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6 Ways the Marketing Team Can Bridge the Gap with Sales

Image of Michelle Farnsworth
Michelle Farnsworth

 

The alignment of the sales and marketing teams is at the pinnacle of company success, yet finding that delicate balance between the two departments is one of the most difficult problems found within a business.

Tension stems from differing perspectives and unique timelines under which the two teams operate. Bridging that divide can be tricky, yet creating a sense of harmony between the two (the blend of which is often nicknamed “smarketing”) is vital to meeting company objectives and goals.

Research conducted by SiriusDecisions revealed that 60-70% of marketing content is not being touched by sales teams AT ALL. This means that approximately two-thirds of marketing’s investment in content development may be going to waste. According to the CEB, nearly 90% of new training content shown to salespeople is forgotten after just 30 days. The CMO Council discovered that often 40% of a salesperson’s time is spent looking for content that has already been created by marketing, or spent creating their own content because they cannot find something that fits their needs.  

Sales and marketing should, and must, go hand in hand. Without effective marketing there are no prospects to sell product to, and without sales people to convert those prospects into customers, marketing efforts have been utterly wasted. Often, sales teams have very little knowledge of the marketing process, and vice versa. The following are 6 ways that the marketing team can help bridge that divide with sales:

1. Understand your buyer’s journey

In order to understand the buyer’s journey, you must be in tune with what your prospects and customers are saying, thinking, and feeling. You need to know your buyer’s pains, worries, and issues, what their primary objections are and how your sales team overcomes them.

Creating a uniform buyer persona, one that sales and marketing can both turn to, is an excellent way for the two teams to be on the same page as they understand their buyer’s journey. The marketing team will know who wants to read or view the content they create (thus creating content that better aligns with such a persona during each stage of the buying process), while the sales team will be more adept at connecting with your target audience and proactively guiding each prospect around any foreseen obstacles.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing works best when it’s delivered to the right target, at the right time, using the right message to drive interest and sales.” Both marketing and sales need a clear vision of the type of customers they want to attract and the journey they will take as they go from prospect to customer.

2. Create buyer-centric content

Marketing content often narrows in too heavily on product-centric content – focusing on highlighting what makes your product features to fantastic. On the other hand, buyer-centric content is focused on how to understand and better solve a buyer’s problems rather than simply explaining their company features. Sales really wants, and needs, this buyer-centric content to close deals.

Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions highlighted 3 common content complaints from sales to marketing: 1. Marketing created too much content; 2. Marketing content messaging wasn’t appropriate for sales environments; and 3. The form of content was not appropriate for their various sales tasks. The solution is simple. Streamline the amount of content you create, allow sales to voice their opinions during content brainstorming, and then make it easier for sales to find and recommend different articles to prospects.

With up to 70% of marketing content going unused, it is imperative that you create such buyer-centric content. But how? Start out by making a list of questions that a buyer may have as they journey down the sales funnel. Next, create your material as an answer to each of the questions that you came up with. Content that addresses specific buyer needs, problems, and questions helps move prospects along to the next stage in the buying process.

3. Meet frequently as sales and marketing teams

Hubspot worded this strategy best when they said, “Smart sales and marketing leaders know how important it is to collaborate with cross-functional teams. In a perfect world, the two teams would be working in tandem and complete harmony with one another.” How often is up to you, but join together at least monthly to share with your counterpart what is working and what is not. Allow reps the opportunity to give you feedback and then listen to what they are telling you. Such regular meetings are a great way to share any campaigns or content that is under development or newly updated, deliver analytics data, or make them aware of any offers that you as a marketing team will be promoting during the upcoming week (or month.) Ask sales reps for content ideas and any recommendations for future offers or blog posts. Regular discussions and mutual sharing of knowledge will help facilitate better workflow between the sales and marketing sides.

Also, don’t be afraid to interact with one another in a non-working environment. This will provide you a unique opportunity to get to know each other outside of the traditional work environment. Plus, it’s just fun! Organize luncheons, outings, and celebrations that will aide in building trust among team members and that will ensure people will feel comfortable giving feedback and leaning on each other for support. Don’t let a lack in marketing and sales alignment create barriers to developing successful content marketing.

4. Establish easy access to content

Make it painless for sales team members to get their hands on the content you are working hard to produce. The information should be simple and effortless to access from any CRM tool sales may be using. Creating a way to organize and tag information in each article will allow sales reps to easily find what they are looking for as they guide numerous prospects along the different stages of the buying journey. For example, metadata could possibly include content type, author, topics, themes, buyer stages, etc. All descriptors serve as useful keyword filters with which to narrow down searches in order to find that perfect piece of content to send to a prospect.

Universal access to all material will prevent duplicate work and foster better communication and greater insights. Keeping information in one easily accessed, shared place will prevent sales people from wasting their own valuable time looking for, customizing, or creating their own content from scratch. This is also a great location to host a campaign calendar and post links to relevant offers, as well as gather ideas and references for future content creation.

5. See what is and isn’t working by utilizing sales analytics tools

Along with speaking directly to sales reps about what is and is not working from their standpoint, make sure you are also utilizing sales analytics tools. These tools will give you greater insight into what a rep is actually doing with content using real data, what information they are using most frequently or which they are using not at all. You can then take the information you’ve gathered directly to the sales team and ask them why they think the numbers are the way they are. Are they not aware certain articles exist, or is a specific article simply not helpful to their selling strategy? Examining analytics will reveal what attachments are being downloaded as well as which pages are being viewed and for how long. This will help you as a marketing team member understand what is most important to your prospects so you can better tailor content in the future.

6. Personalizing content is a must for reps

You have done a fabulous job creating buyer-centric content, speaking with the sales team about what subjects they feel to be most beneficial for their customers, and then analyzing what content is and is not being used, only to find out a rep wants to alter your hard work. Do not take offense to this! Sales is as much of an art form as it is a science. In order to strengthen a reps relationship with each customer on an individual level, they want personalize the information they present to them, and understandably so. Making sure the email templates and marketing content you create can be easily tweaked by different sales reps for various prospects is a huge support to helping a buyer slide down the sales funnel. There is no way that a marketing team will reasonably be able to produce enough content to support the thousands of different scenarios that may arise from prospects. Personalization builds trust, and trust leads to sales.  

The fact of the matter is, the effective alignment of sales and marketing results in an average growth of 20% in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in those teams that are misaligned. In the end, sales and marketing have the exact same objective: Attract the right clients to use and purchase your product or services and turn them into customers. When sales and marketing work together, success soars to a whole new level.


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