Are sales and marketing working together?

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Have sales and marketing changed their strategies and tactics to address the fact that buyers are buying much differently than they did just five years ago?

Multiple research studies are providing a compass. The studies indicate that over 60 percent of the buying process for many business products or services is concluded before the buyer contacts a sales person. In some product categories the percentages is a lot higher.

The roles of marketing and sales have to adjust to how the buyer is buying.

While volumes have been written and continue to be written about sales and marketing alignment, following is a priority list of questions for CEOs and marketing executes to start the assessment of their organization.

Do sales and marketing agree on what constitutes a qualified lead for your company?

Leads are names and telephone numbers; qualified leads have met basic criteria and gone through a lead-scoring process.

Lead scoring typically involves explicit demographic criteria, such as company size, industry, job title, location, and the prospect’s budget. Implicit criteria monitor the prospect’s behaviors. How many times have they visited the website, or downloaded white papers or demos? Did they tune into a webinar? Click-through a link in email marketing?

Marketing and sales have to agree on the scoring criteria, as well as what point a lead, often referred to as a marketing qualified lead, is turned over to sales for final qualification and acceptance.

How many qualified leads does it take to generate a sale?

If you choose just one question to spend time on, make it this one. This is the one that tells you how much gas you need to put in your engine and how far it will take you. With a glance at your dashboard metrics, you should get critical information: average deal size; the revenue target; and the number of deals it takes to reach that target.

Your sales and marketing team should be able to instantly provide you with the conversion rates for each stage of your sales and marketing funnel, telling you the time it takes for a buyer to move through their research and decision-making process. This is your “funnel math,” and it requires a sophisticated funnel calculator to calculate the algorithm consisting of these variables.

Do you know if there’s a bottleneck in you revenue generation process?

If sales and marketing have aligned their respective processes to the stages of the buying process, and if the funnel metrics are providing a way to model and report on the progress, you will be able to see where the bottlenecks are. Marketing needs to listen to the customer to understand their purchasing process. This, in turn, needs to be communicated to the sales team, which then must align its process to the buying process stages.

Finally, using the funnel math, they’ll be able to see that leads are not progressing from stage two to stage three, for example. They can then determine the reason, and take the targeted and correct action.

Does everyone on your marketing team listen to prospects and customers every week?

If you want to sell more widgets to more people, you need to understand those people. Marketing does a good job defining target audiences for planning purposes, but communication – listening – needs to happen on an ongoing basis. Companies who do this are at the top of the revenue pyramid. They create online user groups; produce online surveys with rewards such as gift cards; invite customers and prospects onsite; and create and use customer advisory panels. These are just examples of several activities designed to capture and then use feedback.

Are you involved in two-way conversations with prospects and customers online?

No company can afford to ignore the realities of the Internet and social media. Where your customers are, is where you need to be. If you do not have a highly visible presence, your competitor is there, taking your place. This includes monitoring what people are saying about you.

Is there a gap between company strategy and the action plans produced by sales and marketing?

It’s not just crucial that sales and marketing be aligned with one another – it’s also crucial that sales and marketing be aligned with company strategy and goals. Ideally, marketing and sales develop a plan together, tying it closely to the product strategy or company strategy. The plan should clearly depict how sales and marketing will work together to generate demand and revenue, as well as include key performance metrics.

Overall, as stated by a fellow interim executive, “Enlightened companies are generating revenue growth by sales and marketing working seamlessly together.” Your answers to these questions can help you assess whether your revenue engine needs merely a tune-up, or a major overhaul.

Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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Kristen McAlister

Kristen McAlister

Kristen McAlister is President/COO and Co-Owner of Cerius Executives. She has extensive experience in leading major acquisitions, sales and operations initiatives with small and large privately-held companies to publicly-held international companies. Kristen has spent the last ten years facilitating companies on how to market, sell, present and execute their goals with clients and adding value through operations, sales, marketing and entrepreneur coaching.
Kristen McAlister

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