Marketing and sales teams have traditionally fought different battles on different B2B battlefields, rarely analysing each others’ objectives or taking into consideration each others’ strategies.

While unhelpful, in traditional marketing and sales organisations this didn’t really impede business performance, but it didn’t improve it either, and it seems it didn’t really matter, because the true disadvantage to an enterprise was almost invisible. That is, until now.

Increasingly competitive markets

The issue is now that as markets have increased in size, and as consumption has grown in B2B markets, so has the level of supply and the number of enterprises competing for the same business.

This means that however you look at it – from a marketing or sales perspective – gaining and maintaining market share has become ever-more challenging. And market analysis with demographic projections indicates exponential growth in market competition.

Refocusing revenue generation

Given this rapid growth in competition in B2B markets, marketing and sales teams need to bring together and redirect their firepower in a more cohesive way, building an integrated marketing and sales system designed to turn contacts into qualified leads and finally, to customers.

To achieve this is a massive cultural shift, and to make it happen, marketing and sales departments need to do some reciprocal navel-gazing in order to understand why their end-goals are the same – revenue generation – but their approaches are so different:

  • Marketing team project development is often long-term, and will typically include continuing brand development; in enterprises where digital marketing systems are well-established the generation of qualified marketing leads is common, and often managed using marketing automation (MA) systems.Marketers work with both historical analysis and metrics with market projections to focus on increasing brand recognition, while scoring and nurturing leads for the long haul market growth using MA technologies.
  • Sales teams work in the here and now, and with greater immediacy as they work to meet monthly or quarterly key performance indicators (KPIs).Within this, individual salespeople will also seek opportunities to help solve a prospect’s equipment, supply or service issues to add the personal touch to their service that may tip the balance to a sale.
  • The disconnect is that the marketing team cannot see any of this sales activity, and none of the ongoing marketing activity is visible to sales people, so there is no cohesion. And if there was to be cohesion, it would require technology as well as cultural transition.

Strategy versus tactics

The traditional sales funnel process assumes a large number of contacts are filtered down into leads, then down to prospects, and finally down to customers. But if this is the case in a traditional marketing and sales strategy, it is sub-optimal for two reasons:

Reason #1

Today, B2B customers have a tendency to educate themselves online before they consider purchase options and vendors, by making a close initial evaluation of products and services.

Reason #2

If this is the case, following a traditional marketing and sales approach means marketing remains in one silo and sales in another, in a market where now both teams need to work together to deliver the personalised communications prospects now expect.

Linear sales funnel optimisation

So what is now needed is a delineated, integrated marketing and sales strategy within an enterprise’s revenue generation organisational structure, offering a flat, linear organisation designed to play to, and deliver on, both marketing and sales team strengths.

Source: Marketo, Inc.

This delineated, integrated strategy means that at the top of the sales funnel the marketing team creates strong brand awareness and through continued MA activity, ensures your audience engages with your brand and as the relationship develops start to feel they can trust you.

Sales pick up the marketing baton

As this MA relationship management develops and is tracked, monitored and lead-scored, so there comes the optimum point at the middle of the sales funnel where the sales team needs to take the communications baton, and pick up the phone to this now engaged contact.

This is because the engaged individual while interacting with your enterprise – and being lead-scored as such – may now either need to be moved along the sales funnel as a sales lead or recycled further back up the funnel as a target for further nurturing.

Marketing Automation leads to human judgement

So, the sales team have now decided which sales leads move forward towards the bottom of the funnel, and which engaged individuals need to be recycled back for more nurturing by the marketing team, dependent on lead score.

The sales team is also now responsible for converting the acquired sales leads into satisfied and loyal customers who are also ready to buy again at the next sales opportunity.

Optimisation through reciprocation

This is integrated marketing and sales: marketing delivered engaged, brand-aware prospects, and sales converted these individuals to customers at the optimum point in the sales funnel.

At this critical point in the sales funnel where the sales team has the option to recycle engaged individuals that are not ready to buy, so it is important that marketing has provided good enough sales leads for the sales team to deliver significant sales revenue performance.

Defining concrete definitions

Working out and aligning business language will be the single most critical element in integrating marketing and sales team thinking and the aligning to the primary business objective: revenue generation.

Aligning both marketing and sales teams to the same revenue goal is a critical first step in the journey, but the strategy for getting there needs to be defined by both teams to clarify three key elements of the matrix:

01. Lead scoring

Lead scoring is a system used in MA for ranking leads to establish their sales-readiness. Leads are scored based on the interest they have shown in your products and services, their current place in the buying cycle, and their fit with regard to your business. It helps companies know whether prospects need to be fast-tracked to sales or recycled back up the sales funnel and developed with further nurturing.

Lead scoring is critical in optimising revenue generation performance and your revenue cycle, and will deliver highly effective results if marketing and sales work together to define lead-scoring parameters.

02. Lead Generation definitions

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a prospect that the marketing team has worked with, possibly using MA, and has lead-scored as a potential buyer. A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is a lead that the sales team is committed to seeking to convert, and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a prospect that the sales team thinks is ready or almost ready to buy.

When both teams agree what specifically qualifies as an MQL, SAL or SQL, they will then have the understanding, culture and cohesive approach that will deliver greater business efficiency and revenue generation performance.

03. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs between marketing and sales teams need to be fully understood by both teams at each phase of the revenue cycle. For example, when marketing pass an MQL to the sales team, they will need to know how long the sales team will take as a maximum to make contact with that individual.

Conversely, if the sales team recycles a lead back further up the sales funnel, how long will it take the marketing team to respond, and what would be the next action?

Fast-track IMS

This process of changing business culture, integrating marketing and sales operations, creating a clear understanding of interdepartmental terminology and respective KPIs will rapidly evolve a culture of revenue generation rather that simplistic marketing and sales activity.

To get there does require specialist help and associated cost from a digital agency with expertise in MA systems such as Marketo or Hubspot, and customer relationship management (CRM) platform experience with Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.

But if you select the right agency, their team will be able to calculate this expenditure in time and money and determine timeframes to return on investment (ROI), meaning before you take the leap, you’ll know exactly where you’re going to land.

This post was originally published on the Novacom blog.