There is a long history of tension between sales and marketing, especially in B2B companies.
Initially, it was the skepticism of sales that the work of marketing was delivering something of measurable value. However, things started to change as digital tools and strategies became more prevalent.
Now marketers can prove their efforts are making an impact. Demand generation and inbound marketing tactics like digital ads, SEO, and email campaigns are proving extremely effective in getting prospects to sign up for product tests, downloading content, and even requesting meetings with sales reps.
Actionable, scalable strategies make it easy to demonstrate value.
Problem solved? Not quite.
Digital strategies have proven so effective at unlocking top-of-the-funnel opportunities that marketing has become the only source of new leads for many large companies. In these companies, sales teams have become completely dependent on marketing to start conversations with prospects. This is the current state of the marketing-sales relationship in most organizations, and it is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.
Decreasing effectiveness of digital marketing techniques contributes to the flawed relationship. This is most noticeable with email-based demand generation programs. Anti-spam policies are more robust, and advanced mailbox management features make it easier to reject unsolicited email. Even emails to warm contacts often fail to achieve their goals.
Likewise, “form fatigue” in connection with increased privacy concerns stifle a once valuable stream of advertising-driven marketing-qualified leads.
Who Needs Marketing?
Another factor is that marketing has lost its stranglehold at the top of the funnel. It has been displaced by social data, creating a need for greater personalization. Sales enablement platforms give sales reps the ability to deliver promotional material and other content directly to potential customers with a high level of personalization, often supported by detailed tracking analysis.
Thus, sales take responsibility for the top of the funnel and generate their own leads. With this kind of technological firepower, who needs marketing?
Sales still do, of course. But it doesn’t get what it really needs from its counterparts on the marketing side.
Once marketing passes a qualified lead to the sales team, it is recorded as a job done. This is a mistake. There is so much more marketing can do at this early stage in the sales process.
Closer alignment and coordination of sales and marketing across the funnel can result in better, more impactful sales engagements and much faster conversion.
Sellers have to sell!
This coordination is particularly relevant in cases where the engagement seems to have come nowhere after the initial connection. The primary mission of sellers is of course to sell, and rightly so. If the prospect of conversion seems slim after initial contact, they may want to switch to other opportunities.
In cases where the marketing team has invested significant time and resources in building a relationship with a strategic customer, the cost to the company is not just a lost opportunity, but all of the effort that went into qualifying that lead.
The misalignment of sales and marketing leads to a scenario where an interested lead is lost with no way to continue the conversation. That’s outrageous inefficiency when you consider that marketing has the ability, the resources, and the scope to step in and pick up the conversation again.
Double teaming – up and down in the funnel
In fact, marketing and sales should be talking to the same people at the same time at all stages of the funnel. The scalability of the program allows marketing to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the same time. It should provide marketing content related to the sales context at each stage.
The endgame of aligning sales and marketing is this: The two departments must always share the same funnel. While sales reps work to funnel the relationship into conversion, marketing should provide coverage by delivering contextually relevant ads at each stage.
Breaking sales and marketing out of their individual silos and forcing them to work more closely together can open up additional opportunities.
Purchasing decisions are group activities
Shopping is a team sport in the B2B world and the bigger the company, the more people are involved in the decision. Sales enablement platforms allow a seller to initiate a conversation at the top of the funnel, but when that conversation is going nowhere, the seller lacks the tools to reach out to other members of the purchasing team.
Marketing should talk to everyone else on the purchasing team, and they have the tools to do so. It can deliver ads and other content to anyone on the team, not just those involved in active sales pitches.
The numbers tell the story of how sales and marketing were aligned
To get back to the original tension between sales and marketing and the biggest barrier to better targeting, how does sales know that marketing’s ads are working?
We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we developed an experiment to test whether personalized ads (which are geared towards reaching individuals, not just accounts) increase revenue history conversions in Sales. It was analyzed whether clicks and interactions increase the conversion rate and whether the behavior score influences the conversion rate.
The results speak volumes: the conversion rate increased 2.4 times for those who clicked on an ad and 3.9 times for those who engaged on the landing page (spent more than 30 seconds ). Engagements double the chances of success. A behavior score greater than 10 increased conversion 2.7 times, and the conversion rate can increase to 10 times with scores greater than 15.
In our analysis, the engagement score serves as the perfect proxy metric for success. This is a strong argument in favor of optimization around score metrics to improve campaign performance.
And maybe, just maybe, it offers a way to make more meaningful alignment between sales and marketing.
Additional resources for aligning sales and marketing
Sales and Marketing Orientation: MarketingProfs Training Course
The power of ‘smarketing’ (marketing and sales alignment) [Infographic]
Five ways to improve product marketing and sales support collaboration to increase sales