13 Ways Sales and Marketing can Combine to Close More Deals

13 Ways Sales and Marketing can Combine to Close More Deals

Do you feel like your sales team is endlessly spinning its wheels?

Your reps are always busy, and they have lots and lots of leads, but despite the fact that they’re constantly selling – somehow you’re not hitting your sales targets.

A low conversion rate and exhausted reps isn’t a great combination.

Clearly, something has gone wrong.

Part of the problem: your team may have too many leads.

While you may think having a heap of leads is a good thing, sales can be counter intuitive. Quantity is far less important than quality.

According to Pipedrive’s Global Sales Performance Review, the best sales organizations add half as many deals into their pipelines as other organizations, but win at least twice as many.

In other words, the best salespeople aren’t filling up their sales pipeline and wasting their time and energy on junk leads that don’t (and won’t) convert.

A clogged pipeline can be demoralizing for the whole sales team: they’re working hard and spreading themselves out over a lot of leads, but not seeing a lot of results. Certain individuals may start questioning their ability as their conversion rates dwindle and sales targets are missed. This can cause serious blows to a salesperson’s confidence.

As a manager, you owe it to both your team and to your employer to get more high-value, targeted leads into the pipeline. You need to focus more of your time working on leads that are more likely to convert.

And there’s one unexpectedly effective (and scarcely talked about) way to help your sales team…

How marketing can help you focus on the highest quality leads

Sales and marketing are often at odds.

Although both teams have the same goal — to increase revenue — both teams have different approaches, different budgets and different personalities. This can cause tensions (or even create enemies) between the two.

Marketing may not be providing sales with adequately qualified leads, and sometimes sales may neglect the leads marketing sends through to them.

You need to find a shared purpose for sales and marketing, because content marketing can help to provide your sales team with better-educated, well-informed leads who are ready to buy.

Marketing can save your team time, stress and effort by allowing you to refine your sales pipeline and focus on more of the best quality leads.

You just need to learn how to make marketing your secret sales weapon.

Your content marketing program should be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for your reps: reeling in leads, answering frequently asked questions, and identifying leads who are ready to talk to a salesperson by observing the way those prospects interact with your brand’s content.

If this doesn’t sound like your marketing department, don’t worry; we’re here to help.

Below is a step-by-step process for working with marketing to generate better leads and hit your sales targets.

1. Tell marketing what questions your prospects are asking at each stage of the sales process

Sometimes you’ve got to give a little to get a little.

Marketing is desperate for insights into prospects wants and needs. Your sales reps talk to those people every day. They know what prospects want and how often certain questions are asked.

If you can give a list of those questions to marketing, the team can build content that answers those questions – so you and your sales team don’t have to waste your time continually covering old ground. Marketing can create content in the form of a FAQ page, blog posts, or other content you can easily share with prospects. Your prospects will welcome this; according to research from Forrester, 78 percent of buyers were put off by the fact that salespeople weren’t offering them relevant content to help them research and understand your offering.

2. Ask marketing to share their buyer personas

Marketing puts a lot of work into creating buyer personas: profiles of very specific ideal customers for your product or service.

These personas include information like age, position in the company, pain points, even favorite television shows.

One of the most important things is language. The buyer personas include the language a buyer uses when he or she talks about the problems your product addresses. Deals are being lost because salespeople don’t know who their ideal customer is, and where to find them.

For proof of that, look no further than research from Forrester, which found that more than 75 percent of prospects feel the salespeople who contact them don’t understand their business, role at work, or even the problem they’re trying to solve.

Those are huge oversights that can be solved with a simple buyer persona developed in conjunction with sales and marketing teams.

3. Explain (diplomatically) why the leads you’re getting from marketing don’t work for you

According to Demand Gen’s report, one of the top complaints sales has about marketing is that they’re not sent good leads, while one of the top complaints marketing has about sales is that the leads they send over aren’t being followed up.

Don’t just rush into a meeting and start complaining about the terrible quality of marketing’s leads. Instead, explain what a solid lead looks like for the sales team, based on what leads have converted in the past. Use that information to develop a lead scoring system that works for both of you.

4. Examine your sales team’s biases about “good leads”

Is your idea of a good lead based on data or your gut? Is your team ignoring bona fide marketing qualified leads (MQLs) because they don’t “feel right”?

To quote Paul Wander of Inviqa, “feelings are not always a good thing” in sales.

Once you’ve got a solid formula to determine MQLs, use it and follow up on all those leads quickly and efficiently to make sure you’re not wasting time on leads that won’t go anywhere.

5. Know that the definition of an MQL is always changing

Keep working with marketing to refine your formula for qualifying leads.

On the marketing side, this means keeping an eye on how leads behave when they engage with content, and whether that behavior further qualifies them.

On the sales end, this means measuring the leads that convert and adjusting the MQLs so that new leads resemble existing customers.

It may also mean adjusting your process; tools like Pipedrive’s Contacts Timeline can show you what activities prompted a lead to convert, so you can duplicate the process with other, similar leads.

6. Work together to refine the fields in your lead generation forms

If you’re not getting good leads from marketing, maybe the lead generation forms on your site don’t match your needs.

Maybe your best leads are college administrators who have a specific minimum budget.

A well-crafted lead generation form with the right fields can isolate those leads and get them directly into your pipeline.

7. Keep the data in your CRM up to date

Things change. People leave jobs. Companies move. Businesses close. Don’t let MQLs sit in your CRM forever.

