The Montagues versus the Capulets, the Hatfields versus the McCoys... and, yes, adding Marketing versus Sales to the list of historical feuds seems appropriate.
On average, businesses with positive alignment between Marketing and Sales teams achieve 20% revenue growth per year, whereas enterprises with poor alignment experience a 4% revenue reduction, according to HubSpot.
So, how do we get this intra-departmental strife under control?
Marketers should embrace the lead handoff as the beginning of a new phase that requires its own content strategy focused on supporting Sales as it attempts to convert leads into customers.
By implementing a post-lead strategy, you can positively influence sales conversations and business outcomes. Supporting the sales team after the handoff creates a shift: The sales organization, overall, becomes more effective and ultimately sells more products or services.
The following are some ways marketers can maximize lead conversion after the handoff.
The Right Content
As marketing professionals we often think about the buyers, their buying process, and their place in the pipeline. As a result of that mindset, however, the salesperson tends to get second billing. Sellers can benefit from having the right internal sources to use at the right time in the sales process—materials that help facilitate a fruitful sales conversation and serve as a way to tee up prospect-facing material.
Think about how your materials not only help to engage the prospect but also aid sales in having high-quality selling conversations that help them qualify prospects, stay on message, and differentiate appropriately.
The key is developing a combination of sales aids relevant to the buying process:
- Make Sales assets relevant to where the seller is in the organization. Ask yourself questions such as these: What products/services are they responsible for selling? Are they new to the organization or are they senior staff members? Do they sell to specific buyer personas or vertical markets or both?
- Sales assets should also be relevant to the buyer's journey and the sales cycle. Sales aids should, for example, be available at the specific points in the sales cycle where they are most relevant. If these aids are tailored for the prospect type and point in the sales cycle, that's even better yet.
- More and more organizations are finding a way to automatically recommend content so that reps don't have to search through hundreds of docs (or across portals and management systems) for what they need. Best-practices include pushing this content through the seller's system of choice—often the CRM, where they already spend the majority of their time.
Finally, when creating the actual content, think about providing marketing collateral that can be delivered in short internal bursts of relevant information that is easily accessed.
As many cognitive psychologists have pointed out, it is better to learn and retain small chunks of information, frequently, than big chunks, infrequently.
Mapping the Buying Process to the Sales Process
Engaging a prospect at the earliest stages of the buying cycle, such as during the awareness or education stage, is very different from doing so in later stages, such as consideration and decision.
Remember that in the early stages of the buying cycle, the goal is to make prospects aware that there are solutions to issues they might be facing and to promote your company as a thought leader. Assets might include whitepapers, contributed articles, social media posts, and the like.
The second phase, the education phase, is focused on narrowing down the best solution and researching what solution is the best fit. Accordingly, provide information that will help prospects more clearly define their problem and identify options to fix it: articles, blogs, case studies, videos, and webinars that help define the problem your product or services solve and their advantage.
Once buyers have their choices narrowed down to just a few companies, they'll return to the research stage again: 70% of buyers return to Google at least 2-3 times during the course of their research, diving even deeper into each company's specific offerings to see how they can address particular pain points, according to Pardot's State of demand generation report. You can help to continue to push them in the direction of buying from you by providing your sales team with the following kinds of content marketing at this stage: customer testimonials, comparative statistics, current industry trends, and additional product information.
The final phase, the one that is often overlooked, is the decision to buy. As potential customers enter this final phase, they already have a pretty good idea what they want. It's time for the proposal, price negotiation, reference checks, and additional value or business justification.
Nothing speaks louder than the experience of your current customers. Have case studies and customer testimonials on hand to show prospects what others have achieved by choosing you, and how positive their experience has been.
Never stop articulating and confirming value that is unique, and what problem you are helping the buyer to solve.
Technology and Measurement
Measurement empowers an organization both to identify areas of optimization and to maximize lead conversion. That means benchmarking different phases of the pipeline and analyzing where the process has room for improvement.
Marketing automation tools, such as Marketo, Act-On, and Eloqua, track and manage top and middle funnel engagement well. However, as leads and opportunities get assigned to sales reps, marketers often lose sight of the content that sellers use to maintain prospect engagement through the rest of the buyer's journey.
So, for closed loop visibility, look for technologies that track sales usage and report back to marketing automation tools. With full visibility, marketers can better determine which support content is moving the needle toward a sale, and which is not.
Also important is to provide a mechanism for sales reps to rate the content they find most helpful. That data, combined with other information, can help drive more intelligent investment in sales support efforts. For example, if a case study is strongly tied to high-dollar wins for the quarter, but sales reps rate it only three out of five stars, that may signal that it's a high-value asset that could benefit from an update.
Together, these mechanisms provide marketing and sales leaders better visibility into the entire lead-to-customer conversion process and will move the needle for the 79% of content marketers who report having little success in tracking content ROI.
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Those are just a few steps you can take to help better align marketing and sales goals. According to SiriusDecisions, "B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24 percent faster three-year revenue growth, and 27 percent faster three-year profit growth." The motivation is clear.
Strategically focusing on post-lead handoff is good news for content marketers looking to achieve their mission to help grow sales. Creating content for post lead handoff that is closely aligned with the sales process—and which is then tracked and measured for impact—is proven to help increase lead conversions and joint Marketing and Sales success.
Although, no matter what phase you're in, sellers need their support content customized accordingly. Help them by identifying gaps at each stage of the cycle where sellers need support, then work to create the right assets to close these gaps, such as quick training bursts, messaging and question examples, customer testimonials, and other aids that enable better selling conversations.
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