Where Sales Can Lead Marketing Off Course

Where Sales Can Lead Marketing Off Course

There's a reason why B2B marketers have issues in alignment with their sales-oriented colleagues. It's really not all that hard to figure out. Basically it's about perspective.

Where marketing demand generation programs are focused primarily on the pre-sales stages of buying, sales is focused on what happens after a lead is qualified and, hopefully, a deal is imminent.

I'm a huge advocate for marketing and sales alignment and collaboration, but there are times were it's not wise to take salespeople's input as the gospel. It's not because they're wrong, it's simply that their areas of interest and focus are different.

This means that marketers have to develop their interpretation skills and evaluate what sales tells them in a way that allows their input to be more useful than harmful.

A few of the things salespeople have been know to say that marketers need to take with a grain of salt may include:

"We don't need to educate our prospects - they already know they need to solve the problem."

This is one of my favorites. Why? Because if the person doesn't know they need what the sales rep is selling, the sales rep disqualifies them as having too long of a horizon and goes looking for others who are closer to the buying window.

The problem with this assumption is that if your company's marketing programs are not educating prospects about the problem then you're not in the early conversation. Trust me, someone else is doing the education and it's likely your competitors. This means what the prospect learns about the problem is slanted in your competitor's favor.

And, if salespeople could back up their thinking, they'd realize that educating prospects is the precursor to "building the RFP." In other words, if you're not out there helping the market shape the conversation about what the problem is, how best to solve it and why do it now - you're just plain giving an advantage to competitors. And that means your salespeople need to work twice as hard to break through and get their ideas into the conversation.

So, salespeople are essentially making their lives harder by telling marketing that your prospects are already educated, so don't bother. I mean, really. Think about this. Then, if you still don't buy it, go read the section in Dan Ariely's book, Predictably Irrational, focused on anchors. That's what you want your company to be. The anchor for your prospects ideas about solving the problem.

"We want all the leads marketing generates, so give them to us directly upon opt in."

This one is predicated on the idea that sales reps don't want to miss any hot leads so they go after all the twitching contacts that marketing can find, regardless of buying stage or qualification. Gauging the readiness of new opt-ins is a solid idea. It just lacks something in the execution when left to salespeople. They're looking for one thing, and one thing only — a sales opportunity.

The problem with this approach to lead generation is that your CRM becomes a dumping ground for leads that sales reps choose not to pursue. They sit dormant and unloved. When you consider that, maybe, 15% of leads generated are in the later stages of buying, you're wasting a lot of lead gen spend. In essence, if you're generating 100 new leads per month, 85 of them are likely being wasted.

Change that. Make it a priority this year. Your accountability rating with the company will earn a major boost.

Based on culture, this is sometimes hard to do, but it must be done. Take those leads back and put them into nurturing programs. [The optimal process would be for marketing to score the leads and only transition those who match an agreed upon, ideal lead definition.] After all, 85% of the leads you generate have the possibility of becoming future sales — if you pay attention to them appropriately.

"Your content and collateral doesn't work. We'll create our own, thank you very much."

This is, unfortunately, very often true. However, given that much of the buying process now occurs prior to sales engagement (up to 70% according to Sirius Decisions), this attitude and process can halt buying momentum and create a fragmented experience for your buyers.

Well, that's if marketing is telling a comprehensive story mapped across buying stages.

Consider the scenario where prospects are moving right along, engaging with the content presented by marketing and have interpreted it as relevant and valuable to them up to the point they choose to enter a dialogue with sales. Then sales comes along and starts telling them a wholly different story. One that halts their momentum because they have to restart how they're thinking about the issue at hand.

This happens all the time. Trust me, salespeople creating content in a vacuum is as bad as marketing creating content in a vacuum. Two stories that orient your buyers differently do not speak highly of your company as in having the right hand know what the left is doing, if you will.

One key example of this is that salespeople like that slide with the hundred customer logos. They think it gives the company depth. Good marketing stories will focus on the scenarios that are most relevant to the prospect segment (persona) that marketing content is shared with. The logo menagerie is company oriented (look at us - we've got all these great clients) and the scenario version is prospect oriented (look at how someone like you is solving the same problem—and doing it successfully)

These are just a few ideas to get you to start looking at what sales says from their orientation and perspective and hoping you realize how what they say can serve to take your marketing programs off course. Sales has good ideas, but they need to be adapted to work the earlier stages of marketing.

Salt is your friend.

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