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    Pass the baton, not the blame

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    Ever heard of sales and marketing not getting along? You’re not alone. Aligning marketing and b2b sales has quickly become a top priority for companies around the world. What’s the perceived problem, in 50 words or less? I’m glad you asked:

    Sales is not happy with the quality of leads passed from marketing (“They’re nowhere near ready to buy!”), whereas marketing believes that sales squanders the opportunities that marketing so brilliantly brought to the surface (“You haven’t even called him? He downloaded our whitepaper AND attended the webinar!”).

    What are the consequences of this misalignment? To name a few: lost revenue, opportunities falling through the cracks and decreased motivation. So, how do we move past the current “he started it”/“no, she started it” sibling rivalry and implement a process by which we pass the baton rather than the blame? How do we work together to turn more leads into paying customers?

    1. Apply a holistic perspective

    In order to close the loop, you need to address a number of questions concerning all hand-over points. When is marketing allowed to hand over to sales? Under which circumstances can sales hand back to marketing for further nurturing? How do we use our technology and tools to automate these hand-over points as much as possible?

    Answering these questions will require thoughtful discussions. Are a certain lead score and things you can Google sufficient for the initial hand-over? How will sales practically go about handing back a prospect for further nurturing if they’re not ready right now?

    Whichever criteria you apply for the various hand-over points, make sure they’re properly defined, documented and understood by everyone concerned. This will save a lot of time and bring back transparency and accountability.

    2. Get sales on board with qualification

    In comparison to won opportunities, sales representatives spend up to 65% more time on deals that do not close. I’ll say that again: 65%.

    Keeping your pipeline free of poor-quality opportunities is vital, which means sales people need the fortitude and skill set to walk away from prospects who are unlikely to become profitable customers. The qualification is not done after a lead is handed over from marketing to sales; it’s only just begun. Sales must ask, and answer, a number of questions before allowing the prospect to move into the opportunity pipeline.

    How does sales qualify with quality? Best practice questions include:

    • Can we demonstrate sufficient value?
    • Can we deliver with profit?
    • Can we compete?

    As they say, the devil is in the details. Your sales team needs to agree on what each question actually means. How do you define sufficient value? How can you calculate the investment of time and resources in an opportunity and compare it to its likely return? How will each sales person map the competitors that he/she is likely to face and decide whether it’s a deal worth pursuing?

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    3. Automate the hand-over points, where possible

    Creating an effective hand-over process is hard to pull off. It’s often manual and includes multiple emails, so things are prone to fall between the cracks. Fortunately, we now have tools and technology to automate workflows and free up time.

    Make sure your sales and marketing platforms are, or can be, integrated. Use the integration to set up automated workflows where hand-over points are managed. Sales-ready leads can automatically be imported from your marketing platform to your sales system. Sales should be able to hand back select prospects to marketing for further nurturing with a few clicks, rather than relying on emails that disappear in overflowing inboxes.

    Like most things in life, bringing sales and marketing together is not a quick fix. Turning more leads into paying customers requires agreements, definitions and automated workflows supported by the right tools and technology. So get your teams together and get aligned.

    Fredrik Jonsson
    Published October 20, 2014
    By Fredrik Jonsson

    You know people that get excited about things like pomodoros and timeboxing strategies? Fredrik is one of them. He's also a former freelance writer and subsequently a man of many words. Words used to help companies take action on better ways to increase sales effectivenes. Fredrik is our Chief Content Officer at Membrain, the world's first sales software helping companies move from merely having a sales strategy towards executing it on a daily basis.

    Find out more about Fredrik Jonsson on LinkedIn