital role in marketing campaign execution as well. Your sales should always know exactly what your marketing teams are promoting and how, all so that they can be ready to manage the transition from raw lead to sales opportunity at the right time.
It’s equally important for the sales team to have some level of input on the types of ads and content that the marketing team is churning out.
The marketing team should also be supporting sales with buyer insights, messaging, competitive differentiators, and swipe copy that makes it easy for sales professionals to send brand-consistent messages to prospects while adding personalization.
Put Them in the Same Space
Co-locate your sales and marketing teams to bring them physically as well as operationally together. Obviously, this is a challenging in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when most of your people are working remotely. But as the virus retreats and workers return to the office, go beyond simply breaking down information silos and break down geographic silos as well.
If your sales and marketing teams are in two totally separate parts of your building—to the point where they rarely physically see each other—you’re creating a situation where people need to go out of their way to communicate and collaborate with one another. People are literally working apart during as you are trying to bring them functionally together.
If possible, locate both departments in the same physical space so they’re literally next to each other every day. At a minimum, move them as close together as you can. Likewise, you should always be ready to call regular meetings so that team leaders from both departments can keep everyone up-to-date on what is going on and where everything is headed.
To really seal the deal, organize social events and team building exercises so that your sales and marketing teams see themselves as two sides of the same coin.
In the end, efforts to bridge the sales and marketing gap at a bare minimum will lead to more consistent messaging. But it also has the potential to shorten sales cycles, improve your close rates, and strengthen your customer retention efforts. And just as importantly, it reduces blaming and finger pointing, and makes your company a more enjoyable place to work.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience, and web app development.