When a company launches a product and it fails to attract much notice or move the revenue needle, the result is always predictable – and unhelpful. The internal response is something like this:
Sales: “Marketing didn’t do their jobs.”
Marketing: “Nope, Sales didn’t do their jobs.”
Sound familiar? It should, because the push-and-pull between the Sales Department and the Marketing Department is as old as the Sales and Marketing structure itself.
So what should be the response? Sales, Marketing and Management should all be asking the same questions:
- If we aren’t reaching our numbers, it can’t always be Marketing’s fault. So what aren’t we doing right?
- How did we market the product/service?
- How did we hand it off to Sales?
- Maybe the product isn’t right?
- Did we do enough due diligence when we were developing the product?
By working closely together throughout the entire sales & marketing process and asking & answering the same questions, your company could avoid contributing to the $1 trillion dollars per year lost due to the misalignment of these two departments.
Marketing & Sales: Different Perceptions
When newly-developed products are handed off from the product manager to marketing, marketing immediately looks at the product and wonders: “Why is this product better than the previous generation? How is this product different from everything else in the marketplace? What’s the value to the customer?”
Product Managers can be so entrenched in the product itself that they tend to focus on new or improved features/benefits as selling points rather than why the customer will buy. Marketing, on the other hand, wants to focus on end user value – the real reasons why the customer will choose this product over a competitor or even upgrade their existing system.
Features/ Benefits Don’t Always Translate Into Value Propositions
When a product is handed off to marketing with a list of features, marketing must determine if they can be translated into value propositions. Marketing has a story it needs to tell and if the customers haven’t been brought into the story until product launch-time, it is often too late to craft a customer-focused narrative. The key to this is thinking about the product from the customer’s perspective. Marketing must find the customer’s ultimate: “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” or WIIFM to develop that story.
Sales: We Want Leads!
The sales team, in order to meet their numbers, wants to get a hold of the product as quickly as possible. Their immediate reaction to the marketing team is to demand leads.
Marketing’s role typically begins six to nine months ahead of the sales cycle. To create an effective sales & marketing campaign, marketing needs to create collateral, including brochures, sell sheets, web pages, white papers, case studies, social media and more. These are the elements with which marketing builds the product story, being sure to weave in customers with their challenges and needs while delivering the WIIFM Value Proposition.
Too often, these elements – and the customer journey – are overlooked in the race to launch and start selling.
“We’re going to a trade show and we need the product ready for the show.”
With barely enough time to complete a key piece of marketing collateral, Marketing often pushes back at Sales when they ask why they haven’t been provided any leads. In many cases, Marketing has launched campaigns in advance of a trade show and provided leads to Sales, feeding them into the CRM – where the ball was dropped.
Creating a Sales & Marketing Relationship
For a product launch and subsequent lead generation and lead nurturing to be successful, there needs to be a solid working relationship between the Sales and Marketing departments – along with the realization that both teams have ongoing work to do and must nurture leads. Not everyone is ready to buy at the exact time you launch.
When marketing and sales work together to achieve the same goals, it’s not uncommon for companies to experience some stellar results:
- Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates (source: MarketingProfs)
- Sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals (source: Marketo).
- Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate (source: Aberdeen Research Group).
Leads vs. Customers
Leads are often just that – leads, not customers. Marketing is constrained by how much information it can reasonably expect to collect from prospects – even more so now due to the EU’s GDPR requirements. It’s common to request a name, company name and email address to begin nurturing the relationship using the marketer’s toolbox of channels and tactics – requesting too much information up front discourages people from filling out forms. Limited information is preferable to no information.
Sales can’t just be closers – they have a critical role to play in lead nurturing too. With today’s tools (LinkedIn, Company websites, and the internet at large), leads can be filled out. There are many tools that can be used to find somebody’s phone number, or determine their email address format.
Here is an excellent example of the role Sales can play in lead nurturing:
If a lead comes in with only a first name, last name and company name, it’s quite easy to determine a particular company’s email format. It may be ‘first name.last name @company’ or ‘lastname.firstname,’ or ‘first initial.last name,’ etc. A company’s website might contain clues to the proper formula, as will LinkedIn. Sales can take the information Marketing has gathered and entered into the company CRM and to do a little research to begin the sales conversation with the prospect.
Teamwork: Collaborating to Improve Lead Gen
It’s very rare that Marketing can hand off a lead that is already a sale. In almost all cases, the lead requires nurturing and follow-up. Instead of finger-pointing between departments, Sales and Marketing should ideally work together to improve lead quality.
It’s not Marketing’s fault that there aren’t enough leads, and it’s not Sales’ fault that all the leads they were provided have been closed. In addition to collaboration being a more constructive approach, it’s also a way to ensure better leads.
The Sales-Marketing relationship becomes even more important in cases of long lead cycles. Some sales cycles have 12-18 month timelines. If you’re working in the contract pharma sector and you’re trying to lock down a contract with Big Pharma, it’s going to take 18 months to close.
Eighteen months is a long time, and both Departments will need to work closely together to ensure the lead is nurtured along the way. Sales can provide Marketing with valuable real-time feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. With that information, the two departments can work together to improve the quality of leads and further target marketing tactics.
The Importance of Customer Perception
People buy based on perception. If Marketing is helping raise customer perception about the company and the product, Sales has got to pick up their end to work the leads. Management can’t blame Marketing and they can’t blame Sales, they all need to work together and figure out a marketing and sales plan for success.
It’s never any one department’s fault that revenue isn’t generated – it could be a mutual problem. But when Sales and Marketing work together as a team to solve any issues, you’ll find that any challenges are solved far more elegantly than you might imagine.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.