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5 Tips for Improving the Sales and Marketing Relationships

There is a perception that sales and marketing cannot get a long. In some instances, this may certainly be true, but with proper coordination and planning, even the most harden relationship can become a positive force for collaboration within your organization. Much like any relationship, it takes both sides to want to participate, and requires that one side take the first step to initiate change.

If there is a riff between marketing and sales, it most likely stems from different interpretations of the roles and responsibilities as they relate to lead generation. Ownership of the process certainly plays a part, but other factors clearly influence the ability of either side to accept the other side’s critical importance in its success. To minimize these issues, here are five steps marketing can take to ensure a smooth transition of leads while at the same time improving their sales relationship.

Agree Upon Lead Qualification Criteria At the heart of these issues surrounding lead generation are the criteria for determining a quality lead and at what point sales needs to take ownership of the opportunity. As the initiators of the process, it is imperative that marketing take as much responsibility for the success of the lead generation program.

The first step in this process is overcoming this issue of lead criteria. This can be a delicate matter for new companies or markets that are still developing a clear persona of the ideal customer. It is not however an impossible mission when both parties work together and are willing to accept that they have a role in defining and agreeing upon the criteria. For marketing to be successful, it is vital to have this criteria clearly documented with several examples available, if possible, to reference. Additionally, marketing must make certain it has sales buy-in in regards to the level of qualification required and at what point they will take over the relationship.

Under Promise and Over Deliver At the early stages of a lead generation program, it is important that marketing not over commit or under deliver. In fact, every effort should be made to ensure that leads delivered to sales during the “honeymoon period” of a new lead generation program exceed the expectation of sales.

This may seem counter intuitive, when sales departments are screaming for more leads. The reality however is that sales only want more leads if they are of good quality. Hence, the type of leads you produce during the early phases of a lead generation program will set the expectations for the life of that program. In this scenario, delivering more, lower quality leads may be counter productive in improving relations because it will unintentionally lower the perceived value of marketing’s effectiveness over time. This in turn will eventually result in fewer leads being actively worked by the sale team and negatively influence all other interaction between the two organizations.

Implement a Lead Nurturing Program Quality of leads is by far the most important influencer available to marketing in regards to fostering a positive relationship with sales. To improve the quality of leads, implementation of a lead nurturing program is essential. This will allow the marketing department to better profile prospects and move them further along the sales process. This may initially result in fewer, higher quality opportunities, but it will also allow your sales team to focus on closing business, rather than re-qualifying prospects.

Implementing a lead nurturing program has numerous benefits, all of which will contribute to supporting a healthy relationship with sales including:

  • Quickly identifying immediate opportunities during the critical early stages of a lead generation program.
  • Keeping the sales organization activity engaged by delivering a steady stream of quality leads.
  • Allowing marketing to adjust their lead criteria based on feedback from sales review of initial leads.
  • Increasing the number of leads delivered to sales in the long-term.

Improve the Quality of Your Lead Report Closely linked to this improvement in lead quality is the amount of information you can collect and share with your sales organization. This information should be captured in as much detail as possible and organized in a logical way in a lead report that is presented to the sale team for follow-up.

The benefit of this approach is fourfold. First, it creates concrete documentation of the lead and the details that demonstrate that it has met your pre-agreed upon qualification criteria. Secondly, it significantly simplifies the understanding of the potential for this specific lead to turn into a viable sales opportunity. Third, it enables marketing to pass along a historical record of conversations with the prospect, personal details about the prospect that are not particular to the qualification criteria but helpful in forming a bond with the prospect. And finally, it clearly demonstrates to the sales organization the level of commitment put in by marketing to produce better quality leads.

Collaborate on the Lead Handoff
The lead report is only one element of a successful lead handoff. This is particularly true if you’ve implemented a lead nurturing program for a complex sale cycle in which a relationship between the marketing lead generation team and the prospect may have existing for many months.

In these instances, a coordinated handoff that includes marketing and sales on one or more phone calls to introduce key players and transition account ownership may be required. For most organization, this probably includes setting the appointment and allowing the marketing representative to provide introductions and explain the involvement of more senior players as a way to more appropriately meeting the customer’s growing needs. Once this is sufficiently accomplished, the marketing team can slowly remove themselves from the engagement while the sales team takes over.

Systematic Lead Tracking
The final element necessary to promoting a healthy relationship between sales and marketing is the implementation of a systematic lead tracking solution that covers the entire lifecycle of a prospect from origin through sale (or loss).

Simplifying this process is the prevalence of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions such as Salesforce.com which captures sales progress data. If this data isn’t readily available, marketing should establish a process for circling back with sales team members as well as prospects to validate lead follow-up. Care however needs to be taken to first, protect the customer experience during what could be active sales opportunity; second, protect the image of the sales person in the eyes of the prospect; and third, to minimize the requirements of time placed on the individual sales team members to provide this information.

