Call me an optimist, but there has never been a better time for marketing to directly impact sales productivity. In fact, we’re in the midst of a “perfect storm” for this opportunity. More specifically:
- Over 45% of the buying decision today is being made before a buyer even says hello to your rep. [translation: marketing plays a much greater role today in influencing the buyer's journey, and it is incumbent upon us as marketers to better equip reps for this new buyer 2.0 reality] (click here for an infographic on the buyer’s journey)
- Sales organizations struggle to make informed investment decisions. In many cases they lack the data and core competencies needed as part of this process. [translation: marketers have developed a strong competency in performance analysis and dashboard development over the past 5 years, and this can be applied to sales]
- Sales organizations are beginning to put in place Next Generation Sales Operations teams to drive greater improvement in sales productivity, taking a more strategic approach than in past years. [translation: marketing, you now have a "buyer" that is interested in what you have to offer and is willing to collaborate with you at the intersection of marketing and sales - i.e., strategic planning, lead and pipeline management, sales enablement and customer intelligence for sales]
- At no time in history have we had so many applications focused on improving the interaction between marketing and sales in a more automated and productive fashion – bringing value to sales reps(and channels) in addition to management.
To avoid making this just another blog post about how sales and marketing need to have a group hug, I’d like to get real tactical here and identify 6 steps that you (and your marketing team) can take as a marketing organization to bring more value to the table for your sales organization:
#1: Swim with the sharks: When is the last time that you visited a customer with your sales reps? Too difficult a step to take in your organization? Then at least take a rep out to lunch and really get to know their challenges and how you can best help them. Sit in on one of sales’ weekly review calls. Get beyond the proverbial “leads from marketing suck” feedback we often hear from sales.
#2: Actively engage with your sales operations team: Sales operations teams have many of the same challenges as you; for example, they struggle to justify their own team’s ROI . . .and sales operations teams have to prove their ROI in a much tighter timeframe than marketing to a more demanding boss. Meet with sales operations to understand their overt and latent needs. Offer to help them analyze the quality of their sales pipeline. Team with them on creating the agenda for the next sales kick-off meeting as part of improving sales enablement.
#3: Get tactical with your market, customer and competitive intelligence data: All good sales teams conduct some type of account planning or opportunity management sessions to discuss how to close more deals quicker. Sit in on a couple of these meetings to better identify how you can be of value. Determine how your marketing and customer intelligence can help these individuals in their planning sessions. (e.g., share of wallet data to ID up-sell opportunities in their named accounts)
#4: Spoon feed your sales teams: Let’s face it. The typical marketing organization often fails from a service perspective to meet the customized needs of sales reps. We can pass the blame all we want, but the bottom line is that marketing needs to do a better job of sales enablement beyond a one-to-many approach. Develop a concierge type service for your top account or top segment sales reps to help them get to the right information at the right time. Deploy a collaborative platform (ideally integrated with the sales force automation system) through which sales reps can reach out to you for help finding just the right ROI tool or other sales asset. Set up a “social” help desk leveraging one of the many great tools out there.
#5: Qualify your leads before sending them off to your direct sales reps: We’re all familiar with typical BANT (budget, availability, needs and timing) lead qualification and scoring frameworks; however, many companies still fail to ensure their leads meet these specific criteria before sending them to their “elephant hunter” sales reps. Audit your lead qualification process from marketing to sales. Deploy a team to better quality those leads versus throwing them over the wall to sales in an automated fashion. (e.g., telemarketing, inside sales and/or sales development reps – in sourced or outsourced)
#6: Pull leads out of sales reps’ trash barrels: As much as we try to send the best leads off to a sales rep, up to 95% of our marketing qualified leads(MQLs) may not make it across the finish line. Unfortunately, many of those leads do end up as customers. . . but not your customers. Put in place a process for your MQLs to recycle back to marketing’s nurturing process if a final buying decision has not been made and your rep drops the opportunity in order to move on to the next lead.