The Importance of Bridging Marketing and Sales Departments

If you were to poll companies in the United States today the majority of them would likely respond that throughout their lifespans internal marketing and sales departments have at times been at odds. Regardless of whether the company sells B2B or B2C historically tension has existed between these two departments because of their co-dependence.

Sales teams have often looked at their marketing counterparts with frustration over the lack of good leads being passed to them. Meanwhile, marketing departments question why sales could not convert more of the leads generated by the last campaign. Sales teams, measured by the top line revenue they generate, will look for others to blame when the numbers don’t add up. And marketing, always conscious of the need to justify spending, can be critical of sales when enough leads are not closed to meet ROI goals.

In order to be successful, companies must find solutions to ease contentions between these two vital departments. Smart companies are building bridges between sales and marketing to align their processes and drive common results. Times are changing and the evolving nature of customer behavior—and the ability to track and measure that behavior—is creating opportunities that will allow sales and marketing to advance in concert.

Consumers today have many techniques and opportunities to research their next purchase making them more informed and connected than ever before. Just look at the rise of services like Yelp that provide real-time ratings from current customers on the quality of the goods and services of a business. Customers can turn to a search engine to get immediate comparisons of different products and price points, which then leads them to a brick and mortar or an e-commerce store to make a purchase. Research from Google and CEB titled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing shows that customers have completed 60% of the sales decision before ever reaching out to a business, regardless of price point. This “connected customer” paradigm is driving sales and marketing departments to re-think their relationship. The roles of both departments are blending to meet the needs of the ultra-informed customer.

To keep pace with the ever more informed customer, marketing teams have adopted new technologies. Marketing departments now use software to automate many repetitive tasks so more time can be dedicated to reaching the customer first. Technology is also being used to get closer to the customer by measuring and monitoring immediate responses to email and web campaigns. Having greater insight into customer behavior has allowed marketing departments to fine-tune messaging for maximum impact on the customer.

By monitoring and tracking behavior marketing teams can more precisely segment the interested prospect from the casual shopper. B2B marketing teams can serve up more relevant content and better engage the customer, while B2C teams can drive unique offers to incentivize the sale. All of the behavioral data that can now be collected allows marketing departments the ability to drive the customer farther down the sales funnel and produce a better quality sales lead.

Historically, sales teams received a list of leads from the marketing department and were told to contact, qualify, and convert. Information was limited often to the source of the lead – a tradeshow meeting or a campaign response would be the sole qualifying metric. Now, the customer journey and associated behavioral data the marketing department collects can be transferred to sales. These data points give the sales team the ability to better distribute and convert each lead to a customer. Specifics such as what product the customer showed interest in, how much time the customer spent on a specific page of a website, or a survey response gives sales professionals the details they need to cut through the noise, engage the customer and drive a quicker close.

To align with the increasing amounts of data being provided by the marketing department, companies have worked to fine-tune the sales funnel by improving their measuring and monitoring of sales performance. Tighter scrutiny of sales team, regions, processes and messaging using new technologies allows management to tweak efforts to drive optimum results.

Organizations that have learned how to make technology work in their favor are reaping the benefits of sales and marketing departments that are functioning harmoniously. For companies still struggling to find the solution that ends the finger pointing, there are four key steps to take to help bridge the divide.

  1. Create a common definition of a lead. As simple as this sounds, it is a common mistake. Having a clear understanding of what sales needs, so a process can be developed by marketing to achieve the common goal is a critical first step.
  2. Start taking advantage of the flow of data potential customers are generating. Determine what sources of data are available to the company and what information streams can be and need to be created.
  3. Measure and test the data collected to determine which points of data reflect customers’ true intent.
  4. Embrace collaborative technologies that allow sales and marketing to capture and share common data points to close the loop between marketing efforts and sales results.

Following these steps and taking other action to build bridges between sales and marketing departments within a company is an invaluable investment in the success of a business.

13. February 2014 by John McGee
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