Strike while the iron is hot, but also make sure the data doesn’t decay, or a solid lead now might be useless in a few months.

Pipedrive’s Founder and CEO, Timo Rein learnt the importance of how to lose better in sales the hard way:

“Like most salespeople, I made a lot of mistakes early in my career.  But I was taught an axiom rather soon – ‘70% of all deals should be winnable.’

By learning to mark deals lost earlier in the sales process and of my own accord helped me spend more time on deals that were winnable and less on those that weren’t. Consequently, I felt that the deals I spent time on were genuinely at least 70% winnable, keeping my sales pipeline clean and my sales velocity high.”

Every week, review all open deals as well as the lost deals from the previous week. Understand your losing and winning categories (on price, on product features, in a specific industry, or other) and make this clear to your marketing team. Together, you can fine-tune your tactics on a regular basis by learning from this knowledge.

Work with marketing to make sure you both know your ideal customer profile, and figure out how to get as many prospects who fit the profile into your pipeline.

8. Let marketing turn your reps into thought leaders

Customers aren’t always excited to hear from a sales rep, but according to LinkedIn, 92 percent of B2B prospects will engage with someone who is seen as a thought leader.

Marketing can use the info you give them to create content that makes your sales reps into experts who share information that speaks to your prospects’ needs.

Your sales reps use their social media to send out the content your marketing team creates

It’s a win-win-win: the content makes your reps look good, prospects start seeing your reps as experts, and you can turn that newfound industry authority into trust – which will help you convert more deals..

9. Share data with marketing, so they can give you content to share for every stage in the sales funnel

What’s worse than checking in with a prospect by sending an email with the subject like “Just checking in”?

You know what you’re doing, the prospect knows what you’re up to, but you have to touch base with them, so here you are.

Marketing can make this awkward exchange go away by providing you with premium content.

Use your marketing assets in conjunction with your knowledge of cognitive bias to make sure you can avoid the awkwardness and develop genuinely effective sales conversation starters.

What is premium content and how does it solve your subject line problem? This sort of high-value content — infographics, white papers, ebooks, and case studies —  is usually stashed behind lead generation forms. Since your prospect is already in your pipeline, you can use this content to get back in touch with a prospect, especially if it speaks to that prospect’s needs.

It’s a helpful reason to contact. Rather than saying ‘just touching base’ you can say ‘Hey, I remember that you were trying to improve your organization’s internal communication with remote employees. We’ve just published a white paper that deals with that issue.’

Once you’ve added value for that prospect, then you can move them further into the funnel.

10. Let marketing nurture your leads

There’s one more simple way for marketing to cut down the leads in your pipeline (and cut down on those awful “just checking in” emails)

Develop a process for marketing to find prospects who aren’t ready to buy and take them off your hands.

If a qualified lead is passed to the sales team but they aren’t ready to buy – you need to pass the prospect back over to marketing and let them nurture the lead until the prospect really is ready for you.

(Work out a clear sales definitions and criteria for triggering this process this ahead of time, so you’re not shooting a curt email about an unqualified lead to the marketing team.)

11. Look past closing the deal

You want to sell once, and keep the customer for life.

Keep sending premium content from marketing to prospects even after you’ve made the sale, especially if that content directly relates to the prospect’s needs or pain points.

The next time that customer needs something your organization can provide, they’ll go to their trusted, helpful authority source. You earn credibility with your content. You can convert that trust into more revenue when the time is right.

In the meantime, you can encourage your customer to share your content with their network and act as an unpaid brand ambassador.

12. Trust marketing to do the marketing

Even if you get comfortable with using content to help you in the sales process, please, don’t try to create the content marketing yourself, and discourage your reps from doing so.

A recent Demand Gen Survey found 75 percent of buyers are put off by salesy language.

It’s marketing’s job to write content that’s not a hard sell.

And remember: if you’ve got a good relationship with marketing, you won’t need to take on the work of writing marketing materials yourself. You can focus your sales team’s time on closing deals with the best quality leads.

One more bonus (and important) step you need to take

Talk to your marketing team. Regularly!

This one seems like stating the obvious – but regular meetings between sales and marketing are easier said than done.

When surveyed by Demand Gen Report, 49 percent of sales and marketing leaders said the biggest challenge to alignment between their teams is communication. Sales and marketing just aren’t talking.

So the most important task to help you work with marketing to close more deals is to develop a regular meeting.

You and the marketing team are going to need to come up with a set of unified goals.

If you only take one action after reading this article, make it this one.

(But of course – you’re going to action all 13!!!)

Start making friends with marketing right now. Increased conversion rates await.

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AJ O'Connell

A.J. O’Connell is an author and journalist, and serves as a field reporter for Pipedrive. Elsewhere, her work has appeared on several trailblazing websites, including The Next Web, The Mary Sue, The Establishment, The Billfold and SkilledUp. Read more of her work at ajoconnell.com.

  • Chris Mooney

    Great article, perhaps some medium sized businesses (myself included) make the mistake of identifying sales and marketing as the one unit. This article helped me understand more clearly that they can work in with one another but are actually in some ways seperate.

  • Thanks for sharing, AJ. Each point is relevant and easily amendable. To your point about focusing on “quality over quantity”; I have seen businesses on the fast track to limitless success, only to find themselves spread too thin… So they are not only wasting valuable time chasing mediocre leads, but are trying to juggle far more potential new clients than they are capable of providing the valued customer service that help retain long lasting quality partners.

    Have a great day!

    Brian Milner