Those of us in the inbound world know that the buyer’s journey has drastically changed. Buyers today have more control than ever before – they are self-educating and empowered by the information they can find online. The salesperson doesn’t dictate the sale anymore – buyers connect with brands when they’re ready and on their terms. This change in buyer behaviour means that now, more than ever, it’s imperative that the sales and marketing functions are aligned.
According to a recent Demand Metric survey conducted in the US, 80 per cent of respondents with highly integrated sales and marketing processes consistently achieve their revenue goals, as opposed to just 36 per cent of those without. Yet, analyst firm Forrester found that sales-marketing alignment only occurs in 8 per cent of organisations. Why? It’s hard to do, especially because sales and marketing typically don’t get along. A typical complaint from sales is that leads from marketing are weak, while marketing complains that sales doesn’t follow up on the leads given to them. But times and tools have changed, and with the advent of marketing automation technology, marketing has become revenue- and data-driven. Now more than ever marketing is responsible for delivering qualified leads that convert into real sales opportunities, so it makes sense that your sales and marketing teams work together.
How do you achieve this alignment? A recent article on Business2Community offers three strategies business leaders can employ to improve the working relationship between sales and marketing. We’ve included the first of these here:
1. Change the structure of your sales team
Salespeople are by nature short term thinkers who are highly motivated to close deals quickly so they can earn commissions. The problem is that not all inbound leads are going to close quickly. Think about it. Buyers are out there doing research on Google, asking for advice from friends and colleagues on Facebook or LinkedIn, reading online reviews, etc. Traditional leads have already done all of this by the time they talk to a sales person and therefore are much further along in their buying process (60 – 70% according to some statistics). This means that when your sales team engages with them, the time to close is relatively short when compared with the entire length of their buying journey.
Inbound leads, on the other hand, tend to be earlier in the buying cycle. Why? If you’re doing inbound marketing right, your content is what they’re checking out when they do their Google research and to get it, they have to fill out a form and identify themselves. Based on the information they provide, you may consider them “marketing qualified” (perhaps because they meet certain demographic requirements, etc.) and decide sales should reach out to them.
If your salespeople are used to working traditional leads, they are inevitably going to feel frustrated that inbound leads aren’t farther along in the sales funnel and therefore require more effort – and time – to close. When this happens, there’s a good chance they will simply choose not to work those leads and instead focus on the traditional leads because they’re easier and and will result in commissions more quickly. This disconnect leads to that frustration felt by 58% of companies that marketing looks long term while sales looks short term.
One way to solve this issue is to change the structure of your sales team. No, I’m not suggesting a major shakeup. That would be a disaster. In fact, I’m actually not suggesting changing much at all with your existing sales team.
Assuming they are performing, let your sales reps continue to work the traditional leads and assign someone else to work the inbound leads. This type of inside sales rep position has proven incredibly effective in working early-stage leads and nurturing them to the point that they are ready to be handed over to your outside sales reps and closed. Assigning one or two people to specifically work your inbound leads, creating a commission structure that aligns with inbound leads’ longer buying horizon, ensuring a smooth hand off from marketing, and training them on how best to engage with inbound leads will improve your lead-to-customer conversion rates and generate greater ROI from your inbound marketing strategy.
To find out the other two strategies, head to the Business2Community site for the full article, ‘Inbound Marketing: Sales & Marketing Alignment Is Critical To Success’. We also offer tips for sales and marketing alignment in our eBook, ‘A Business Leader’s Guide to Highly Effective Revenue Generation’, which you can download by clicking below.