Successful lead nurturing requires the interaction of all players. Marketing and sales both work to market their products and solutions. However, lead processing rarely works smoothly. In order to generate and successfully qualify leads, the lead process must be tailored to the customer along the entire customer journey. But how can marketing and sales work together effectively?
Collaboration between marketing and sales for an end-to-end customer journey
Customers expect smooth processes and an end-to-end customer journey that is aligned with their needs. They are looking for meaningful information, tailored to their current situation in the buying process. For optimal lead processing, internal processes must support this progression. If marketing generates leads that sales then fails to qualify further appropriately, lead processing cannot be successful. For example, the customer does not receive further information or is not contacted by phone in a timely manner.
There can be many reasons for this. However, most of them can be remedied by better communication. Who is not familiar with the typical accusations of both departments: “Marketing only paints colorful pictures anyway, the real leads are generated by Sales”, “Sales only picks the cherry and only processes promising deals”, “We in Sales have to earn the money that is spent in Marketing” or “Sales is in direct contact with our customers, but does not pass on any information to us in order to better understand our target group”.
End the rivalries and finger-pointing between marketing and sales and start working better together.
The silo thinking that often occurs between marketing and sales often stands in the way of successful collaboration. Yet both areas actually pursue the same goals, namely to generate customers and thus increase sales.
Unfortunately, however, the perspectives on these goals are often different.
How can marketing and sales grow closer together in the future – marketing is the new sales?
Who controls who, or should they do it together? In many companies, sales seems to be seen as the more important function – after all, it is sales that generates the orders in daily contact with the customer. The influence that marketing plays here, on the other hand, is much more complex and can be determined more indirectly. In many companies, the data basis (tracking) is not even sufficient to trace the leads and later sales transactions back to their marketing origin and thus attribute them to marketing.
However, a change is increasingly taking place in modern companies: the tasks of marketing and sales are becoming more and more interlinked, and with them the cooperation and exchange is becoming more cooperative and closer. Both areas are pulling together more, working towards the common goal and the appreciation of each other is increasing.
This cooperation is often a change process, which initially also needs the support of the management to be tackled. The latter must put marketing and sales on an equal footing as partners. But middle management must also want to initiate these changes. The key to successful collaboration clearly lies in communication between the departments – this creates the foundations: trust, understanding and transparency.
What marketing and sales need to talk about early on
1. Comprehensive communication
Comprehensive communication and early coordination of activities is an important success factor for generating and successfully processing leads. Interdisciplinary project teams provide a sensible structure here, enable good cooperation and ensure that the following points are exchanged regularly (e.g. 1x a month) and the joint approach is defined:
- Marketing and sales strategy (marketing focal points)
- Knowledge transfer and exchange on current industry & customer topics
- Benefit argumentation & Offerings
- Lead quality for handover (“When is a lead a hot lead?”)
- Lead handover process and success measurement
2. define common messages
Marketing and sales cannot work together on lead nurturing if both have a fundamentally different view of how the market should be addressed and what the customer journey looks like. For customers to get a clear picture, marketing messages and sales’ reasoning must match. Depending on your business model, you can have marketing pre-qualify leads to a very high degree (mass market) or hand them over to sales at a very early stage (niche provider or specialized solution).
3. clear responsibility
Clear SLAs (service-level agreements) define the common rules for how marketing and sales work together to successfully process leads. Define when, how quickly and by whom leads will be processed. What should happen if leads are not followed up in the defined time window or if the quality of the leads handed over is not right? By tracking all activities, you enable early intervention in the event of deviations from the plan and continuous optimization of your approach.
4. clear processes
A joint definition of strategy and processes that serve to generate leads and increase lead quality promotes constructive collaboration between marketing and sales and focuses attention on the essentials: the target customer.
This eliminates unnecessary silo thinking, and nothing stands in the way of successful collaboration between marketing and sales.
Avoid typical hurdles to successful marketing and sales collaboration:
- Do not hand over leads manually. Use a good interface to the CRM instead of distributing leads by mail or Excel and thus creating unnecessary data silos.
- Define clear responsibilities. Marketing generates the leads. Above a certain defined lead quality, individual employees from sales take over the follow-up. Define how the leads are distributed.
- Avoid overly generous SLAs. A callback must be made in the desired time window. Pre-qualified leads should be further qualified within 1-3 days, depending on the campaign.
- Ensure an error-free process. No lead should go unprocessed because a sales territory is not currently assigned to a permanent sales representative.
- Avoid technical hurdles. Make it as easy as possible for all lead processors. Ensure user-friendliness and few clicks during processing.
In addition to the basic framework for lead processing, there should be a close exchange on the individual lead generation and lead nurturing activities. Define for each campaign what is required in detail for the successful processing of the leads from this marketing campaign.
Collaboration between marketing and sales influences campaign success
All campaigns that are conducted with the goal of generating leads or nurturing leads should contribute to successful lead processing. Clarify the appropriate team and responsibilities for each campaign. Ensure that all team members actively support the campaign and that their motivation and availability are not jeopardized by disruptive factors. Define the exact process, e.g. what lead quality will be generated, how these leads will be handed over to Sales, and what further lead processing by Sales should look like for this campaign.
Pay particular attention to these three success factors:
Involve Sales early on. Colleagues in Sales need to know what is planned, when the leads will come in, what their quality is, and how Sales will follow up. This is the only way to provide the necessary resources for successful lead processing. Clarify expectations early on, where additional support is needed, or if there are fundamental concerns about the approach. Sales usually interacts directly with individual customers and can therefore provide valuable feedback on relevant customer issues and pain points as well as on the campaign concept.
Make lead processing easier. Make it as easy as possible for sales when it comes to lead processing. Send push messages to alert them to new leads, integrate key information at a glance. Classify the leads according to urgency and refer to the defined process for further processing or re-nurturing. Especially when receiving a lot of leads at the same time, e.g. due to trade fairs or a very large campaign, sales must be able to filter quickly in order to process the most important leads first.
Measure success and keep getting better. Successful lead processing is measured by the goals you set. If you define smart goals and permanently monitor activities, you can immediately adjust them if necessary. Don’t compare apples with oranges. Average conversion rates in an industry comparison serve at best as orientation. Measure your own key figures and only compare similar activities internally. Sit down regularly to discuss successes, failures and experience gained. What can be done better in marketing, where is there potential for optimization in sales, or what is interfering with successful lead processing at the handover points?
Common goals + common projects = double marketing success!
Marketing can come up with the most amazing campaigns, but without the cooperation of Sales, the sales will not be realized. Sales alone cannot create the sales either. It is precisely the change in buying behavior due to the increased search for information at the beginning of the buying process that is forcing marketing and sales organizations to take a joint approach to addressing customers. Leads can hardly be generated by cold calling anymore. Marketing can and must use good content to attract potential customers, prequalify them, and feed them to sales for further processing. The task of sales is to pick up seamlessly at this point, to convince the customer with the right arguments based on his interests and previous behavior, and to turn him into a satisfied customer.
Marketing and sales thus become a cross-divisional marketing unit that always keeps the customer in focus and works hand in hand – for optimal lead management and perfectly qualified sales opportunities.
The sales department’s work is made easier because it receives perfectly qualified leads and thus increases its probability of closing a deal. With the help of consistently evaluable lead processes, marketing receives the appreciation it deserves and can understand the target customers even better and address them in a targeted manner through regular exchange with sales.