How to Improve B2B Lead Conversion Through Greater Marketing and Sales Alignment
One of the greatest barriers to B2B commercial success is the often fragmented relationship between sales and marketing. These two functions have divergent company cultures, different timescales and sometimes pull in diametrically opposite directions. The lack of alignment results in poor business performance, with internal silos the root cause of ineffectiveness. A new report from London Research and Demand Exchange looks at how these departments can form a more cohesive relationship with aligned objectives and metrics to improve commercial performance.
Based on the new Strategic Guide to Lead Conversion report, this post looks at the evolution of the sales and marketing function within the organisation; stronger cohesion between these departments in a win-win for all teams across the business, resulting in better performance across the board.
A New Role for Marketing
Today's buyers have access to a wealth of information and are subsequently much better informed at the start of their purchase journey. While marketers have traditionally been focused on increasing awareness at the top of the funnel, marketing is increasingly interested in a holistic picture, with a "full funnel" approach.
Marketers must take into account the entire customer journey; there is a greater focus on the role of marketing enabling sales and providing consumers with the right information in order for them to take the final steps into conversion.
As Georgi Mirazchiev, Digital Marketing Specialist at Bynder notes, the arrival of savvier customers into the buying funnel means that marketers must place greater emphasis on outbound marketing messages, ensuring that they are relevant and timely, with the aim of optimising interaction at every stage of the funnel:
“Buyers are much more aware, much more educated. They’ve done their research already,
before they talk to us. So we’re changing the way we operate in different channels because we recognise we need to speak to people differently. People don’t want to be spoken to like they don’t know what they’re talking about, and we also see a lot of frustration from people who just want a demo or a price, and don’t want to be sold to.”
A New Role for Sales
The job of the sales person is also evolving. Previously, sales was about cold-calling prospects, with marketing often dismissed as an irrelevance. As technology becomes increasingly complex, in B2B technology, there are growing number of stakeholders involved in the purchase of a major technology solution.
A sales person may typically only work with one key stakeholder, who champions the technology purchase within the organisation. However, these champions may be reluctant to introduce sales into other parts of the business, as Sylvia Jensen, VP Marketing, Spryker, notes:
“Salespeople always want to get in front of the stakeholder committee, but champions worry that they’ll look foolish, or that other members of the committee will want to buy something else. As a result, we developed an ‘influence the influencers’ approach. We created all the material the champion needed to convince their colleagues.”
Consequently, sales has evolved from the champion model to the challenger model. The role of the sales person goes beyond merely a trusted adviser; sales can challenge the status quo, and acquire senior management buy-in by pointing out the gains and efficiencies that their technology solution can provide.
A New Relationship Between Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing often work as disparate departments. Historically, sales and marketing have been marred by differences in culture, as well as difficulty with understanding the role and responsibilities of each department. In addition, understanding how to measure the contribution of each department to conversion and revenue has been difficult.
The solution to these issues is to promote greater integration between sales and marketing. In practical terms, best practice entails appointing a chief revenue officer; someone in a position of authority who can take responsibility for managing both departments. The strategic alignment of sales and marketing is crucial for breaking down silos.
Many companies have started the march to maturity, towards a fully integrated sales and marketing function. But for those companies who haven't yet implemented a level of integration, best practice can entail companies hosting a weekly cross-functional meeting to discuss the pipeline.
A key benefit of greater alignment is the ability to garner insights about what's happening at each step of the sales process, thus allowing organisations to have a better understanding of the factors for success. Companies are then equipped to fine-tune their marketing and sales at every step.
Measuring performance at every point in the funnel facilitates greater accountability and allows companies to optimise every interaction, as Wayne Morris, Chief Revenue Officer, Guidebook, notes:
"In many organisations, it’s a real dog-fight between sales and marketing; there are serious cultural issues that can be tracked back to conflicting targets and incentives. Part of the CRO’s job is to create a culture of accountability that avoids that and creates harmony at all times. We have a real culture of ownership.”
The gap between sales and marketing is closing, but companies can only bridge the divide if senior management within each department are willing to work cohesively and remain open to change. Those companies that embrace the evolving environment will reap benefits in terms of strong agility.
Companies need to be adaptable and agile in order to be able to respond to changing customer needs while still staying relevant and competitive in the current market. The sales and marketing process must be analysed and optimised at every stage of the funnel to achieve the best possible results.
There's more information in the Strategic Guide to Lead Conversion Report, produced by London Research in partnership with Demand Exchange. Read this report to understand how the future is an integrated model of sales and marketing, designed to establish the company as a trusted adviser rather than a vendor only interested in its own selling agenda.