Can We Close the Sales-Marketing Gap? 3 Strategies to Get You There

March 3, 2021
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With a dozen years in enterprise sales and a baker’s dozen building sales enablement organizations from the ground up, I’ve experienced the universal gap between marketing and sales through the eyes of sales. As a sales enablement consultant in a demand generation agency, I view it through the lens of marketing. Yet my conclusion about why the gap exists and who can best close it remains unchanged.

3 Strategies to close the sales-marketing gap

From Silicon Valley start-ups to behemoths like IBM, whether in a sales role or managing sales enablement groups, it’s been my experience that marketing’s ability to satisfy the demands of sales has been universally poor, and they own the problem. Thankfully. Because what sales want is not what sales needs. Here’s how to leverage that premise to narrow the sales-marketing gap in your organization.

1) Define the Sales-Ready Lead

As a marketing exec, you know how many sales-ready leads (SRLs) you deliver to sales. You also know the rejection rate on those leads. But do you know why they are rejected? The most common response I get to this question is, “They weren’t qualified.

Yeah, but do you know why sales determined they weren’t qualified or how it was determined? If you don’t know precisely why sales reject leads, you can’t manage outcomes. And that means you can’t forecast results.

To begin, gather your rejected leads, talk to the reps that denied them, and document their reasons for doing so. Please take this information into a room with your sales management team and use it to hammer out what comprises an SRL, changing subjective information into metrics wherever possible.

Example: The rejection criteria “Not ready to buy” is redefined as “8 months or less for a decision.” Do this for every point, and then jointly present the new lead acceptance criteria to the entire sales organization. You will see an immediate drop in rejected leads and a corresponding uptick in SRLs moving into the sales pipeline.

2) Give Sales What They Need (But Not Necessarily What They Ask For)

Are you being hammered to deliver more leads? What your sales group needs are different from what they’re screaming for. If you’re running a good demand gen program and you’ve clearly defined your SRL criteria, you’re already delivering leads. What’s needed instead is clarity on what you’re handing off.

In sales terminology, I think of this as “edusell.” Educate sales on the difference between “a lead” and a “sales-ready lead” and why swapping the former for the latter is a better deal.

Commit to providing them every scrap of information you’ve gathered as the lead moves through the funnel and sell them on the value of using it to help them wring more sales out of the leads they have. 100% of the marketing organizations I’ve worked with had information immensely beneficial to sales that they didn’t share. Change that.

3) Get Involved at the Team Level

et on the agenda for weekly sales team meetings and keep everyone current on your marketing campaigns. Please don’t give them a pat-on-the-back overview; take a deep dive into information that will get them excited about what marketing is doing for sales. Tell them who is being targeted, what info is being gathered, and how they can use this information to engage their contact.

Review personas you’re targeting in key campaigns:

  • Where do they fit in the organization?
  • What business problems are they trying to solve?
  • What are their challenges, and where are their hot buttons?
  • In what ways do your solutions uniquely correspond to each of these, and how can they connect the dots between them?

Please give them the training and tools to take action with that information.

Share your events calendar and ask for rep involvement with upcoming programs. Sales teams are hungry for anything that will generate potential business in their territory and are often unaware of what marketing teams are doing.

Don’t be afraid to solicit ideas or ask for help; joint work will drive better results. An obvious example is soliciting contacts and onsite assistance from sales reps for special events held in their territory. It’s an easy task that will drive goodwill along with good results.

The gap between sales and marketing may be universal, but its depth is determined by several factors over which you have immense control. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, you’ve always had the power to change things; you didn’t know how to do it. Now, at least, you have a good start.

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