Aligning marketing and sales is an imperative for exceptional corporate performance.

According to Marketo, when sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies are 67 percent better at closing deals. And according to Infor CRM, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve 20 percent annual growth rate.

The worlds of B2B marketing and sales have forever changed with the consumerization of the workforce and the increasing influence of the digital sphere. These two influences alone mean that marketing and sales teams must rethink their processes and how they engage with one another to be successful.

In this excerpt from Welcome to Web2Sales, Steve Richard, Co-founder and CRO of ExecVision, shares his thoughts on why the relationship between sales and marketing is so strained and some steps you can take to encourage engagement.

 

What are some pain-points that your clients are experiencing?

When we’re talking to marketers, they’re not driving enough inbound marketing qualified leads (MQLs) through their content marketing programs and they have to supplement those with outbound prospecting activities. Every company I’m talking to right now is saying they need to supplement inbound with outbound.

Pain-point number two is for those leads that we’re producing inbound. I’ve stood in a room full of marketers and said that “the sales team is where good leads go to die,” and they all started laughing, because they know that if you ask, on a scale of one to ten, how pleased they are with the follow-up of the sales team on the leads that they’re producing, the vast majority of markers are at a five, three, or even a one. I’ve rarely seen anyone go above five.

What we’re seeing in the funnel is that the conversion rates of MQLs to SQLs (sales qualified leads) are not where marketers would want to see them, and the reality is that marketers aren’t achieving an ROI on their marketing dollars.

Our clients want to be more effective and efficient at converting leads into actual sales opportunities, but the reality is the skills of their sales team aren’t necessarily prepared for that.

 

How can a trained and engaged sales team help alleviate these concerns?

The reality is that most sales organizations, if you look at what they do from a lead follow-up perspective, it’s pretty darn lame. That’s why marketers say that all good leads go to die at sales. Because they will make two or three attempts via email and voicemail to get in touch with the lead, and if they don’t get a response after that, they tend to give up.

They tend to do lead qualification in a rather ad-hoc way. When and why they follow-up with leads depends on when they have time. They’ve never learned a good way of doing it. Imagine you’re on a factory assembly line and you have widgets that are coming at you all day long on the conveyer belt, and your job is to stamp the widgets.

What most of these sales teams are doing –at no fault of their own – is processing leads as if it’s a factory conveyer belt, as opposed to being skilled at understanding how to identify where the opportunities lie within all these widgets coming towards them.

The best sales teams don’t think of leads as the be-all and end-all. Instead, they use leads as ideas, clues for where the opportunity might be.

 

How are most sales individuals currently nurturing top of the funnel leads? Are they doing everything in their power to build long-term relationships that can potentially turn into measurable sales?

The number of companies that fail to follow-up with prospects who stop by their booths during events is shocking, and the ones that are following up are doing so with generic content, generally generated by a marketing automation system. Research shows us that when there’s a human touch involved, they’re three times as likely to convert that lead compared to when the human touch is lacking. If that’s the case, then we need people to craft good messages that are buyer focused and generate curiosity. The key thing is to generate curiosity in the buyer.

That’s what sales teams have not been trained on. If you look at the training sales teams receive there are three buckets. There’s training on internal processes and systems; how to use CRM, marketing automation, etc. There’s a lot training on products and services for certification. But the third bucket is training on sales skills, and if you look at the average company, they’re not training on sales skills right now. They’re especially not training on the buyer.

The science of top of the funnel prospecting and lead qualification is not resident in 99 percent of the companies that we first start talking to. They don’t do a particularly good job of that, and they know it, and they’re the first ones to admit it because either A) their sales team is so focused on deals in their funnel that they have no time to process top of funnel – not that they’re necessarily good at it or enjoy it – or B) you’ve got a sales development team in place, and that team tends to be very young and green, so they need the training.

 

What makes Web2Sales the logical next step when it comes to content marketing?

There’s a massive divide between the content that’s being created by the marketing organization and how it’s being leveraged by the sales organization.

In the top of the funnel, the usage of content as an asset is critically important to get people to begin an active buying cycle, or to have them continue or advance the cycle. What the majority of sales forces out there are terrible at is using content. They don’t even know what’s available to them, let alone when and where to use them, because a buyer in a different stage of their buying journey calls for a different piece of content.

If you look at most of the content that’s being sent out, it’s case studies, pricing info, or product slicks; this is not appropriate content for many stages of the buying journey.

There’s a huge gap that we’re trying to help our clients close; what content do you send to what lead at what time based on that person’s buying journey?

I was just in Atlanta in front of 200 sales development leaders and asked them to raise their hand if they have a model of customer decision-making; in other words, do they know the predictable stages that a buyer goes through on their way to making a buying decision, and have they documented that? Three hands went up out of 200. That’s 1.5 percent, and it’s pathetic. That’s the state of affairs out there.

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