I was reading with interest recently the results of a study titled Sales Strategies for Thriving in a Post-Recession Economy, a 2011 Best Practices Study from sales organization Miller Heiman.  The focus of the study was to determine what activities and approaches separated world class sales organizations versus the rest.

A world class sales organization generally is better at:iStock_000016239877XSmall.jpg

  • Finding and winning new business.
  • Keeping existing customers.
  • Improving productivity among its sales teams.

They generally show 20% growth year-after-year in:

  • Qualified opportunities.
  • Account acquisition.
  • Account retention.
  • Productivity per sales person.
  • Quota achievement.

Companies react to a challenging economy by pointing to activities that produced less than satisfying results, such as cold calling, increased discounts, and targeting customers in non-traditional markets.  Returning focus to best practices, companies are working towards:

  • Formalizing a unique value proposition.
  • Redefining long-term objectives.
  • Increased departmental collaboration (sales and marketing).

Based on the results of the survey, Miller Heiman recommended 12 activities where sales leaders should focus their attention. Under each category is an initiative that will achieve those goals:

Increase the volume of qualified opportunities

  • Marketing and sales alignment with an open dialog and defined lead agreements.
  • A formalized value proposition that is compelling to prospects.

Acquire New Customers

  • Departmental collaboration to pursue large deals.
  • Use of social media to identify decision makers.

Managing Customer Relationships

  • Collaboration across departments to manage large accounts.
  • Communication and relationships with high level executives.

Enabling a High Performance Sales Force

  • Analysis on why top performing salespeople are successful.
  • Highly effective sales management team.

Infrastructure to Enable Sales Productivity Improvement

  • Sales performance metrics align with business goals.
  • Confidence in CRM data.

Leveraging Leadership for Results

  • Leverage best practices of top performers to improve everyone else.
  • Easily adapt to customer needs; know your customers.

How this affects marketing is clear.  Besides the crucial alignment initiative with sales, marketing can support sales by putting together a comprehensive content plan that includes market research, value proposition, social media, and tactics that improve lead quality.

Marketing and sales alignment will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Agreement on target audience; demographics, buyer personas.  By knowing customers, and matching content to those customers, organizations will increase lead quality and sales opportunities
  • Shared data and open dialog.  By collaborating on goals and acquisition tactics, marketing  will generate better, more qualified leads.
  • Increase lower in funnel sales.  While a lead nurturing/scoring program is occurring, sales people can spend more time with better opportunities rather than non-qualified leads.  Marketing and content, via lead nurturing, will activate old leads into future  opportunities.

No matter how you look at it, the best sales organizations rely on marketing to generate leads that are valuable, and those leads are converted because the content marketing develops contributes to the solving of your prospects business challenges.