An optimal solution leverages the coordinated handoff to ensure timely lead follow-up, and then regularly scheduled meetings with individual sales members to review the progress of all leads delivered. To be successful with this follow-up, follow these simple rules:

  • Do this once a month at most, less often if possible. Time is money for a sales person and complex sales cycles can last a very long time. Less frequent, more complete updates are better.
  • Do one-on-one meetings with individual sales people. This will allow you to focus on getting the information you need, building a personal relationship with the sales person and obtaining feedback on the quality of the lead and how it could be improved in the future.
  • Do lead reviews in-person or over the phone. People are notoriously stingy with information and putting something in writing is much more difficult than giving verbal explanations. Avoid asking for updates via email because this creates extra work for the sales person and will eventually be perceived as a drain on their time.
  • Share lead reports with sales management and team member. While capturing the information verbally, confirm the results with sales people and then sales management in writing. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there won’t be surprises later on if things change.

Take Responsibility As we stated at the beginning of the article, both sides need to participate to make the sales and marketing relationship flourish. Marketing, as the initiators of the lead generation process, is ideally situated to setting the foundation for that relationship. By stepping up and taking responsibility for improving their own performance, marketing can demonstrate their own value to sales and thus, promote positive interaction that will ultimately result in a favorable relationship.

Audience Engagement – Why Sales and Marketing Have Changed Forever

Sales and marketing. Marketing and sales. So close, and yet, so different. The unique, sometimes contradictory principles of these two business disciplines are well documented.

There are countless treatises on this eternal conflict, many right here within in these pages. People with very big brains spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between these two critical, but often conflicting business disciplines.

But are the pundits simply perpetuating a legendary feud, a culture of conflict that really isn’t relevant anymore? I mean, without this topic, what else would they write about? Are they like the dentist who doesn’t really want cavities to go away, at least not all of them?

I for one believe we can start burying the S&M hatchet once and for all. Because today, effective sales and marketing really aren’t so different. “Effective” is the key word, of course. But in the current business environment, the chasm that has always existed between those who create the brand and those who push the product seems to be closing.

In fact, the fundamental qualities of good marketing and good sales were never all that out of alignment. The most immediate goals of those practicing their respective crafts were, and that probably led to all the misunderstanding. But in the end, very similar principles applied. And whatever real differences there may have been are rapidly fading away, simply because both sides of the debate are now reporting to a new boss, one that has never been so powerful, so critical, so fickle and so unforgiving – their target audience.

THE AUDIENCE CALLS ALL THE SHOTS

In the past, we sales and marketing experts held most of the cards. Marketers pushed information to audiences through a relatively small number of communication channels – traditional broadcast, print, outdoor, direct mail, PR. Sales professionals were pitching prospects who had few, if any available options. Of course there was always competition lurking in the shadows; but they were relatively scarce when compared with today’s competitive landscape, where access to messages, promises, deals and promotions is virtually unlimited.

People just aren’t so easily persuaded anymore. The world is totally transparent to anyone who cares to look inside, and as a result, audiences of all kinds demand greater accountability from the companies they do business with.

Today there are endless options, and endless methods of accessing them. The reality is, we can no longer tell our targets anything they don’t want to hear. Because someone else is right there waiting for the chance to provide exactly what they’re looking for.

LET’S GET ENGAGED!

So what’s the answer? How can marketers and sales professionals alike get their respective audiences to say “yes”?

By engaging them.

“Engagement” is undoubtedly the word du jour of the marketing world. And while the term may not be used as frequently in weekly sales meetings, engagement has always been the goal of any good salesperson.

Just what is engagement? While there still seems to be no definitive definition, as a starting point, engagement is about building meaningful relationships with audiences (or prospects), on their terms. Engagement is all about involvement, entertainment, relevance, relationships, customer focus, listening much more than we speak, then speaking in our audience’s language rather than our own.

All of this might seem self-evident. But it’s easier said than done in today’s world of continuously shifting tastes, interests and communication/entertainment options. Both sales and marketing professionals have a lot to think about if they’re going to effectively engage their targets. And each can learn a trick or two from the other.

THREE ENGAGEMENT SKILLS MARKETING CAN LEARN FROM SALES

Nimbleness. Great salespeople have always been able to turn on a dime. They know that the prospect leads the dance, and if they are to succeed, they must be in concert with their partner, sensitive to their subtlest move and quick to turn and spin and dip whenever they’re ready. Many marketers still want to lead. They know about this engagement thing, but at the end of the day, still think they know better than the audience what the audience really wants. Learn from your sales colleagues. Give the audience what they’re asking for, even if it changes day-to-day. They decide, you provide.

Immediacy. There are no more long-term propositions, at least not in the way there once were. Everything is “now,” this moment. In fact, now is already old news. Super sales pros have always been ready to move when the time was right – before a competitor beat them to the punch. Marketers have traditionally been more deliberate in their efforts — research, develop, research again, refine, research. Take that tack today and you’ll soon be a footnote in the business history books. Think Wang Word Processors. “You snooze, you lose” is true more than ever.

