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Marketing and sales play important roles for each other and for your business. Simply put, the role of marketing is to influence the market while the role of sales is to influence the individual.
One of marketing’s many roles in the sales process is generating leads although there is often a misunderstanding of what qualifies as a lead. This is a good place to start our discussion because marketing and sales qualify leads very differently.
Marketing leads are different from sales leads
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a lead that the marketing team has deemed more likely to become a customer compared to others. This determination is based on a lead’s interaction with your company – reading your website, downloading content (based on the buyer’s journey of course), visiting your tradeshow booth, and so on. The quality of the lead will also depend on the lead’s company and job title.
Organizations pass a lead from marketing to sales when it goes from being an MQL to a sales-qualified lead (SQL). An SQL is a prospective customer who has been nurtured by marketing and moved through the pipeline. At this point, this lead is likely open to talking to sales. It now becomes the sales team’s job to work on converting it into an active customer.
Frustration between marketing and sales sometimes comes from the lack of alignment in what is considered an MQL and an SQL. Marketing’s job is to influence the market and encourage engagement. Once a lead has interacted with your company on several occasions – say attended a webinar, visited your website, and downloaded a product brochure – they become an MQL. It is then up to sales to determine if they are an SQL – does this individual have a particular project where they need help, do they have budget to invest in your solution?
It’s recommended that marketing and sales agree on what constitutes an MQL and when it becomes an SQL so that the hand off is clear and there is no frustration about the quality of leads.
Marketing moves prospects through the sales funnel
The sales funnel is the journey a prospect goes through on their way to becoming a customer. There are several stages in the funnel, usually divided into categories: the top of the funnel (TOFU), middle (MOFU), and bottom (BOFU). It’s an important concept as it allows you to determine what your company must do to encourage leads to move from one stage to the next. What is marketing’s role in the sales funnel?
At the very top, marketing focuses on strategies and tactics to capture your target audience’s interest and make them aware of your company and solution. It softens the ground for the sales team. The last thing marketing wants is a salesperson to walk into a sales call with a room full of people who have no idea who you are and what you do There are very few companies who will buy a solution they have never heard of from a brand they don’t know.
Consideration (or preference)
The next phase is called consideration and it’s when prospects want more information about your company to decide if your solution meets their requirements. Marketing’s job is to provide them with that information. Without it, prospects may cross you off their list. Marketing initiatives at this stage involve creating informational materials as well as lead-nurturing programs to keep prospects engaged until they are ready to move to the next phase.
Conversion (or decision)
The conversion phase is where sales shines. As far as marketing is concerned, their role is to reduce risk during this phase by convincing prospects that their investment is secure and that they can trust your company. They create professional-looking websites to show you’re a solid and reliable company. They produce case studies and polished corporate brochures for the same reason. They also produce presentations but not in the way many people think. (More on that next.)
The loyalty phase is where a customer prefers and may even insist on your solution. (This is where the diehard enthusiasts of Apple live.) Marketing’s job is to help make a customer feel good about their buying decision. This is often referred to as back-end marketing and it’s important to do. Just because your customer has migrated through the funnel to become a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily mean they will stay there. To encourage loyalty, marketing creates a sense of community so that each customer feels that they are part of your tribe. This can be done in many ways such as through personalized email newsletters (via marketing automation) that celebrate how you help people. How does this affect sales? Loyal customers make for repeat customers. And advocates.
Who creates sales decks?
Most companies want their sales deck to be modular so that a salesperson may pick and choose relevant sections and slides for each different engagement. This arrangement almost always goes off the rails.
One of marketing’s important roles is to determine how to position your solution in the market and how to message about it to your audience. This filters down into all the sales support materials they produce, making sure that your prospects consistently get the same message about your strengths and differentiators. It’s important that this same message is conveyed through sales decks. Thus, it’s marketing’s role to produce a customer-facing sales deck that is not only professional looking but also on message.
But let’s be clear about one thing. Marketing’s role is to create THE sales deck, not A sales deck. They should not be helping a lone salesperson with a deck for an individual prospect. Their focus is on the 10,000-foot view. Different markets may require market-specific decks, but the decks should be robust enough that salespeople don’t require creating new slides for every engagement. When salespeople complain that the marketing deck doesn’t work, they need to bring specific feedback back to marketing for new slide ideas or reworking slide content. This way, marketing can adjust the master deck and redistribute it to sales. This allows everyone in the sales team to get the benefit of in-field customer experience, it ensures that the deck’s professionalism and polish remains high, and it keeps the message consistent. This of course requires sales and marketing to maintain ongoing communication.
Marketing-sales alignment is key
Marketing’s role in the sales process is important but it must be understood. Companies that get it, get more out of both departments.
Don’t despair if your marketing and sales teams don’t work well together. Here’s a suggestion: improve alignment with a more formalized approach. According to Hubspot, companies that create service-level agreements (SLAs) between the two departments have better cooperation and performance. If it sounds like a drastic approach, look at this statistic: Sales teams are 70% more likely to grow when there’s an SLA in place with marketing. More alignment means more revenue. It’s hard to argue with that.