Aligning Sales and Marketing...concretely
Aligning Sales and Marketing has become a corporate catch-phrase. It’s a favourite topic with Marketing Automation people and has become one of their big claims these days. But what it mostly is, is a genuine challenge for marketers. So, if you think that the purpose of Marketing is to identify and qualify leads by developing lead generation ops and nurturing campaigns, well, you’re mistaken. You’re only halfway there. If you think that the key purpose of B2B Marketing is to impact sales productivity, then you know that Marketing is not just about delivering qualified, engaged leads.
From SQL to SAL
When marketers provide Sales Qualified Leads and have agreed with the sales department on all of the actions it needs to conduct, the first job of the sales person is to ensure the lead’s relevance, its qualification and level of engagement.
For many people in Sales, this job just means a phone call or e-mail whose sole objective is to know whether the proposed contact has a project or not… a bit brief, don’t you reckon? Unfortunately, it’s a widespread reality.
The first consequence is often a quick conclusion by the sales department: "Marketing doesn’t give us enough qualified leads". The second consequence is the conclusion by the marketers: "We have trouble finding prospect data that is qualified enough". Or else, "We’ll have to beef up our nurturing programme… Or optimize our lead scoring.”
These conclusions confine Marketing and the sales department to very strict roles that are paralyzing for the business and quite illustrative of the partitioning that often exists between the two.
What exactly is a Sales Qualified Lead?
A SQL is not just the result of qualification and engagement level scoring. It should also more finely suggest the type of engagement, in order to inform Sales on the right argumentation strategy, the most efficient buying vision, in other words, it should act as a force of proposal for what we should sell to the prospect and how we should go about it.
Value your sales expertise
The sales person’s first job is not to validate the existence of a project with a client or prospect and then ‘jump on them’ and do everything possible to prove why your solution is the best. The sales person’s mission should be to define a sales strategy that involves first deciding how we can continue to awaken and educate leads in their own strategic issues, in the real nature of their problem or the opportunity that presents itself… There are two main options available:
- Direct sales action,
- The possibility of orienting a lead to a more specific Marketing or nurturing programme in order to raise initial awareness of a strategic or sectorial issue, an opportunity, a need, etc. This will create the necessary legitimacy and authority for sales engagement.
Three key benefits:
- The sales person is enhanced for his or her sales expertise since they decide the best sales strategy to conduct on the scale of the prospect with the help of the campaigns and content available to them. In a way, they become their own marketers.
- The Marketing content and resources are used more optimally.
- Marketing can conduct finer, more effective campaigns… at a customized level.
What does this mean for Marketing?
The aim of a content strategy is to create and disseminate consistent, relevant, valuable content to attract and capture a clearly defined target and engage it in the sales relationship.
Marketing must be able to establish its target in a favourable buying perspective, in other words, a Buying Vision, and monitor its consistency throughout the prospects’ decision-making processes. Content creation should serve both qualification and engagement, as well as provide effective support to sales. The famous Service Level Agreement concluded between Sales and Marketing should not only establish the rules of sales engagement but it should also define all of the Marketing resources available to Sales:
- Specific campaign flows / Drip Marketing
- Business Cases
- ROI and TCO (Total Cost Ownership) Calculator
- Client testimonials
Marketing has truly changed and the numerous possibilities provided by Marketing automation and CRM platforms are increasing the challenges and responsibilities. But if there were just one challenge, or if we were to choose the most exciting one, it would inarguably be that of aligning Sales and Marketing… concretely.