Sales and marketing strategies are created in every organization but the best in class companies integrate the planning process for these two functions to yield above average results. In short, sales and marketing need to work hand-in-hand, from both a strategic and tactical perspective, as they align to reach or exceed the revenue objectives of the organization. A best practice approach is for sales and marketing to join forces to co-develop an integrated demand generation plan and a demand management plan. But, before the demand generation plan and demand management plan can be formulated, sales and marketing must be synchronized.
Sales and Marketing Strategies – Synchronizing Sales and Marketing Is Critical
Demand Management is the critical link that will bond or polarize marketing and sales. Demand Management is directly correlated to building a healthy pipeline as the primary focus is to convert qualified leads to qualified opportunities, to meet or exceed quota.
In most organizations, there is a gap (converting qualified leads to qualified opportunities) that exists and this gap serves to create friction between sales and marketing that typically results in a weak pipeline. Marketing may be at fault if the directive is merely on generating leads. Marketing should be focused, and goaled, on generating qualified leads. Furthermore, the focus and incentives should extend beyond qualified leads and to qualified opportunities (accepted by the sales force and included in their weekly forecast) and in the best in class organizations the target metric is qualified leads that result in bookings.
On the other hand, the sales organization may be responsible for the breakdown, or gap, if they are not following up on qualified leads in a timely manner and in a form that is consistent with the history of the qualified lead. Also, there needs to be documentation in the SFA system as to the history and appropriate and relevant next steps. In addition, Sales needs to update the SFA system in a timely manner and provide qualitative feedback to marketing on a daily and weekly basis to ensure that the targets, messages and offers are meaningful and relevant.
How is All of This Going to Happen?
First and foremost, the sales process and methodology has to be understood by both sales and marketing. Second, sales and marketing have to agree on what part of the sales process will be delegated to marketing (typically the demand generation or field marketing teams) and the corresponding responsibilities, deliverables and accountability. Third, terminology and an outline of how the two functions will communicate and partner to achieve a common goal. Fourth, the head of sales and marketing have to be joined at the hip and have a healthy working relationship to be successful. Often times it is best to establish a baseline for the current overall performance of the function. Using an assessment template is an objective and quantitative approach to document current state, future state and desired state with a corresponding action plan to move the needle.
Sales and Marketing Strategies – Document an Overview of the Sales Process
In the sales and marketing strategy example to the right, the sales process includes both technical and business components. The roles involved in the buying process include:
- Recommenders: in B2B technology sales, recommenders may be concerned with functionality and uncovering the unknown.
- Influencers: this group tends to be focused on features and functions. Sometimes influencers possess knowledge of workflow and various technologies.
- Decision Maker: these executives are familiar with the business issues and how technology can be applied to solve business problems. Often times, they are looking for an edge for the business and to impact their career growth.
- Approver: approvers tend to be part of the management team that has created the vision and direction for the company. Their focus is on impacting expenses, revenue, profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction to create shareholder value. Approvers need to be sold on the potential impact on the business that can be achieved by applying technology to a business problem.
- Sniper: this the person who is against the proposed solution either because they want a different vendor, desire no change or are against the solution for political reasons.
Every sales leader will have a slightly different approach to the one presented here but the key is to document the steps in the sales process so it is clear what is to happen and when. The steps identified in the sales process should also be included in the salesforce automation system, serve as the framework for sales enablement deliverables and be the footprint that marketing aligns to the customer buying process to facilitate the development and execution of an integrated demand generation plan.
Sales Activity – Four Phases Have Been Identified and Include:
- Exploring: Activities include prequalifying, researching, profiling and learning the organization.
- Initiating: Here, reps are data gathering, documenting requirements and establishing bridges.
- Sponsoring: Focus shifts to identifying the right person, understanding the internal agenda, uncovering the timeframe and perceived value.
- Leveraging: Reps are pushing to be the vendor of choice by communicating hard and soft results, a commitment to partner and the cost effective, positive impact on revenue, expenses, productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction.
Sales and Marketing Strategies – Draw the Line in the Concrete
It’s important to note that there is a buying process and a sales process occurring at the same time. It’s also important to synchronize the sales and buying process to ensure that messaging and deliverables are resonating and that they are introduced at the right time in the sales process.
