In the United States alone, marketing and sales departments waste an estimated $1 trillion annually due to lack of coordination. Traditionally, marketing would generate the leads and then send it over to sales hoping they seal the deal. The problem with this? Without true alignment of sales and marketing, isolation across important cross-functional teams is created, ultimately breeding failure.
Too often, it’s easy for marketing to blame sales for rejecting leads too readily and sales to blame marketing for bad leads. The more marketing and sales work jointly to align goals and share information, the more effective the lead life-cycle will become.
Companies with a strong alignment between the two departments led an annual revenue growth of up to 20%. It is essential for marketing and sales to work as one if you want to close more deals. This necessary alignment is based on three key ingredients:
- The MQL to SQL qualification strategy
- Executing smarketing meetings
- Tools and technology aiding the qualification process
The MQL to SQL Qualification Strategy
Before you start the strategy behind your qualification process it is important to define what a qualified lead is. Organizations that formally define the term “qualified lead” connect with prospects more often. What does ‘qualified’ mean anyway? Depends on who you ask. In most general terms, it is the process that you take to ensure you are not wasting time with prospects that will never buy or cannot benefit from your solutions. This way, your time spent is with leads that will turn into signed contracts.
However, when it comes to the MQL to SQL qualification process you have to get the language aligned. Don’t focus on the first letter of “MQL” or “SQL” as much — focus on the Q. The Qualified Lead.
Typically, qualification revolves around information such as:
- Company/Team Size
- Service/Product of Interest
- Need/Challenge it satisfies
To help you answer who the ideal lead is, look at your existing customers. Who are the customers that yield the highest return on your investment? Target them.
Once you have this big question mapped out, this is when communication becomes key between the two departments. What did you do to get it this far? Review the lead and ask questions like:
- What points and circumstances did the qualified lead go through to be considered “qualified”?
- Which part of the qualification process will marketing be responsible for?
- Which part will sales handle?
- What will the handover process look like?
- How will marketing support sales at each stage of the qualification process?
Part of the qualification process is answering the question: Do we solve the specific problem this customer has?
Often sales and marketing teams don’t have the answer to this question. Not because sales and marketing don’t have the answer but because they don’t even ask the question, to begin with. This leads to a lot of assumption in the middle between the two teams. When no one is popping the big question, this leads to a diffusion of responsibility. Sales think marketing will do it and vice versa. You must be explicit in what you expect from the two.
The role of content in the qualification process
Marketing should work with sales to help them better understand the type of content that leads are consuming before they are handed off. This will help direct their conversations throughout the sales process.
Without this key piece, the potential customer will receive less of an enjoyable customer experience which will lead to lower conversation rates. When marketing produces content that is specifically written for the sales process, there should be a strategy in place on how to share this content. A salesperson is the best distributor of marketing content. They can use it to foster a relationship with the lead and get it to the next stage in the progression.
Sales Coach Phil Gerbyshak makes a valid point by saying “Marketing is the enabler and sales is the executor”.
Sales, you are not off the hook here! You must give feedback back to the marketing teams. “Some of the best content that is used for sales enablement is when sales come to marketing and says a prospect asks about a piece of content which marketing doesn’t have,” says Phil. You should target your content to a specific problem or a specific industry, this will yield the best results. Once the content is created, marketing should distribute to the segmented audience it fits best. This ‘value-add’ strategy helps sales with moving prospects down the qualification funnel and obtain new leads.
This is where Smarketing meetings become so vital.
Smarketing refers to the integration of sales and marketing to reach a common business goal. When it comes to sales and marketing, the two teams need to have one goal. It is vital for the sales and marketing teams to have regular joint meetings, so both can see eye to eye. If you think about it, both the teams are after the same goal, which is to improve the company’s revenue. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the two teams interact and get together. Regular meetings between the two groups foster communication and collaboration which helps sales and marketing managers improve their Smarketing tactics.
Smarketing meetings should be entirely dedicated to solving problems which are done by identifying problems with current goals and initiatives. Beforehand you should be planning on setting these goals based on reaching a certain number or even improving your numbers. The following are 3 KPI metrics that can help you understand if your marketing and sales strategies are syncing in harmony, or if they are hindering each other’s progress.
