Communication can make or break an organization, and having a direct line between the marketing team and sales representatives is essential to truly understand customer needs. Beyond hearing the “voice of the customer,” having sales and marketing alignment helps to constantly refine and improve message, content, and programs focused on customer acquisition.
Great marketers know that constant and ad hoc conversations with sales representatives generates insights not seen from “top of funnel” activities like awareness building and lead generation. Understanding middle funnel and, more importantly, end of funnel dynamics and issues is key to building a well oiled sales and marketing machine.
Organizations that have geographically concentrated inside sales teams can easily build and maintain these lines of communication and alignment. Large, geographically distributed sales teams are a bit more difficult but there are an abundance of technology options to surface and share what is working and not working in the field. At a minimum, adding this to the priority list of inputs to the marketing team will force the inclusion of this information in the next messaging iteration, product launch, or campaign design.
So, what can sales reps teach marketing? Sales has a different compensation structure than marketing (in most cases) so distilling this down to three core areas creates a common language for sales reps and the marketing team to speak.
1. What a truly qualified lead looks like
All leads are not created equally and sales reps have a keen understanding of those who are actually going to be engagement worthy. Lead scoring from marketing automation systems is designed to help reps prioritize engagement and outreach but often fails due to poor scoring models or lack of a closed loop feedback process.
A defined set of qualification criteria that marketing and sales agrees upon goes a long way to surface and utilize the institutional knowledge resident in the sales organization. Qualification criteria for MQLs and SQLs should be designed and agreed upon by both marketing and sales.
Even with defined qualification criteria, marketing teams should constantly ask about what characteristics of leads are most important – role, title, industry, and company age to name a few. Sales reps should proactively share these characteristics with the marketing team so that they can tune and focus lead and demand generation programs.
2. What actually works and is useful
Marketing teams spend significant time, energy, and money building sales tools and developing content to support the sales team. In many cases, the content gets published to a sales portal that is rarely used and, if it is, is cumbersome and lacks any intelligence around what is actually useful for the sales rep.
Sales reps know what works…at least for them. Odds are they have their presentation, their email copy, and use variants of a script as prospects move through the sales cycle.
Marketing teams should proactively find out what is most effective and sale reps shouldn’t be shy about sharing what is most effective and what is not. In many cases, there is a lack of understanding of what is available and where it is located. Again, this takes cycles for the sales reps to communicate these things but adding a bit of technology to the mix that tracks and reports on content usage not just by sales reps but by customers is a crucial component here.
3. The real buyer’s journey and how to overcome obstacles
Sales reps know all too well where deals get hung up and the objections that arise in the sales process. Marketing teams should be very focused on the buyer’s journey and what is needed to enable and accelerate it. Rarely do prospects move through a sales process as assumed so sales reps need to educate the marketing team on how it actually works.
Is the primary point of contact the ultimate decision maker? Are the criteria for making a buying decision known and predictable? How important are customer case studies or competitive points of differentiation in the journey?
Sales reps are in a unique position to inform and improve the company’s understanding of the buyer journey and need to be aware of how prospects are (or are not) moving from one sales stage to the next and what drives that movement.
How this information flows from sales reps back to the marketing team can range from meetings to a shared sales enablement platform designed to facilitate the sales process, capture actionable insights, and foster sales and marketing alignment. The important piece here is that the information needs to flow and the three topics above are essential for sales reps to share with the marketing team.
Up next….what marketing teams can teach sales reps.