Each organization customizes the terminology used to define the sales process. Some organizations opt for the language in the sales methodology, others comply with the salesforce automation definitions, and still others create their own. Below is a “garden variety” version of the various sales modes in the sales process:
- Qualified prospect
- Needs analysis
- Business impact
- Scope and proposal
The same scenario that applies to developing terminology for the sales process can be said for coining terms for the buying process or buyer modes—they typically vary form organization to organization. Below is an example of terms that can be used to explain the buying process:
- Problem recognition
- Information search & RFP
- Vendor analysis
- Purchase approval
- Vendor selection
Regardless of the terms used to describe the sales and buying process, the goal is to synchronize the two processes so that it is clear what a sales and marketing person should be doing at each step in the sales process to fulfill a buyers’ needs and move them to the next stage of the sales process. A demand management best practice is for sales and marketing to mutually agree on where a solid vertical line should be drawn in the sales process continuum to document where marketing and sales have primary responsibility. Note that both sales and marketing should have a vested interest at each and every step in the sales process and that the sales person ultimately owns the entire process. However, marketing will run lead on certain tasks that are mutually agreed upon and will be accountable for those steps, just as sales will be accountable for the steps after the hand-off.
From a marketing point of view, corporate marketing, global programs, field marketing, product marketing, market development and field enablement will have a hand in creating deliverables and will directly or indirectly align resources to facilitate the sales process. In general, marketing usually takes the lead on activities at the top of the funnel and sales will focus on those activities in the lower half of the sales funnel.
Activities at the top of the sales funnel are designed to increase mind share and may include:
- Corporate identity
- Positioning and messaging
- Integrated lead generation plans
- Public relations
- Social media
- White papers
- Success stories
- User groups
- User conferences
Activities in the lower half of the sales funnel that are designed to increase market share include:
- Account intelligence
- Sales presentations
- Technical notes
- Needs analysis
- Business analysis
- Value demonstration
- Scope and proposal
Sales and Marketing Strategies – Terminology and Roles
Marketing typically manages prospects, contacts, responses and marketing qualified leads. The hand-off from marketing to sales occurs when a marketing qualified lead is handed to sales and sales changes the lead status to a sales qualified lead. Then, sales typically manages the pipeline, forecast and closed won deals.
Demand management best practices require clearly defining terminology and roles as a precursor to great execution. Because Marketing typically takes responsibility for the top half of the funnel, it is necessary for sales to understand what will be done, when it will be done and by whom. Establishing clear terms and definitions will facilitate effective communications and reporting that will enhance visibility into the pipeline. In the following example, the terminology established for the top half of the funnel includes:
- Marketing Suspect – a suspect or individual that fits the target account profile (there has not been any contact).
- Marketing Prospect – a prospect that fits the target account profile and has had some interaction with the company (inbound or outbound).
- Marketing Qualified Lead –a marketing prospect that has provided contact information (a form was filled out, response to a tweet or email, a phone conversation or a physical meeting) and the information collected mapped directly to the target account profile.
- Sales Qualified Lead – a marketing qualified lead that has connected with a TeleSales, Inside Sales or an Outside Sales Rep, either through the phone or face-to-face, and that rep has confirmed that the criteria documented in the lead scoring model has been met.
In contrast to marketing, sales usually takes responsibility for the lower half of the sales funnel which includes:
- Pipeline – some sales organizations use this phase as a “holding area” before the account and dollar value are added into the sales forecast that will be reported to the organization. The argument is that it may take several months before there is a clear line of sight to the procurement process, budget and decision makers and approvers—even though there may be information provided early in the sales cycle that suggests it is a valid opportunity.
- Sales Forecast – this term typically implies a commitment that sales is making to the organization about the number and dollar value of the deals it expects to close for the quarter quarter.
- Closed Won– this term is used to identify the completion of the sales process—a signed contract. Often times, there will be closed won and closed lost deals. A closed won deal is one where there is receipt of a signed contract. A closed lost deal indicates that there was no decision or that a competitive alternative was chosen.
Sales and Marketing Strategies – Demand Management Planning
At a high level, a Demand Management Planning checklist typically includes:
- An overview of the sales process and terminology
- Sales and marketing synchronization points
- A managed and repeatable process for Demand Management
- Identification of targets and a plan for Starbursting
- Go to Market (GTM) messages and messages by audience
- Reverse engineering bookings targets to qualified lead targets
- Assumptions for conversion ratios
- Estimates of when qualified leads, by demand creation vehicle, will appear in the sales pipeline
- Identification of the integrated demand management team and a demand management timeline
- A summary of relevant content and offers
- A plan to build a suspect, prospect and customer database with full contact information
- A call guide for TeleSales with cold calling techniques and cold calling scripts
- Account intelligence and sales tools
- A Lead rating, lead scoring. Lead routing and nurturing
- Metrics and scorecards
Everyone in a company should be focused on customer acquisition and retention, period. The sales team is most directly correlated to revenue as they carry a quota and the majority of their on-target-earnings is typically tied to their performance against quota. However, well run marketing organizations understand that demand generation planning and demand management follow-up are critical to the health of an organizations’ pipeline and it provides the marketing function an opportunity to correlate its activities to revenue generation. More often than not, when companies consistently post consecutive growth quarters, sales and marketing are tightly aligned and the demand management function is optimized.