Sales MarketingIt’s time to talk about a big sales and marketing problem most companies have struggled with for years. I’m not talking about lead generation, market share, or customer retention, although it does impact each of those things and so much more. I’m talking about the chasm that separates Sales and Marketing.

Here’s a look at a typical day in the life of both Sales and Marketing.

The Day of a Marketer

A marketer works hard to generate leads for the sales team. She optimizes conversion opportunities throughout the company’s website, sends email campaigns, creates landing pages and uses them to deliver exceptional gated content. Her work brings in a steady flow of leads, which she passes on to the sales team. The more the better, right?

This marketer also toils away to create valuable marketing content and sales support resources. She emails the sales reps about new content as it is finalized and uploads it to the company’s Dropbox so everyone can access it. Success!

Her blood pressure escalates and she has to resist the urge to throw things – heavy things – when she learns the sales reps have barely even touched the leads she has been generating for them and that they have never even looked at most of the content she created. It’s frustrating, to say the very least.

Bottom Line: Marketing feels their work is undervalued and often ignored.

The Day of a Sales Rep

On the flip side, a sales rep spends her day traveling, responding to immediate requests of prospects, communicating with clients, working with her manager to do whatever it takes to close the sale – hers is a life of constant chaos and change.

She often has immediate needs for content to send to prospects. However, this often makes her frustrated because the materials she has access to are outdated or – worse yet – she can’t find anything at all that aligns with what she needs. This often means she creates content on the spot, which requires time she simply doesn’t have. She wonders why Marketing doesn’t produce the content she needs.

To top it off, throughout the day, she constantly receives notifications from Marketing about new leads she is supposed to follow up with, which adds pressure to her already stress-filled day. She doesn’t have time to stay on top of communication with the prospects she’s currently nurturing, let alone a new list of leads every day. Besides, when she has taken the time to follow up in the past, the leads weren’t qualified and it ended up being a waste of her time.

Bottom Line: Sales doesn’t feel adequately supported or understood by Marketing.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

Unfortunately, this situation is extremely common in today’s businesses. Marketers are not alone in their feelings of being undervalued and ignored. Did you know that as much as 80% of leads produced by marketing will never be acted upon by a sales rep? And according to the American Marketing Association, a staggering 90% of selling content is never actually used in selling.

Sales reps, too, are justified in their frustration. According to the CMO Council, instead of selling, sales people spend upwards of 40% of their time creating their own messaging and tools. Also, only 27% of the leads sent to sales by marketing are qualified first.

Pretty bleak statistics, right? So why is this happening? It’s that chasm I mentioned earlier between Sales and Marketing – that’s why. These two teams are disconnected in a big way and it’s taking a toll on the companies they work for.

It’s time to close the gap and align Sales and Marketing for good. While you would probably agree, you may not fully understand why it’s so important or what you can do to help. I hope to change that in the remainder of this blog post.

Why Sales and Marketing MUST Align

Reason #1: Customers Notice

As many as 57% of customers feel that salespeople are poorly prepared or not prepared at all for initial meetings. Could it be that these sales reps didn’t have the resources needed to properly prepare for these initial meetings? After all, these first meetings with prospective customers are important to sales reps – they are key milestones in the sales process! The vast majority of sales reps would certainly want to be prepared for them so they could be as successful as possible. They just didn’t have the content they needed to prepare.

Sales reps need content to effectively engage prospects and close sales. But not just any content will do. They need content that speaks directly to the needs, challenges and preferences of prospects. And they need to be able to access the most current versions of it whenever they need it.

What You Can Do

Take the first step toward Sales and Marketing alignment and talk to the sales reps directly. Work to clearly understand the challenges they face throughout the sales process. Ask them about the gaps they see in your marketing content. Try to understand how they need to access content and when and where they need it most. Attempt to learn what marketing support has worked and what has not – and why. Listen to their feedback and list the ways you can better serve your sales reps.