End-to-end conversion ratio
This measures the number of sales made as a ratio of initial market attraction. End-to-end typically focuses on leakages and inefficiencies between stages, sales, and marketing, and gives more accurate forecasting and target performance setting. A trigger for an investigation would occur if there was a significant change up or down from one stage to another.
Sales cycle timeline
The total length of the sales cycle has critical consequences that stir throughout the entire organization. Shortening the buying cycle is normally important to the sales and marketing teams in order to minimize barriers in the process. If the length of the total sales cycle is shorter, you can be certain that marketing is delivering the highest-level leads to the sales department, and that the sales reps are effectively using the data provided by marketing to convert leads.
Percentage of content used by sales
Content isn’t just for the top of the funnel any longer. 70% of the buying process is often completed before a traditional sales conversion even begins. Measuring how content is distributed throughout the entire buying journey (especially as soon as a sales rep makes contact with a prospect) can lead you to important insights about the marketing team’s ability to create value-added content. This will also give your sales reps more comprehension of how to best employ it. You can utilize the Salesforces platform when it comes to tracking what is being used and if your content performance is successful.
You should have some time to highlight the key performance metrics that are pivotal to your sales and marketing teams. Smarketing meetings also make things simpler by allowing management to discuss significant data with both teams at the table. Data collected serves as a guide regarding where the team needs to focus their efforts to improve the qualification process.
“When marketing and salespeople are at the same meeting it’s critical that they both have common goals,” says Bernie Borges, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Vengreso, author of Marketing 2.0 and host of Social Business Engine podcast. “This requires a mutual understanding of each other’s contribution to ‘the number.’ Marketing needs to know the sales goals and sales needs to know what activities marketing is working on to support making that number. It boils down to mutual accountability and mutual respect for each other’s role in making ‘the number.’”
Every team is working towards the same revenue goal, but when it comes to the performance discussion, metrics can be used to understand the performance of your strategy.
Tools, Technology, and Partners Aiding the Qualification process
Once you have designed your sales and marketing alignment strategy, it is time to establish what you can handle, what you can automate, and what you may need to outsource.
Tools + Technology
Marketing automation tools like Activecampaign and HubSpot make it easy for companies to track both demographic and behavioral indicators that make an MQL. Marketers can better see what patterns of behavior leads follow before they become qualified. This can help with discovering product or service interest based on the content that they are engaging with. When integrated with a Customer Relationship Mangement (CRM) platform, marketing automation can make the handover process seamless for the sales team and marketing teams. Tools like Salesforce and Sugar give users the ability to manage their day, create lead workflows and ensure the lead follows the sales process. This visibility creates collaboration and communication heaven between the two.
Using tools can be an essential part of your qualification process but sometimes you need more than just a program. Putting the alignment strategy in place is one thing but executing on it is a different ballgame. If you choose carefully, partners can give you the ability to aid the MQL to SQL qualification process. You can consider a partner as an extra conversation person. They can “play dumb” and ask the obvious questions just to get to the heart of the matter.
There might even be a few hiccups in your sales process after getting the basics down. You could be missing metrics from your smarketing discussions, or you could be lacking content for sales enablement which is necessary to get to the next step of the process. Consultants can help kick-start your sales by getting more productive sales conversations, set clear, positive goals, and train sales teams on using marketing’s content. Partner companies can help you make the most of the tools that you invest in such as social, video and more by integrating your marketing team’s content with a distribution strategy designed to improve qualification and, ultimately, increase sales.
Companies with long sales cycles and multi-step qualification method make a perfect candidate for outsourcing this portion of their alignment process to a specialized agency. This allows companies to go to market faster, better, and gain greater ROI while saving on opportunity costs. At Inside Sales Solutions, we pride ourselves in being able to bridge the gap between marketing intelligence and sales by growing Middle-of-the-Funnel pipeline. Serving as an extension to sales and marketing teams, we have mastered the art of cold-calling and appointment setting to engage, qualify, and convert more leads into sales opportunities. Being a turn-key revenue growth agency, we ensure we invest in technologies and subscribe to the latest strategies so you can save money and learn from our expertise. It is a viable option when the specialized skill set might not exist in-house.
When it comes to sales and marketing there needs to be A+ firm understanding between the two. Creating a qualifying strategy, carrying out smarketing meetings, and using the tools, technologies, and partners that exist to aid the process will help you not only create a recipe of success but may even win you the Top Chef title!