“We want more leads!”….said every sales director ever. And the bane, but also often the justification, of every marker’s existence.

How often do sales blame marketing for delivering low volume or low-quality leads, while in turn, marketing criticise sales for not converting enough of their well thought out campaign for a decent return on investment?

More ‘leads’ then is only the starting point of customer acquisition cycle. Getting volume into the top of the funnel is no guarantee for revenue at the bottom. To ensure a business is effectively and efficiently converting prospects into customers it needs close alignment of both the marketing and sales functions.

Creating synergy between marketing and sales, where tension can exist, means being prepared to embrace conflict and strike a balance between short-term conversion and long-term strategy. Synergy is also imperative when, in a tough economic climate or crowded market place, businesses have to account for every pound they spend.

Aligned objectives

When it comes to customer acquisition and retention, sales and marketing are two sides of a well-polished coin.

So, when addressing any gaps in ethos, it’s imperative that both functions have the same objectives to ensure they are on the same page in terms of what is needed to achieve business goals but also importantly what’s right for the customer.

Both functions should recognise that they are effectively working to the same end, just approaching it in slightly different places. Both departments are working in the same funnel; marketing tends to work at the top, where the objective is to attract more of the right customers, while the sales job is to convert as many of them as possible. A third stage of account management can also important here further down the funnel to ensure effective customer retention – but again this should be another symbiotic relationship with a marketing function’s nurture process.

In order to facilitate such alignment, initially, good marketers must understand which tactics or channels convert best, while sales must appreciate the importance of staying ‘top of mind’ with their customers, even when they aren’t in the market for an immediate purchase. This means working together on the same objectives and customer segments.

Secondly a business must work out which processes are required so align these functions and also on a basic level provide clarity around terms, for example the definition of a lead, and the stages undertaken to ultimately convert it.

Each step in this process should then be defined, drawn out, owned, measured and, crucially, agreed by both marketing and sales.

Ultimately, there always has to be a balance of short term revenue gain with long-term brand sustainability and clearly this is weighted to one side or the other depending on time of year, channel and customer type. What’s key is allowing both functions to have their time in the sun.

Understanding the buyer journey

The ‘truth’ that 60% of the B2B buying decision is made before the need for a sales person, is open to conjecture. What is perhaps more readily accepted is that the need for quality marketing in both the ‘exploration’ and ‘discovery’ phases of a customer journey.

Where initially good content is imperative for engagement and latterly the need for appropriate data capture is required to facilitate follow up but not be so onerous it chases a prospect away, marketing comes to the fore. Past this, in terms of a nurturing cycle, marketing has also stepped up to the plate somewhat, with the development of digital automation, but this should not discount the involvement of the sales team. Without a seamless process, between the two functions, prospects can be put off and often the customer’s need for human engagement is crucial to sealing the final deal.

Connecting the dots

A key aspect of the marketing and sales relationship is connecting the brand or campaign message with the sales colleagues on the frontline or in the field.

The marketing strategy should have provision to listen to the sales (and customer service) staff at the coalface, because they are the people closest to the customer. Using their feedback to create messaging and campaigns should make them increasingly effective. And having a marketing-led message that will resonate with staff and customers will enable the sales teams to adopt it and sound authentic when they convey it first-hand.

Ultimately, lessons and feedback being shared across the sales and marketing functions can only be beneficial to a business.

Commercial awareness breeds credibility

The focus in any SME should be profitable sustainable growth. So being a marketer with an understanding of the commercial requirements of the business undoubtedly helps facilitate closer communication with sales counterparts.

In order to get the sales team to listen to the things they are trying to achieve from a brand perspective, a marketer needs to demonstrate they understand how the commercial side of the business works.

At the same time, brand or creative can’t be the exclusive focus. If you don’t understand how to add more to the top of the funnel then marketing can lose credibility.

Ultimately sales and marketing should work together, with alignment, shared objectives and targets to ensure a more harmonious and ultimately effective relationship.

If you would like support in aligning your marketing strategy with your sales targets, get in touch.