In any company, there is a sales function and a marketing function. They are supposed to work together to help the organization secure business, earn revenue, and facilitate growth.
Oftentimes, because of the nature of their business, sales and marketing work at cross purposes and they lose focus on their ultimate objective of identifying, creating, and retaining customers.
In this article, we will discuss how sales and marketing can work together to form an effective B2B sales funnel.
But first, let’s explore the roles of sales and marketing within an organization.
Sales are the function of driving revenue with salespeople who follow a defined sales process. A typical sales process involves a research phase to ensure that the intended customer is a good fit to the company’s Ideal Customer Profile, a discovery phase where the salesperson gets to know the customer, understand their needs, and see where their solution can help solve the customer’s problem, a demonstration phase where the seller lets the buyer envision how their solution for a product or service can satisfy the buyer’s need.
A proposal phase is proactive and where the seller provides the customer with an outline of the work they will undertake and at what price. Sometimes a seller will instead be responding to a buyer’s request for a proposal (RFP). Up until this point in the sales process, prospective customers are referred to as “suspects,” meaning that they may be a good fit, but they have not expressed any interest in the company’s solutions and the company has not proposed any ways in which it could be of service. However, once a salesperson provides the prospective customer with a proposal, that prospective customer becomes known as a “prospect.”
In sales, the measurement of potential revenue and its progress towards realization is called a sales “funnel.” In a sales funnel, the probability of the salesperson closing the sale is now weighted with percentages demonstrating the likelihood of success. In the sales process, opportunities are weighted based on their probability of closing. This is called opportunity management and it looks something like this:
0% of the prospect is identified by researching the intended sales target company.
10% of the prospect is prequalified as a potential good fit in alignment with the company’s Ideal Customer Profile (I.D.C.).
25% of the prospect is qualified via a discovery call, and the opportunity is loaded into the sales funnel.
40% is when the buyer agrees to a demonstration, shows genuine buying interest, and is open to receiving a proposal.
50% is the assessment phase where the seller determines if the buyer has Budget, Authority, Need, and the Timeframe for implementation, (B.A.N.T.). Another component of the sale to be addressed at this phase is “why,” as in, “Why is the buyer making this purchase decision, why is my company being considered, and why is this timeframe for implementation important?”
60% is when a proposal is submitted to the buyer for consideration. (Pro tip: A good salesperson will have the boilerplate components of the contract pre-vetted by legal and IT when the proposal is initially submitted to the buyer so that the contract does not get held up at the bottom of the funnel by any issues not within the buyer’s control when it is ready to close).
75% is the negotiation phase where the buyer/decision-maker(s) asks clarifying questions that show an intent to purchase or express some objections that the seller will need to overcome to move the sale forward.
90% is when both parties agree to all the conditions of the purchase and the final contract is submitted for signature.
100% is when the sale is closed and the revenue can be recognized.
If the funnel can be trusted, and oftentimes that’s a big “if” because salespeople are not always disciplined in opportunity management, then revenue recognized can be forecasted beginning at 75% of probability.
At every phase of the sales funnel, sales are conducted by calling, emailing, texting, or other outreach to prospective and existing customers to guide them towards making a purchase. The process might be consultative, taking place over a long period and involving multiple decision-makers in which the salesperson learns about the customer and their pain points, and then helps them understand how their product or service offering can provide a solution.
Sales could also be tactical and a very short process involving just a single conversation with a salesperson before an agreement is finalized.
Although technology and social media have certainly influenced how sales are conducted, the essential steps of the sales process have pretty much remained the same.
Whereas sales are hands-on, marketing is a much more comprehensive process that does not generally interact with an individual customer but is designed to increase awareness of a brand
or product to target customers as a group.
Unlike sales, the methods, tactics, and channels used by marketers have evolved tremendously over the last fifteen years. Marketing today is primarily digital and includes content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, organic website traffic, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and the use of influencers and brand ambassadors.
The objective of the marketing department is to generate leads for the sales department. These leads start as “marketing qualified leads” (MQLs) and although these prospective buyers are not yet ready to purchase, they have expressed interest in a company’s product. When properly nurtured by the marketing department, these prospects become “sales qualified leads” (SQL’s) and are handed off by the marketing team to the sales team when they are likely to make a purchase.