One strategy I like to use is asking sales reps to write down questions they frequently receive from prospects. Then, use this list of FAQs as a list of content you can create to directly support the sales reps the next time they encounter such inquiries.

The important takeaway here is that marketers can take the first step toward Sales and Marketing alignment by starting a simple conversation with sales reps. Just ask them what they need and work out a way to deliver it.

Reason #2: Sales Saturation

When Sales and Marketing aren’t aligned, inefficiencies are bound to happen. Like the examples given above, chances are pretty good that Marketing is delivering leads that Sales will never touch. With the increase in adoption of marketing automation platforms and their ability to help marketers do more than ever before, marketers are capable of generating a lot of leads. That’s great. What’s not so great is when they just pass them all along to sales.

Why is this such a problem? Sales saturation. What’s that, you ask? It’s simply when sales reps are given more leads than they are physically able to follow up with. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’ve been striving to reach a lead generation goal of 20 leads per rep per week. That sounds great! That is, until you learn that each rep typically has about two hours per week to follow up with leads and each lead typically requires about 30 minutes of follow up time. You now realize that each rep has the capacity to follow up with just four leads each week. You have been working hard to send them 20.

See the problem here? In this scenario, you would be sending them 16 more leads than they can physically handle. Every. Single. Week.

What you thought was great marketing success was actually sales saturation. And it was leading to neglected leads.

What You Can Do

As the previous example mentioned briefly, one of the first steps in solving this problem is by talking to your sales reps and Sales leadership to understand the realistic number of leads each rep can follow up with each week. Then adjust your lead deliver accordingly.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should try to generate fewer leads. Not at all. Instead, it means you may need to nurture them and better qualify them before passing them on to Sales.

More work for marketing? Perhaps. But wouldn’t you prefer that you work was actually used? By nurturing leads before handing them off to Sales, you increase the chances of the leads you deliver actually becoming customers.

On average, nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. What’s more, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more leads that are truly sales-ready. Even better – they produce these leads a third of the cost of companies that aren’t so great at lead nurturing.

Invest some time in better understanding Sales and each rep’s capacity for following up with leads. Then refine your lead nurturing process to improve the quality and rethink the quantity of leads you deliver to sales.

Reason #3: Wasted Revenue

When sales reps spend time searching for or creating content, this not only duplicates the efforts of marketing, it also pulls them away from important sales opportunities. And those wasted opportunities add up to wasted revenue – lots of it.

Consider this: A study by IDC found that by saving a single sales rep just 60 minutes of prep time each week, a company could realize additional revenue generation $300,000 or more per rep! In a company with just 10 reps, that’s $3 million each year. If you’ve got 100 reps, that’s a staggering $300MM per year.

If just 60 minutes of prep time can translate into $300,000 in revenue, just imagine how much potential revenue is wasted in your organization as sales reps struggle to find the content they need.

What You Can Do

Clear out the clutter. As you work to build a better relationship with your sales reps and establish more frequent, meaningful communication, look for ways you can reduce the clutter – in both of your lives.

Quite often, technology can help here. There are apps available today to help manage content. Anything from Google Drive to Basecamp, Dropbox to Salesforce – any number of tools can serve as a virtual marketing library for your content. Each one is available anywhere and on any device with an internet connection so sales reps should have no problem getting the content they need whenever they need it.

If you can commit to making only the most current versions of content available in this marketing library, ask your sales reps to also make a commitment. Ask them to retrieve these up-to-date versions of content whenever they need to use it – instead of using outdated content stored elsewhere or creating their own.

Close the gap between Sales and Marketing. Take the first step by reaching out to Sales to better understand their challenges and needs. Work together to better serve your customers. Sure, it will improve your business and probably increase revenue, but it will also improve your workplace happiness, and can you really put a price on that?

How are YOU closing the gap between Sales and Marketing? Share your advice in the comments section below.

Read more: For CEOs: What You Need to Know About Sales AND Marketing