In the last several years, the inbound philosophy has taken the digital world by storm. People are ditching aggressive, impersonal strategies for a more personal and inviting approach, and with serious benefits.
Inbound marketing is the first step in securing new clients. With a focus on tools such as Search Engine Optimisation and Content Marketing, B2B businesses can increase their online visibility and grow their audience. However, instead of sending mass advertisements, which are bound to send potential leads running, the inbound philosophy preaches creating content that is actually valuable.
Inbound sales, on the other hand, is what follows the marketing team’s initial efforts. Traditionally, sales honed in on the later stages of the Buyer’s Journey – drawing its attention to the end of the funnel. Once prospects have discovered your business, the sales team was responsible for providing further information to really convince the buyer of your product or service.
Recently however, there has been a shift in level of responsibility between the two departments, and inbound marketing now shares the limelight with its inbound sales counterpart.
Although marketing and sales are both such critical components of converting leads, and each one’s tactics build – even rely – on the other, only a mere 26% of respondents have a service level agreement in place between marketing and sales!
Why Align Sales and Marketing?
There are several factors responsible for the rift between marketing and sales departments. Poor communication, the use of different metrics and terminology, a lack of accurate data; these are just a few of the many problems that prohibit an effective collaboration between both teams.
Twenty, fifteen, even ten years ago, sales used to stand in the forefront. But now, with customers having access to any information they need, marketing has risen to the same level as its sales counterpart.
Primarily, this is because marketing no longer only has the job of making potential buyers aware that the business exists. Their responsibilities now extend to working with sales to create valuable content that assists in converting the lead. Where the buyer’s journey used to feature distinct marketing and sales stages, the two areas have started to merge.
The strategies used by each team go hand-in-hand, so it makes a lot of sense to align them. Only by working together can an unqualified lead move to a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL), and eventually to an opportunity that opens the door to a customer.
In summary: the buyer’s journey is supported only by a seamless collaboration of marketing and sales. Think of it this way; a buyer doesn’t know if he’s speaking to marketing or sales when he types in a message – in his eyes, he’s focusing on the B2B business as a whole.
And since your leads are only seeing the big picture, it’s important that marketing and sales have strong teamwork in place to deliver consistent customer service across the board, presenting a unified front.
Now, with the sales process becoming more intricate – on average, 6.8 people are involved in decision-making – the sales team needs to communicate its perspective, and the marketing team needs to support these goals. Marketing needs sales to push its leads from a potential to an actual customer. However, sales needs marketing to reel people in in the first place.
Inbound marketing efforts are proven to be much more effective than cold calls, after all. Through this it becomes clear that a link between the two is crucial.
To be more concrete, aligning sales and marketing can help businesses become 67% better at closing deals. That means that combining the two not only ensures a greater number of prospective leads, but also looks into the leads’ quality to allow for greater conversion chances.
But working together doesn’t only increase qualitative success. It also creates a more harmonious working space and more fluid conversion process. And an added bonus – it’s more enjoyable for everyone involved!
How to Reach Smarketing Collaboration
As is typical for 21st century marketing trends, the teamwork between marketing and sales has been given a buzz-worthy nickname: Smarketing. So far, it’s pretty clear why aligning these two teams makes sense for you and your business, but now comes the next step – actually achieving this goal! To help you, here are seven tips for better Smarketing collaboration.
1. Communication, Communication, Communication!
The most simultaneously straightforward and overlooked step in reaching an agreement between marketing and sales is improving their communication. After all, how can the two departments work together if they have no idea what the other one is doing?
If you make sure that both teams are actually talking to and keeping each other up to speed on what they’re up to, a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided.
Communication can be facilitated through meetings, collaborative spaces, or creating another healthy environment that encourages anyone to share their opinions.
2. Technology is Your Friend
Sometimes verbal communication isn’t the only tool necessary for fully explaining an idea or sharing opinions. In this case, technology can be your most valuable asset.
Collaborative platforms such as the HubSpot Marketing Hub and HubSpot Sales Hub can increase transparency, making teamwork even easier. Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics offer similar features that give your marketing and sales teams the space they need to express their ideas and find a middle ground.
3. Establish Personal Connections
In a hypothetical world, just offering an online communication Hub can resolve all communicational barriers, but in reality this might just not be the case.
Many times, a lack of communication is born out of a hesitancy to engage with the other team, for personal reasons. If you create spaces where employees can get to know each other on a personal level, it will be much easier for them to understand each other’s perspectives, and they will be more willing to do so.
Thus, although your business is still a professional workplace, a little fun never hurt anyone! Simple team-building exercises and icebreakers can go a long way in surfacing interpersonal connections and driving conversation.
4. Streamline Your Methods
While there are a lot of strategies that an authoritative figure can implement, this next tip is focused on what the teams can do themselves: streamline their methodology. By using the same terminology and focusing on exactly the same goals, all of marketing and sales’ combined energy can be used towards attracting leads instead of wasting time decoding jargon and arguing strategies.
Commonly, the marketing and sales teams may each get too concentrated on a particular section of the buyer’s journey instead of seeing the big picture. If it’s clear what each group needs to do and how they can support one another, they’ll avoid getting stuck in this loop and you’ll find your business getting a lot further.
That also means knowing how and when each team should jump in to help the other, and when it’s best for each to stay on their own path. For example, if sales is struggling to sell a certain product or service, giving marketing the heads up can pick the conversion rates back up.
5. Great Minds Don’t Always Think Alike
While it may be easier if everyone agrees with each other all the time, disagreement and changing perspectives is what drives innovation!
It’s okay for marketing and sales to disagree and offer alternative ideas. However, the key here is that the discussion must be constructive and a solution should be reached. An informed discussion and full-blown argument are definitely not the same thing, so try to avoid hostile or destructive arguments in the workplace if problems arise.
A helpful tool to avoid drama is to rely on objective, quantitative evidence, found most effectively through joint data analysis. Why get caught up in emotional quarrels when the truth is just a few facts and figures away?
6. Integrate Sales into the Marketing Process
By now it’s probably quite clear that marketing and sales have more in common now than they used to before the age of the inbound philosophy. By combining content marketing with sales techniques, content can be used effectively throughout the entirety of the sales funnel.
Encouraging consistency between the two teams will result in an important change – the information that is passed on to clients, and the methods used to attract them in the first place, will remain unanimous through the entire process.
The number one problem facing the sales team is finding content to send to leads, so by integrating the two departments, creating this content and reusable conversation snippets will show up at the top of marketing’s to-do list!
7. Monitor Your Progress
Once the above steps have been put in place, the next step is to measure how successful these strategies have been in your B2B business. The same as you would when each team is operating separately, you should keep track of your analytics to find out if marketing and sales really are working together seamlessly, or if more changes need to be made.
In such a dynamic digital world, it’s no surprise that things are constantly changing, even within your business. So staying on your toes and being ready to make a change when needed will maximise your efforts and create a successful workplace for everyone involved.
It’s Worth the Effort
Ultimately, although it can take some time to adjust to the new collaboration, there are real benefits of aligning sales and marketing. Not only does it skyrocket the growth of your business as a whole, but it opens the possibility for a happier, more welcoming work environment.
All around, streamlining the two teams’ methods will benefit you more than only financially.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect of aligning marketing and sales? Drop us a comment below or contact us for further inquiries.
Svensson & Friends can help you with all things Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales – check out our free Inbound Marketing Audit here.