This nurturing can occur via social media, email distribution, or other communication from the marketing team to keep the prospective client interested and engaged.
It would seem so easy for marketing to cultivate leads and hand them off to the sales team. However, this is often not the case. Too frequently marketing and sales are simply misaligned.
Just consider these statistics:
According to Upland, 55% of marketers don’t know which collateral their sales colleagues are most likely to use.
LinkedIn reports that only 46% of marketers describe sales and marketing as “highly aligned” at their company.
The Precision Marketing Group states that 25% of businesses describe their sales and marketing as either “misaligned” or “rarely aligned”.
This lack of synchronization between marketing and sales causes poor execution and lost opportunities.
According to LinkedIn’s Art of Winning Report, an estimated $1 trillion a year is lost due to a lack of sales and marketing coordination in the US alone.
An industry survey by InsideView found that the six biggest obstacles to sales and marketing
working together were:
Lack of accurate/shared data on target accounts and prospects (43%)
Use of different metrics (41%)
Broken/flawed processes (37%)
Lack of accountability on both sides (25%)
Reporting challenges (21%)
Simply put, marketing and sales need to collaborate more effectively to better manage today’s sales funnel. But how?
According to digital marketing strategist, Sujan Patel, there are three levels of marketing alignment:
The Emotional Level: Your Sales and Marketing teams should be working cohesively together and supporting each other. They should not be working at cross-purposes.
The Process Level: There need to be clear, measurable, sustainable, and repeatable processes in place to ensure that everyone within both the marketing and sales teams is pulling in the same direction and working in the same way.
The Feedback Loop Level: Marketing doesn’t always produce awesome leads. Sometimes they might suck. Nobody’s perfect. That’s why sales need to communicate back to marketing so there is a feedback loop between the two teams to either encourage good leads or stop wasting company resources on bad ones.
An effective partnership between sales and marketing is the #1 success factor attributed to achieving revenue goals. (Source: Heinz Marketing - Performance Management Report)
So, how can we get sales and marketing to work better together? It starts with having a project plan in place.
The first step is for sales and marketing to agree on what the ideal customer profile (I.D.C.) of a target customer should be. They need to agree on the characteristics that define the type of company (not the individual buyer or end-user) that will find the most value in their product or service offering. If done correctly, prospects that are aligned to the company’s IDC are most likely to become long-term customers who will give significant value back to the business in the form of possible subscription fees, upsells, and referrals. An easy way to identify the IDC of a company is to look at a list of their current best-performing customers and determine what attributes they have in common.
The next step is for sales to explain to marketing the steps of the sales funnel, how it works and what marketing resources are needed to migrate the prospective customer through it. Too often, marketing is concerned with branding and outreach, and they do not allocate sufficient resources to the sales team to give them the resources and collateral they need to expedite their sales.
Once sales and marketing are aligned regarding who the IDC of a company is and what marketing resources should be allocated to support the sales team, an organization can take its game up a level and begin to pursue account-based marketing (A.B.M.) opportunities.
Account-based marketing is when marketing and sales teams work together in a focused approach to target best-fit accounts and turn them into customers. When done correctly, marketing and sales teams meld their expertise to locate, engage with, and close deals with high-value accounts that offer a high ROI to their company.
The primary components of account-based marketing include:
Reaching the right accounts
Engaging across marketing channels
Determining effective metrics and measurements
According to LinkedIn research, businesses with strong sales and marketing alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals, 58% more effective at retaining customers, and drive 208% more revenue as a result of their marketing efforts.
So, whether an organization is pursuing a traditional marketing approach or a more targeted account-based marketing strategy, it is essential for marketing to work more closely with sales in vigorous and meaningful ways.
Today’s buyer is more knowledgeable and has access to more information about a prospective seller, their competition, and the marketplace than ever before. As a result, sales leaders need to demonstrate subject matter expertise in their area of commerce and leverage the content, tools, and resources that the marketing department can provide them to enhance their sales efforts.
Although good salespeople will find a way to close business, having the support of a well-synchronized marketing team behind them will help accelerate the sales process, increase revenue, boost profitability and facilitate greater customer satisfaction.