Over-Service. The really great salespeople are never too proud. They’re always ready to bend over backwards for a valued customer – and hopefully enjoy a fleeting moment of customer loyalty. The successful sales pro is there whenever needed – nights, weekends, early mornings, holidays. Because that’s what customers demand. Marketers have always had it a little easier. Set the campaign in motion and watch as the audience eats it up. No more. Today, the most successful marketers are engaging audiences whenever and wherever that audience demands – in the street, on three screens, in their neighborhoods, on vacation. Don’t expect them to come to you anymore; they won’t. Go where they are and give them everything you’ve got!

THREE ENGAGEMENT SKILLS SALES CAN LEARN FROM MARKETING

Research. Marketers have always put a lot of stock in getting to know their audience, spending millions to understand just who they are, how they think and most important, what they’ll buy. Today, effective sales requires an equally inquisitive approach. Learn everything you can about your prospects – married or single; golf or tennis; Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts; where they were born and where they went to school. And of course, what matters to them in their career and their life. The more you know about your audience, the better you will be able to speak their language, and the more engaging your sales efforts will be.

Thinking Big. Master marketers have always focused on the “big idea,” the overriding brand benefits their audience values. They don’t sell a neat product, they promise a solution. Likewise, “solution selling” is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It works. Look for ways to provide big picture solutions to clients, ideally ones that encourage a long-term relationship. Don’t make their life better today. Give them the hope that it will be better tomorrow, for the next year, the next decade. Not with this sale, but with an understanding of their needs and an ongoing commitment to providing answers. That’s real engagement.

Strategy First. The most effective marketing programs have always been based on a carefully designed strategy, essentially ensuring that the right message is being delivered to the right audience in the right way, in order to achieve a desired objective. Sales has traditionally involved a bit more hip-shooting. And while “nimbleness” is listed above as an important sales skill marketers can benefit from, a strategic approach is equally beneficial for sales professionals in today’s chaotic selling environment. Before ever making the first call or sending the first email, develop specific, measurable goals, work to identify your ideal prospects, determine what’s important to them and craft your proposal appropriately. Determine just how they can be most effectively engaged and only then execute your strategy flawlessly. Plan your sale, sell your plan.

It all used to be easier, I think. People could be led to a desired outcome, even manipulated when necessary. Today it’s the smart salespeople and marketers who know, they’re the ones being led, and are willing to follow along. Ask what the audience wants and how they want it, and then give it to them. Whether it’s a brand or a product, a message or a service contract. Make sure it’s all part of an immersive experience that meets and exceeds all their expectations.

Only by being fast, flexible and completely responsive to the needs and desires of our audiences will engagement happen – and relationships thrive.

Are Your Sales and Marketing Strategies Working For You?

Have you been missing your sales target for more than a year? Are your competitors taking away most of your potential customers? Or are you perhaps simply looking for a bigger market base to sustain your business? One of the most innovative electronic sales and marketing solutions for all types of businesses could be your answer: e-commerce.

E-commerce is a one-stop online solution where businessmen like you can sell products, check inventories, promote products and services and communicate with other companies to manage your supply chain.

  • Benefits of e-commerce

In 2012, a medium-sized media company based in Ohio reported almost double income growth from the previous year when they improved their 20 online stores. It claimed that e-commerce was now their fastest-growing business.

E-commerce provides more benefits than just accepting orders. It has all the capabilities to offer a full back office support to companies and a comprehensive shopping experience to customers. The key areas of e-commerce are customer service, operations, technical systems, online merchandising and marketing. The media company exploited all these in their websites, and because of which they were able to build and accommodate more services.

E-commerce customer support provides online assistance and tutorials anytime a customer needs them. Because of the inherently fast-paced nature of e-commerce, customers are able to have their issues addressed much quicker than traditional methods.

Shopping cart is one of the most important applications in an e-commerce site. It is what customers use to view catalogs and make their purchases. It is also what connects them to the back operations and technical systems of the website. Not a few companies compete for customers by how their shopping carts look and perform. To get the best of both worlds, many of them go for custom module development and template installation.

Successful e-commerce sites make use of other features such as online content and blogs that contain tips and stories related to their line of business. This makes them more than just a shopping site, but a destination site as well.

Additionally, innovative marketing applications such as autoresponders, ad trafficking and affiliate programs help to draw traffic to a website. Businesses that are content on just selling merchandise and using minimal marketing features may find it hard to maintain and expand their clientele.

  • E-commerce gains in 2012

E-commerce has been helping many businesses find new success by making sales and marketing activities cheaper and more efficient. As more and more customers move away from physical stores to retail websites, companies are introduced to new opportunities for growth. In 2012 e-commerce sales in North America grew by 13.9% to $364.66 billion, compared to 2011′s $301.69 billion. This was according to eMarketer.com, one of the world’s leading provider of information related to trends in e-commerce and digital marketing. Furthermore they expect growth to top $409.05 billion by the end of 2013.

ComScore, another leading e-commerce analytics firm, estimated 2013′s first quarter retail sales in the US to be at $50.2 billion. Evidently there is great potential for growth for any company in e-commerce. This is supported by the fact that more people are shifting to doing business online not only in the US, but also across the Pacific.

If you are looking for ways to amplify the results of your sales and marketing strategies, try e-commerce, one of the hottest and most effective sales and marketing solutions for any business to date.