Sales is marketing and marketing is sales. The alignment between the two has been amplified with the rise of technology - namely CRM and inbound marketing software. You now see job titles such as, 'Sales Enablement Manager, New Business Specialist and SDR (Sales Development Rep). All these positions blur the line between sales and marketing more than ever before.
Clearly the need for collaboration between these two teams is not a new concept, but for marketing departments that are still fairly silo'd, I have a few simple questions that every marketer should be asking their sales team. The answers to these questions will allow you to focus your marketing efforts and streamline the sales process.
1. In detail, what does the sales process look like from first contact to closed sale?
Most marketers are able to answer this question quite generally - "The prospect is assigned to a sales rep, a call is made, the prospect is qualified, a sales quote or proposal is sent and the sale closes." I encourage you to dig a lot deeper to understand the timing and approach between each step.
Example questions for your reps might include:
What questions do you [sales rep] ask and why?
How long is a typical sales cycle?
What are the most common objections to our product or service?
Do you communicate primarily through email or phone?
What materials, charts or presentations do you give? And at what stage of the process?
An important question often missed is, what happens if a contact isn't ready to buy? This can be a critical point where those contacts should be returned to a marketing workflow rather than being lost forever.
Don't be afraid to sit in on sales calls or meetings to get an inside look. By having a thorough understanding of this process, you can optimize your marketing messaging, materials and approach to better match the sales experience.
2. Who is your favorite client and why?
This can be the most revealing of questions as it often ignites an emotional response and varies depending on the individual. Every sales rep has a favorite customer - they are likely friendly, reasonable, return customers and your product/service fits them like a glove. Your sales team would kill to have 100 more clients just like them.
Ask multiple sales people and figure out what the commonalities between their favorites are - industry, position or otherwise. Once you have a general picture of the ideal customer, you or a sales rep can use our audience persona builder to build out a detailed 'audience persona' - this includes questions such as:
3. What are the most common questions you receive during the sales process?
In many cases, there are questions that come up again and again. This tells you two things:
These factors are very important to the prospect and the purchasing decision, and
The information or answers to these questions are not readily available online.
This represents an opportunity to build helpful content into the website in the form of blog posts, FAQs or video. By making that content available, you can help speed up the sales process or qualify users before they call. If the sales team prefers that information not to be public, perhaps creating slides or hand-outs for sales reps to leverage would be more appropriate. This is often called sales enablement - creating content and resources that lend to the sales process.
4. What are your current sales metrics and sales goals? (specifically over the next 6-12 months)
Example metrics may include: leads, sales qualified leads, demos given, length of sales cycle, churn rate, revenue etc.
Sales and marketing should no longer point fingers when goals aren't met. Marketing has a significant influence on nearly all sales metrics. By understanding what the sales goals are, you can better match up your efforts.
(a) if your reps need more leads, perhaps increase PPC spending or content marketing efforts.
(b) If they have enough leads, but they aren't qualified, you should add qualifying statements to your copy or shift your blog strategy to reach a more targeted audience.
(c) If the churn rate is rising, consider the post sale experience. On-going marketing and nurturing to the existing client base may need to be tested.
Understanding the basic sales metrics can assist in calculating deeper metrics such as cost per acquisition or cost per lead - which is tied directly to analyzing and forecasting marketing budgets.
5. What would you consider a sales qualified lead (SQL) vs. a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?
How can the marketing process help to better qualify those individuals?
In direct relation to the sales metrics and process discussion, how do you determine if a contact is sales ready or not?
79% of B2B marketers have not established lead scoring. (MarketingSherpa)
65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing. (MarketingSherpa)
Lead scoring and nurturing are integral to both sales and marketing. A prospect who downloads an ebook is often very different from a "request a quote" submission - and they should be treated as such. Marketing automation software can be used to set up qualifying triggers on your website such as: if a prospect downloads 1 ebook, views 3 product pages and opens an email, they may be a sales qualified lead and our rep should reach out. Work with your sales team to identify these break points.
Another way to help qualify prospects is to look at your general website copy. Are there opportunities to call out the type of work or industries in which you do NOT work? Allowing the customer to un-qualify themselves saves both them and a sales rep time.
Obviously there is more to marketing than just enabling your sales team and aligning with their goals, but these few questions will likely generate new ideas or shine a light on areas of your marketing you may not have considered. Leverage your sales reps' knowledge of your customers to better target your marketing and nurture existing customers. Lastly, don't just ask these once! Establish a relationship between teams so that you are able to align your efforts on a monthly or even weekly basis.
Tip: Marketing automation or inbound software can be a great tool, especially for software, product, or even complex sales. It allows you to automate much of the on-going sales and marketing workflows, while building individual web profiles for prospects and customers. Learn more about ArcStone, HubSpot and Inbound Marketing here or check out our early review of the HubSpot CRM.
Have any questions to add to the list? Please tweet me @WhoIsJennaC